A current Member of Parliament is engaging in a Northwestern Ontario tour looking for support to become the next leader of the Ontario Liberal Party.
Yasir Naqvi, who announced his candidacy for the Ontario Liberal’s top job in June, was in Thunder Bay Wednesday promoting his northern strategy following stops in Dryden, Kenora and Fort Frances.
Naqvi pointed out that he had been to Thunder Bay numerous times before he officially threw his name in the hat for the race.
“Now that I’m an official candidate, I want to make sure to spend some time here in Northwestern Ontario, meeting directly with people who live in the community to understand issues that are important to them so that we can work together in terms of building solutions that will work for Northern Ontario,” Naqvi said.
“I’m running because I’m really concerned about the future of Ontario. We’re seeing significant harm to our health care system, which is the number one issue that everybody talks about. Our classrooms are overcrowded. Parents are concerned about the well-being of their children, and [are] looking at private schools as the option. There’s also an affordability crisis that’s taking place in the province when it comes to availability of affordable homes or just life in general.”
Naqvi serves as the MP for Ottawa Centre after being elected in September 2021.
Previously he was an Ottawa-area MPP from October 2007 to June 2018, serving in a number of significant portfolios, including being the first visible-minority attorney general of Ontario from 2016 to 2018.
Naqvi said he is proud to have received endorsements from longtime Thunder Bay-Superior North Liberal MPP Michael Gravelle, as well as former Thunder Bay-Atikokan Liberal MPP and past Thunder Bay mayor Bill Mauro.
The leadership election was called following the June 2022 election where the party won just eight seats and saw the resignation of Steven Del Duca, now the mayor of Vaughan.
After two consecutive elections where they failed to obtain official party status, the party showed a small sign of life during last week’s two provincial byelections, where they held an Ottawa riding and gained a Toronto-area seat.
Naqvi is encouraged to see the Liberals up to nine seats, despite still being below the official party status threshold of twelve.
“There was very strong message for [Premier] Doug Ford. People are really getting tired of his policies that are leaving people behind. We’re seeing cuts in our health care system. There’s over 2 million Ontarians who are struggling to find a family doctor or a nurse,” Naqvi said.
“I continue to meet people who tell me that in their community, especially in smaller rural and remote northern communities, where emergency rooms are getting closed because there’s not enough doctors and nurses available to serve people. [I also meet] parents who tell me that their kids are struggling in overcrowded classrooms. Doug Ford’s policies are failing on parents every single day.”
When it came to the moment when Naqvi decided to run for provincial party leader, he points to a particular story involving a pregnant woman just outside of the nation’s capital.
“A woman who was pregnant went to the local rural hospital, and that hospital [was] closed. When she was sent to Ottawa to give birth and when she got to the emergency room, they were also closed. She had to give birth in the back of the car seat and almost lost her baby. The most basic service, our health care system was unable to protect our most vulnerable citizens,” he said.
“We’ve got a Premier who is absent, who is more interested in just talking about issues that are important to one city (Toronto), which [falls more under municipal jurisdiction] in nature, and has failed every single day to give concrete ideas, and put concrete solutions in place that will improve the lives of people starting with their health care.”
Five candidates are in the race to become the next leader of the party with the vote set for December 2nd.