December 3, 2023 – Bonnie Crombie emerged by a thin margin as the new leader of the Ontario Liberal Party after a three-round battle in the leadership race.

First Ballot Prediction Misfire

Despite Crombie’s team boasting about expecting a first-ballot victory, they encountered a challenge tougher than anticipated. Leading in the first two rounds, Crombie fell short of the 50% threshold needed to claim an outright win.

In the initial round, Crombie led with 43%, followed by Erskine-Smith (25.7%), Naqvi (21.3%), and Hsu (10%), who was eliminated. Crombie slowly gained ground in the second round with 46.7% of the points, ultimately securing leadership in a closely fought race. Her final triumph came with roughly 53% of the points required with Erskine-Smith at a close 47% in the third round. This means Crombie was not the second choice for most of the Liberal voters.

Disappointing Turnout

A disappointingly low voter turnout saw less than 23% of the 103,000 Liberals eligible to vote participate in the election. The meager voter turnout, in spite of the party touting a record membership, highlights concerning levels of disinterest, disengagement, or uninspired party members.

While Crombie emerged the winner, barely 1 in 10 Liberal members cast their vote for her.

While Crombie emerged the winner, barely 1 in 10 Liberal members cast their vote for her. The lack of enthusiasm, slim margin of victory, and lack of second ballot support for Crombie, raises questions about the party’s internal cohesion and signals challenges ahead for Crombie as she takes the helm of the Ontario Liberal caucus. A caucus who currently falls short of the 12 seats required for official party status, holding only nine seats.

Further Disappointment: The Kitchen-Centre By-Election

The turnout disappointment for the Liberals came on the heels of another recent disappointment for the party in the Kitchener-Centre by-election, where they suffered a humbling fourth-place finish. Despite Crombie visiting the riding multiple times and actively supporting the campaign, the local Liberal candidate took just 7.79% of the vote. This result, just days ahead of Crombie’s leadership victory, reflected poorly on the party’s overall standing.

Mississauga Leaderless

Residents of Mississauga, where Crombie has served as mayor since 2014, face uncertainty as Crombie confirmed she would be stepping down from her mayoral role in in January. This will leave Mississauga without a leader during a critical time, especially with the planned dissolution of the Region of Peel, a cause strongly advocated by Crombie.

Fundraising Controversy called out by NDP

Despite the lukewarm electoral response by her fellow Liberal membership, Crombie showcased fundraising prowess, amassing over $1.2 million donation for her campaign. However, questions arise about the sources of these donations, especially from developers, echoing criticisms the Liberals had previously levied against their opponents.

Soon after the announcement of Crombie’s victory, the Ontario NDP posted on ‘X’: “is Bonnie Crombie really any different from Doug Ford?” while sharing a website called ‘Meet Bonnie’. The website accuses her of maintaining cozy relationships with developers, and points out that developers heavily financed both her leadership and council campaigns. According to this website, Crombie reportedly collected almost $30,000 from executives at a single development company, raising concerns about potential conflicts of interest and her previous comments about opening the greenbelt.

The website goes on to quote her leadership opponent Naqvi: “You cannot elect a leader who takes money from the same people who are donating to Doug Ford and says that somehow they’re going to act any different.” In another instance, Naqvi said Crombie is “Doug Ford lite, peddling the same kind of insider elite politics”

Crombie Immediately attacks Ford; PC Party Responds

As Crombie assumes the leadership amidst these challenges, she faces the daunting task of rebuilding a fractured party with only nine seats in the legislature and no official party status since 2018. But the Ontario Liberal Party’s post on ‘X’ expressed optimism about presenting Crombie’s progressive vision to voters in 2026, aiming to unseat Doug Ford and his team. In her victory speech, Crombie took direct aim at Premier Ford: “Ford and his conservative cronies have been the opponents in all of our sights this entire campaign.”

In a quick response, Doug Ford’s Ontario PC Party portrayed Crombie as out of touch with citizens, emphasizing her lifestyle and past policy choices. Both on X, and in a formal press release, the PC Party of Ontario criticized her advocacy for a carbon tax over the past 15 years, blaming her for increased taxes during her tenure. Additionally, they highlight her opposition to Highway 413, which they claim contributes to traffic congestion. The PC Party contends that Crombie’s record on housing has been detrimental, leading to higher house prices in Mississauga. They express concern about her leadership, arguing that she is taking charge of a party that opposed toll removal, license plate sticker fee elimination, and gas tax cuts, ultimately asserting that Crombie and the Ontario Liberals will be costly for the public.

Election 2026: The Stage is Set

While Crombie’s win injects new energy into Ontario politics, controversies and the party’s apparent divided state raise concerns about presenting a united front in the 2026 election. With Doug Ford and the PC Party of Ontario still riding high in polls, Marit Stiles and the NDP struggling to find their voice, and now the Ontario Liberals have a leader once again, the stage is set for a closely watched political journey in the coming years. Only time will tell if Bonnie Crombie can steer the Liberal ship through turbulent waters and emerge as a formidable opponent to Premier Doug Ford and his enduring popularity.