Provincial Liberal candidates hard to come by in southwestern Ontario
Only 3 of 10 ridings have Liberal candidates in place less than 2 months before the election
Finding a provincial Liberal candidate in Southwestern Ontario is a little like looking for a needle in a haystack.
With less than two months until Ontarians hit the polls to elect the next premier, only three of the 10 ridings south of London have named Liberal contenders.
Rino Bortolin is running in Windsor West, Remy Boulbol in Windsor-Tecumseh and Kate Graham in London North Centre.
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Queen's Park analyst Robert Fisher said he's not surprised.
"People in politics, they look at the polls and they can believe or disbelieve them, but there's a certain reality there," he said, alluding to the lead Doug Ford's Progressive Conservatives have in the polls.
As of April 20, the CBC's Poll Tracker had Ford's PC party leading in the polls by 43 per cent. The Liberals and NDP trail at 26.6 per cent and 23.3 per cent, respectively.
"It's not surprising that people would be slow to respond to invitations to run for Kathleen Wynne this time or, in fact, for Andrea Horwath and the NDP," said Fisher.
One Liberal riding official not concerned
Lambton-Kent-Middlesex has yet to nominate a Liberal candidate. Mike Radan is president of that riding's provincial Liberal association. He ran as a Liberal in the 2014 provincial election, losing to PC incumbent Monte McNaughton.
Radan said he's not concerned about the scarcity of Liberal candidates.
As time gets closer to the election, people start paying attention and then candidates will be in place.- Mike Radan, president, Lambton-Kent-Middlesex Provincial Liberal Association
"At this point, so much focus is on the leader and the party platform," he said. "As time gets closer to the election, people start paying attention and then candidates will be in place."
He said his riding association hasn't scheduled a nomination meeting yet, and is still in the "process for a candidate search," but he is hoping to have a nominee in place by the time the writ is issued and the campaign is officially under way.
When asked if he would consider running again, Radan said he's leaving the option open.
"I would certainly have no problem jumping in if things line up in my personal life," he said.
Several reasons why candidates not named yet
Another provincial Liberal who's not running in this election is Jason Dupuis. He competed for the Windsor-Tecumseh seat in 2014, losing to NDP incumbent Percy Hatfield.
Dupuis said he intended to run again, but decided to step aside for Boulbol because he believes "we need more women in government."
He said there are several reasons why Liberal candidates might not be in place yet, one being that the party is vetting applicants more closely.
"In the last Federal election, you saw a lot of candidates have to withdraw or get pushed aside by a party, just because of things they had posted on social media," he said. "So they're being a little more thorough to make sure that they have the quality candidates that you would want in government."
Dupuis said another reason someone might wait a bit longer to jump into the race is that "people have to put their careers on hold once campaigning starts."
A lot of people don't want to be in that grinder for six months or eight months, and will wait until the writ is dropped to get into the fray.- Jason Dupuis, Ontario Liberal, Windsor
And, with all the nastiness that goes with modern politicking, Dupuis said: "A lot of people don't want to be in that grinder for six months or eight months, and will wait until the writ is dropped to get into the fray."
Fisher said it's not unheard of for candidates to be elected closer to the writ date, but "for all parties out there, you want to get things in place because it makes it pretty difficult for candidates who are picking up at the last minute."