Another Liberal leadership hopeful visits NWO

By Kevin Jeffrey
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Thunder Bay Source

There’s a growing interest in who becomes the next leader of the Ontario Liberal Party.

That’s one of the takeaways from a recent visit by candidate Ted Hsu, who has been on a tour of Northwestern Ontario, which included a stop at the Red Lion Smokehouse on Thursday night.

Hsu, who was elected as MPP for Kingston and the Islands riding in 2022, spoke to around 20 people during the stop, fielding questions on housing and the state of the Ontario Liberal party.

He feels interest in those issues has helped drive a steady increase in the number of people coming out to his events.

“In Kenora [Wednesday night] we talked about the availability of health care,” he said. “Housing is a problem everywhere, whether it’s a lack of skilled labour and materials, [a shortage] of land or maybe there [are] rules that are preventing housing [from being built]. Another [issue] that comes up is homelessness and addiction.”

Hsu said Northern Ontario is at a disadvantage because of a lack of resources and professionals such as psychiatrists or mental health professionals.

“I think one of the things to do is to make it easier to live in the North,” he said. “The better transportation links, better services, if the schools are good, and the health care services are good, [those factors will attract] more people to live up here and when more people live up here, there’s more services for everybody else. So, it’s kind of a chicken and egg thing.”

Hsu, who previously held the Kingston riding as a federal Liberal MP between 2011 and 2015, entered the leadership race on May 28th. He faces competitors Bonnie Crombie, Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, Yasir Naqvi, and Adil Shamji.

Hsu believes he’s well-positioned to lead the Liberals back from two disappointing elections.

“The Ontario Liberal Party got beat quite badly [on election night], the leader Stephen Del Duca resigned and I realized that [out] of all the people in the [party], I had the most experience as a legislator in the third party in the legislature,” he said. “I spent four and a half years in the House of Commons when the federal Liberal Party was in third place, and now I have spent a year as the third place [party] in the Ontario legislature. I have more experience than the interim leader John Frasier in terms of being in the third-place party. He has five years; I have five and a half years.”

Hsu went onto say, “Because I’m in Kingston and the Islands, [which is] a little bit separate from most of the party in the big city, I didn’t get involved in partisan politics until I was about 40 years old, so I didn’t have the contacts. [Somebody who was well connected in the party] who approached me and said ‘Ted, have you thought of running?’ And so, we had a conversation and we realized that with the help of this and other people who were better connected with the party, that I could actually run.”

Hsu serves in a number of critic roles for the Liberal caucus, including energy, mines, natural resources and forestry, as well as citizenship and multiculturalism.

Hsu is encouraged to see the Liberals up to nine seats, despite still being below the official party status threshold of twelve.

He also sees similarities between the provincial party and the federal Liberals, who lost 43 seats in the 2011 election.

“One thing is with a small caucus, everybody is very tight and we stick together, we back each other up,” he added. “The other thing is it’s hard to get in the news. The reporters [will] go to the ministers first, then they go to the Official Opposition for a response and then, maybe or maybe not, they come to the other [members] to get commentary. So you have to really work hard get in the news to get your point across. It is also harder to raise money to run the party when you’re in third place, party, which means that you have to scrimp and save.”

Voting in the leadership contest is set for Dec. 2, with details on debates expected to be announced soon.