A few weeks ago on March 7, the Ontario Liberal party quietly held their party leadership convention in Mississauga and elected the generally unremarkable Steven Del Duca.
While it’s no secret I’m not a fan of the Liberal Party, I will give credit where it is due. The last few years of the Wynne government gave us some great progressive policy. Raising the minimum wage, introducing the Fair Workplaces Better Jobs Act, improving OHIP to include prescription drug coverage, the expansion of OSAP grants to provide free tuition for thousands of Ontarians and the list goes on. These were all solid programs that seemed to point toward a prosperous future for the province.
While of course many of these things were revoked by the Ford government after their election in 2018, Del Duca doesn’t appear to me to be the champion who will be bringing much if any of these things back, he’s more fiscally moderate than the party might want people to believe.
Though it is hard to put a pin on where he falls ideologically at the moment, as there isn’t a single policy position on his campaign website at the time of writing this, given his past work being an aide to famously disliked former Premier Dalton McGuinty and coming from the riding of Vaughn (a moderate, wealthy, suburban, bellwether riding that goes back and forth between Liberals and Progressive Conservatives) I think I have an idea of where he generally lies on the issues.
While Del Duca certainly lacks the bad press and low personal approval ratings of Wynne, what I think is more important to consider is that just because he isn’t hated, doesn’t mean he will be well liked. While obviously it’s not fair to look at the data now, given that he was just elected leader of the largely defeated provincial Liberal party, meaning that not many are paying attention. However, if you see him, you will know exactly what I mean. He’s a very bland figure, one that, while may be a nice contrast to the bombastic Doug Ford, doesn’t exactly offer a charismatic personality that will draw people in.
A figure he vaguely reminds me of is Andrew Scheer, the former leader of the federal Conservative Party. The party attempted to push him as a moderate counter balance to the overexposed Trudeau, who they attempted to label as politically radical, unfit for office and too much of a political personality to actually offer steady leadership. While Scheer and the Conservatives were able to win over a sizable number of votes on this strategy, ultimately (as we all know) he lost the last election. One of the things I think that did them in was that they lacked the personality to counteract Trudeaumania. Scheer was too bland and had no real policy vision to combat the Liberals in a way that didn’t just tear them down, but actually build up the Conservatives as a viable alternative.
Now just flip the roles. In Ontario, we have a political personality as Premier in Doug Ford, who is often painted as a radical (and rightfully so if you ask me) on policy issues. So if most of his opposition can agree that he is unfit for office, all the Liberals need is a charismatic leader who will offer a bold policy platform that is exciting to voters which, when all put together, should get them out to the polls in droves.
While it’s still too early to tell, I don’t believe Del Duca is that figure. That doesn’t mean they might not win (they have been polling consistently ahead of the PC’s since the election despite not having any leader) but I think their path is undoubtedly harder with someone like Del Duca as leader. Unless he really surprises me during the campaign in 2022, I don’t necessarily have faith in the Liberals to pull this one out come election day.