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Who should lead the Ontario Liberals? Op-Ed

Ontario Liberal Leaders Debate Oakville 2019
Who should lead the Ontario Liberals?  Op-Ed
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About the Author

Chris Stoate

Chris Stoate

Chris Stoate holds degrees from Cambridge University and the University of Toronto. He founded and operated LaserNetworks, an international IT services firm in the print space with a significant environmental contribution. Chris has an interest in public education and served on the Halton Learning Foundation Board and the United Way Board, chairing the Oakville United Way campaign in 2012. He has also been an Oakville Town Councillor.

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With Conservatives in power and the NDP in opposition, Ontario is at risk of polarising along left and right lines.  That outcome would not reflect our general pragmatic, middle of the road political nature.  It would lead to alternating governments that feel compelled to undo all of the work of their predecessors on ideological grounds. We would lurch from side to side instead of making steady progress forward, making measured adjustments to adjust to changes in wind direction, be they international, economic, technological or otherwise.

The only way to avoid this is for the Liberal party to demonstrate Ontario’s golden mean character by becoming competitive, forcing the Conservatives and NDP to move closer to the centre to offer a viable alternative.

Ontario Liberals need to clearly enunciate their values.  If the NDP know how to cut up the pie but have no idea of how to bake it in the first place, and the Conservatives can bake the pie but want to keep it for the family and friends of the baker, then what should Liberals believe?

Liberals should proclaim that giving as many people opportunity as possible will result in more and bigger pies so that there is more to share for everyone.  They should promote equality of opportunity but not equality of outcome.  Their policies should foster inclusion and not division.  They should be guided by sustainability in all areas, whether social cohesion, economic prosperity, or environmental stewardship.

If an inclusive Ontario with opportunity for all is what you want, you should get involved in helping the Liberal party to rebuild itself by helping it select its next leader.  You have until December 2nd to join the party and be eligible to elect delegates, or even to be a delegate, at the leadership convention in March.  You can do it here https://ontarioliberal.ca/become-a-member/

Oakville Provincial Liberal Association

Ontario Liberal Leadership Debate Oakville Co-ordinators

On Sunday, Oakville Liberals gathered to see leadership contenders put their positions forward in a debate moderated by former MPP Kevin Flynn.  Four of the five candidates attended, Mitzi Hunter being unable to attend as a result of a personal emergency.

Ontario Liberal Leader Candidates

  1. Michael Coteau  https://www.michaelcoteau.com
  2. Steven Del Duca  www.stevendelduca.ca
  3. Kate Graham www.kateforleader.ca
  4. Mitzie Hunter www.mitziehunter.ca
  5. Alvin Tedjo www.alvintedjo.ca

On the burning issue of our day, climate change, it was gratifying to see that the candidates were all on the same page, with a variety of initiatives to boost Ontario’s green economy and improve quality of life while as quickly as possible phasing out fossil fuel usage.  Electric car rebates, a comprehensive charging network, reducing the cost of transit, ensuring electricity production becomes CO2 free, and providing funds for green businesses were all proposed or supported by all candidates.

So, what were the key differences, and who will I support?

I found Alvin Tedjo very dynamic and a clear thinker.  I also admire his out in the open stance on the merging of the public and Catholic systems.  Cost-savings aside (bigger is not always more efficient), this is a principle issue.  If it is a secular party of inclusion, the Liberal party cannot in my view support the continuation of a school system that divides the population based on religion, particularly as we welcome more and more new Canadians.  Their integration into our pluralist multi-cultural Canadian society happens mostly in the schools.  There is no reason why Roman Catholics, like other religions, could not maintain religious instruction outside the school system, or operate private religious schools as other faiths do.

Nevertheless, the word from party insiders is that Alvin would struggle to get enough support, even in conjunction with delegates from other candidates who have to drop out as the convention coalesces around the final two.  While he has run for public office, he has not been elected.  His professional credentials are excellent, but while I would be open to a private sector person from the outside without political experience, government already has a preponderance of civil servants, lawyers and educators.  If new blood is to come in at a high level, it needs to bring a different perspective.

Kate Graham also lacks support.  She handles herself very well in a large public forum and articulates her beliefs (see her website) effectively.  Her lack of support, like that of Alvin, comes from never having been elected.  Again, her experience is public sector, and she too has not been elected.

Both Kate and Alvin will make good candidates at the local MPP level if they don’t get traction here.

As Mitzie Hunter was not there, I can only comment on Steven Del Duca and Michael Coteau.

They are the frontrunners according to those positioned to evaluate the current feeling within the party.

Del Duca is a strong personality and has clearly worked very hard to gain support, even though he does not hold a seat in the Legislature.  He is clearly committed to the environment and to a Liberal ideology.   He walks the talk, driving an electric car.  My reservations in his regard relate to what I perceive as a traditional Liberal problem:  the tendency to believe government is the answer and that bureaucracies are the way to address problems.

I would differentiate him from Coteau by quoting his answer to the question of whether the school systems should be combined into one public system: “I support Catholic education.”

From this I glean not only his position on the issue, but a tendency to ideological or decision making by principle alone.  Liberals have governed in a measured and stable way for decades by tempering principle with pragmatism.

Let me contrast his response to that of Michael Coteau, who ultimately takes the same position.  I am paraphrasing as his response was significantly longer and I did not record it:

“If you think the Province is divided now watch what happens if we take on this issue.  There are very strong opinions on both sides of it.  We have so many more important issues to address.  On top of that, we have amalgamated school boards in the past and shown no savings.  And there is an argument that having two school systems introduces an element of competition you don’t normally see in a government service and improves both.”

I disagree with Michael Coteau on this issue, but I really like the pragmatic approach and the quality of thinking he reveals in this response.  Coteau also showed an openness to using the market instead of bureaucracy to address issues like CO2 emissions, and an understanding of the need to keep government overheads in check.

I support a regulatory environment that fosters innovation and initiative in the private sector. I also strongly believe that principles and ideological foundations are important but are not a substitute for thinking about every issue on its own merits.

On balance, I found Michael Coteau more aligned with my personal values than any of the other candidates and will be supporting him for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Ontario.  He is our best hope for steering Ontario clear of the polarisation that plagues politics in so many other jurisdictions.

More articles by Chris Stoate are available on OakvilleNews.Org. You can follow Chris Stoate on Twitter @ChrisStoate.

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