Nate Erskine-Smith speaking with supporters at The Glengarrian Pub in Cornwall, Ontario.
Nate Erskine-Smith speaking with supporters at The Glengarrian Pub in Cornwall, Ontario. Credit: Nate Erskine-Smith / Twitter Credit: Nate Erskine-Smith / Twitter

Tuesday was the deadline for candidates to apply to be the next leader of the Ontario Liberal Party.

Previous leader Steven Del Duca resigned the night of the 2022 provincial election after failing to raise his party from third place status.

Up for election is a group of candidates bringing with them a wide range of political views.  This means the winner will determine the character of the the party that had once dominated Ontario politics.

A push to the right?

Bonnie Crombie, the long-time Mayor of Mississauga announced her intention to pull the party to the right of centre.

“I think the Liberal party moved much too far to the left. I think traditionally our roots are in the centre. I believe we govern from right of centre,” said Crombie. “I would hope to attract Red Tories and Blue Liberals back to the party and let the opposition deal with the issues that are too far to the left.”

Crombie, a former federal Liberal MP, has by far out fundraised her competitors, netting nearly $725,000 from just 416 donors as of September 1. Nate Erskine-Smith, the next closest candidate in terms of donations, has netted $262,858 from 312 donors. Clearly this shows that larger money interests are backing Crombie and her more pro-business agenda.

Or progressive, pragmatic change?

Erskine-Smith was the first candidate to announce his intention to run for the Ontario Liberal leadership.

He was elected as a federal Liberal MP for the riding of Beaches-East York in 2015 and at under 40. is one of the younger candidates in the race.

“I’m not leaving a progressive federal Liberal Party to protect an unambitious status quo. If I lead the Ontario Liberals, we won’t govern from the centre-right. I won’t suggest affordable childcare is too far left or block housing from being built,” Erskine-Smith wrote in a statement on X (formerly Twitter).

At a campaign event in Cornwall, ON, Erskine-Smith told that he wanted to lead a party that was progressive and pragmatic.

“I want the OLP to be a better version of itself,” he said.

Labour issues mostly absent from race, with one exception

Erskine-Smith has put forward on his website some progressive policies including reducing Ontario’s greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2040 and guaranteeing 12 hours of mental health talk therapy for all Ontarians.

He is also the only candidate for the Ontario Liberal leadership that has a labour policy. In his labour platform Erskine-Smith is committing to barring employers from using scab labour during disputes with unionized employees. He also promises to enact a gig worker bill of rights and has committed to never using the notwithstanding clause in the Canadian Constitution to force a labour agreement on a union, as Premier Doug Ford attempted to do with educational support workers last November.

Erskine-Smith is not the only OLP leadership candidate who is promising some progressive policies.

Yasir Naqvi is current federal Liberal MP for Ottawa Centre has previously served as MPP for that same riding and was the Attorney General under Premier Kathleen Wynne and is promising universal mental health care for Ontario.

Kingston and the Islands Liberal MPP Ted Hsu is offering moderate policies like reducing classroom sizes.

Likewise Don Valley East Liberal MPP Adil Shamji has mostly moderate policies, but is proposing a novel idea of creating a new floating statutory holiday, which would allow an individual to take a paid holiday on a day of their choice that is religiously or culturally significant to them.

The Ontario Liberal leadership election is expected to take place on December 2.

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Nick Seebruch

Nick Seebruch has been the editor of since April 2022. He believes that fearless independent journalism is key for the survival of a healthy democracy. An OCNA award-winning journalist, for...