Bonnie Crombie declared new Ontario Liberal leader after three rounds of voting

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Bonnie Crombie declared new Ontario Liberal leader after three rounds of voting
The Mayor of Mississauga won the leadership on the third ballot

Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Allison Jones
Published Dec 02, 2023 • Last updated 1 day ago • 5 minute read
Mayor Crombie was named the new leader of the Ontario Liberal Party on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023.
Mayor Crombie was named the new leader of the Ontario Liberal Party on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023.
Ontario Liberals have selected Bonnie Crombie, a three-term big city mayor and former MP who boasts that she gets under Doug Ford’s skin, as their next leader to go head to head with the premier in the next election.


Crombie was declared the new leader Saturday at an Ontario Liberal leadership convention that went through three rounds of ballot-counting.


Crombie’s election to the top job comes as the party looks to rebuild following two successive electoral drubbings, and she said there is a lot of hard work ahead between now and the 2026 election.

“We have built this big, strong Liberal team and now, I hate to break it to you, but we have to dig a little deeper,” she told the leadership convention crowd in her victory speech.

“You know why, because Doug Ford and his Conservatives, they will be coming after us any minute now, so we have to be ready. We have to be ready to work even harder, but together…Ford and his cronies have been the opponents in our sights for this entire campaign.”


The Mayor of Mississauga, Ont., beat Liberal MP Nate Erskine-Smith, Liberal MP and former provincial cabinet minister Yasir Naqvi, and former Liberal MP and current provincial caucus member Ted Hsu.

Crombie will have to decide whether to seek a seat in the provincial legislature or to stay outside the chamber and travel the province to rebuild a party that failed to win enough seats in the past two elections to get official party status.

The Liberals had boasted that the leadership race saw the candidates sign up a record number of members, with more than 100,000 people eligible to vote for the new leader – up from 44,000 and 38,000 in the two previous contests.


But only a fraction of those members cast ballots last weekend, with 22,827 people voting. The party notes that is higher than the 12,988 Ontario Liberals who cast ballots in the 2020 leadership race and more than the 19,438 in 2013.

Crombie, as Mississauga mayor, has been a vocal opponent of Ford’s changes to how municipalities collect certain fees from developers that help the cities fund infrastructure – the Association of Municipalities of Ontario has said the move shortchanged municipalities by $5 billion – and has pushed hard for the dissolution of Peel Region where her Toronto-area city is located.

“I’ve had the opportunity to go toe to toe with Doug Ford on many occasions, and I know that I rankle him,” she said during the party’s first official debate. “And I think that’s a pretty good thing.”


Polling suggests that of all the Liberal leadership candidates, the party stands to perform best against the Progressive Conservatives in the next election with Crombie at the helm.

Crombie, a mother of three, was elected mayor of Mississauga in 2014. Prior to that she was a city councillor, and before that she served as a Mississauga-area Liberal MP.

Her campaign garnered strong support despite a few early missteps, including suggesting the idea of doing more Greenbelt land swaps in a Globe and Mail interview before reversing her stance. She also suggested to TVO that she would govern from the right of centre, then walked the statement back.



Other candidates were also critical of her fundraising. The Trillium looked at fundraising data and reported that Crombie’s campaign received more donations from developers and builders, which led to comparisons to Ford.

As perceived front-runner she became target of much of the other candidates’ criticism, and she largely refrained from hitting back, except when she perceived a remark from Erskine-Smith to be ageist.

He had raised her age – 63 – in the context of suggesting he, in his late 30s, had more longevity as a party leader if the Liberals’ path back to victory takes more than one more election cycle.

Crombie wrote an op-ed in the Toronto Star saying she had considered staying quiet about the slight, but she thought of all women in politics and particularly of her mentor, Hazel McCallion, who retired as mayor of Mississauga at age 93.


“And I thought screw it,” she wrote.

“Direct or veiled, any suggestion that a woman’s age has a negative impact on her ability to contribute, to make a difference or make a long-term commitment to her work, isn’t just plain wrong – it’s harmful.”



Party members voted using ranked ballots and points were awarded on a weighted system.

Hsu secured the fewest points in the first round of voting and fell off the ballot for the second round.

Naqvi then dropped off the ballot for the third round, leaving the final contenders down to Crombie and Erskine-Smith.

Former premier Kathleen Wynne spoke at the leadership convention Saturday, saying the beginning of the race saw an undercurrent of one camp versus another and a debate about whether to move more to the right or the centre.

“All that ends today,” she said. “That is done. Right? I’m a McGuinty Liberal. I’m a Del Duca Liberal. I’m a Crombie Liberal. I’m a Naqvi Liberal. I’m a Hsu Liberal. I’m an Erskine-Smith Liberal. I’m Kathleen Wynne and I’m an Ontario Liberal.”


Former premier Dalton McGuinty echoed the message of unity, saying the four candidates brought excitement and energy to the party and are responsible for renewing it.

“Our job beginning today is to rally behind the new leader and give them that support,” he told the crowd.

“Then in the days and years that follow, our job is essentially threefold: encourage our leader, support our leader, defend our leader. All this demands…that we come together and stay together, and it’s important to understand – we don’t just owe our unity to our leader and to our party, we owe it to our province.”

John Fraser, who served as interim party leader both after Wynne resigned in 2018 and after Steven Del Duca stepped down in 2022, said he will miss the job, but he’s not going anywhere.

“I’m not dead yet,” he said in a speech Saturday. “I hope that my legacy is that I was able to bring people together and that together we accomplished things that at first didn’t seem possible.”