Ontario Liberals have nowhere to go but up, and took the first step in that direction by recently electing Steven Del Duca as new party leader.
Stephen Chester-Bertelsen, president of Barrie-Innisfil’s Provincial Liberal Riding Association, said it’s time the party moved forward.
“We’ve got to rebuild,” he said. “We’re literally rebuilding the entire party – because the last election was decimating in that sense.”
Ontario’s Liberals were virtually wiped out in the 2018 provincial election, winning just seven seats. After being in power for nearly 15 years, the Liberals were on the outside looking in to the Ontario legislature. Kathleen Wynne’s unpopularity as premier led to her exit as Liberal leader following that election, although she remains Don Valley West MPP.
Chester-Bertelsen says Del Duca is the right leader, at the right time, for Ontario Liberals. He had a decisive, first-ballot win at the leadership convention.
“He was a party organizer, he has that experience to build a party from the ground up,” Chester-Bertelsen said. “We are the third party right now. I do see us rebuilding within the next few years and being a government after the upcoming election. I really think Steven is a person who can do that.”
Restoring public health care and education funding, along with the basic income pilot project, are also priorities with the Liberals, Chester-Bertelsen says.
“Those are core Liberal values and it’s not just being opposed to the Conservatives, but rather fundamentally looking at how we see the province and those core commitments that we hold so valuable,” he said.
Del Duca has started the process of going riding by riding in Ontario, meeting with the associations, recruiting candidates for 2022 and fund-raising.
“Really going out and meeting with Ontarians, hearing what they are doing as we put forward our platform. That’s a core piece of what the leader needs to do,” Chester-Bertelsen said. “He needs to hear from Ontarians, what they are hoping and aspiring for the province, and the enacting that into policy. That’s our mandate really.
“Right now, Ontario is truly under attack and those core pieces – public education, public health care – all those things that we hold so valuable, and that’s what we’ll be fighting in the legislature, to stop those cuts.”
Chester-Bertelsen said it’s not essential that Del Duca re-enter the Ontario legislature right away. He was Vaughan MPP from 2012-2018.
“If there’s a bye-election, that’s his call,” said Chester-Bertelsen.