Monday, November 25, 2019

Mitzie Hunter has won my support in the Ontario Liberal leadership race...

Ontario Liberal leadership candidate Mitzie Hunter
Like the Democrats to the south who are now trying to figure out which of their presidential candidates is best to beat Donald Trump next year, big-L Liberals in Ontario are also in the throes of their own provincial leadership race to determine who will lead the fight to bring the party back and challenge Doug Ford in 2022. 

Like so many pragmatic progressives in Ontario, I have to again admit that I voted for the Ontario NDP in 2018 in a failed attempt to stop Ford's regressive PCs from winning.  Yet again, despite the best possible political conditions for the NDP in a generation, they came up way short.  To me, those results again proved the NDP is incapable of winning over Ontario voters.  Now, the lingering and mediocre leadership of Andrea Horwath, whose work as Opposition Leader has gone mostly unnoticed by the public, reinforces that opinion.
That leaves the Ontario Liberals as the most viable option for displacing the PCs in 2022.  However, that won't happen if the Liberals pick the wrong person to lead them.  I wrote earlier this year my reasons for not supporting candidates Steven Del Duca and Michael Coteau.  Why settle for mediocre now hoping that it'll bloom later into something better?

Ontario Liberals need to embrace a leader who personifies a different and better approach to politics now.  Someone with a track record of competence and authentic progressive politics. 

For me, that person is Mitzie Hunter.  Let me explain why.  

Mitzie isn't afraid to reach out to members directly.  Amid this busy year for her, she's literally called me up three times to engage with me and give me a chance to share my thoughts with her.  That's an accessibility I've never seen in a leadership candidate. 

As a daughter of immigrants from Jamaica, Mitzie's lived the struggle to integrate and find a place in Ontario.  She's got street cred.  And she's succeeded as a leader.  She was the Vice-President of Goodwill Industries, the CAO of Toronto Community Housing, and CEO of Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance, where she fought for democratic reforms and other progressive issues.  She was a big proponent for implementing preferential balloting at the municipal level.  In government, she has a solid record as Minister of Education, and Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development.  And in 2018, when so many Ontario Liberals were losing their seats, she hung on to hers in Scarborough-Guildwood.  I also greatly appreciated her outspoken support this year for reforming how Ontario Liberals elect their leaders with One Member One Vote (which received 58% support from members at the June AGM, but failed as the change needed two-thirds support.)  

She's a bridge builder too.  While I didn't support the Scarborough subway extension (I much preferred the cost-effective light rail transit plan), I understand that politics is about compromise.  Sometimes you need to put a little water in your wine to get the best decision made supported by the most people.  Mitzie took a position on the Scarborough subway that respected everyone and tried to find a compromise that suburban residents wouldn't resent.  I have to admit that such pragmatism is a virtue in a successful leader. 

We need a new but credible style of leadership, one that excites and reaches out to all people.  We need a leader who does politics differently, with a desire to focus on our own strengths, not just our opponents' weaknesses.  Mitzie has pledged to be that kind of leader. 

Mitzie Hunter's policy focus thus far in this leadership has been to propose innovative ideas to address the crises of affordable housing, education, skills development and gun violence.  All crucial issues that speak to the basic needs of all Ontarians.  

I really admire her cautious, fair, balanced approach to policy.  She's steady.  She's done the work.  Fundamentally, she's a bridge builder whose judgment I would trust running the Ontario government.  When Mitzie says she wants to make sure our education systems and our economy work for "everyone," I know that she means "everyone."  I think that even-minded approach is how she'll be able to reach out to all Ontarians, not just those in the Greater Toronto Area, to win support and get the Ontario Liberals elected back into government.

I will admit that the two other candidates running for the leadership this year, Kate Graham and Alvin Tedjo, are both charming, smart and exciting options.   Back in September when Graham launched her bid, I was initially quite excited by the tone of her campaign and the new approach she promised to bring to politics.  Her recent policy pledge to embrace electoral reform with a new Citizens' Assembly process is a great idea (one I hope Mitzie borrows.)

Both Mitzie Hunter and Kate Graham are pledging to do politics differently, to focus on our strengths and not so much our opponents' weaknesses, and re-engage with the grassroots.  However, this is work that Hunter has actually done for years.  On top, Hunter actually has a seat at Queen's Park and has so many more years of elected experience in government.  Hunter is ready for this, while Graham seems a bit too green.  (Although I do hope Graham runs and wins in the next Ontario election in London North Centre.)

Tedjo too failed to excite me much with his leadership campaign until he recently announced his bold policy to unite the Catholic and Public school systems into one.  I've long supported that policy to end institutional religious discrimination in Ontario public schools.  I'm sure many Liberals and other Ontarians would support that too.  Tedjo deserves praise for proposing this.  But leadership is about more than just taking a great position on one issue.  Like Graham, Tedjo is unelected.  His personal work experience has been mostly as a political staffer or communications person.  He's talented, as he's proving with this leadership race.  But I'm not sure he's ready for this job now.

Mitzie Hunter is ready for this now.  She's the full package.  She's proven to me that she's willing to make those phone calls and reach out to all people.  The prospect of her winning the leadership gives me hope that the Ontario Liberals will be able to do the work to re-connect and earn back the confidence of Ontarians so that we may provide the kinds of policies our province needs.

I'm proud to support Mitzie Hunter.

The race is currently in high gear with all campaigns trying to sign up as many Liberals as members before the deadline of December 2, 2019.  Any one who pays the $20 for a two-year membership before next Monday is eligible to vote in upcoming leadership delegate selection meetings in February 2020.  (Each riding or student association will elect delegates in proportion to the amount of support received by each leadership candidate at those meetings, and those delegates will go on to attend the leadership convention in early March 2020.)   

Even if you're undecided, but want to participate in this crucial process, I urge you to follow this link and join the Ontario Liberal Party before December 2, 2019.