On the day Ontario Premier Doug Ford got booed by a 3,000-member audience at the opening ceremony of the 2019 Special Olympics in Toronto, Steven Del Duca was heading to a much smaller event in Newmarket.

There were only about 50 people, but Del Luca said his team expects his own crowds will get much larger.

Based on what he's been hearing, he knows that Ontarians are increasingly worried by what is happening in the Doug Ford government.

Recent public opinion polls also show Ford's slumping popularity. An Environics poll commissioned by a public sector union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, recently found that three quarters of Ontarians thought that the Ford government was on the wrong track, mainly due to cuts in healthcare, the Toronto Star reported earlier in the week.

"It is a sign to me that Ford is badly off track and, under Ford, Ontario is off track and people want to see it change back to something that is more moderate and competent and pragmatic and responsible," Del Duca said. "They don't have these things with Doug Ford."

Del Duca, 46, is marking his 31 consecutive years as a card-carrying member of the Ontario Liberal Party (he started when he was 15) by being the first to throw his hat into a leadership race, which hasn't been formally announced. Details of the leadership bid are expected to be confirmed in two weeks at the June 7 annual general meeting in Toronto, where the party also has to deal with $10 million of debt accumulated during the June election (Elections Canada says $9.3 million of that amount still needs to be paid off).

"I don't believe Doug Ford and the people around him are competent," @StevenDelDuca said as he shared his plans to rebuild and modernize the Ontario Liberal Party he hopes to helm. #onpoli

In Kathleen Wynne's government, Del Duca served as economic development minister and transportation minister, until he lost his seat in the June 2018 election that brought Ford's Progressive Conservatives to power and reduced the Liberal Party from a majority government to seven seats — not enough for official party status in the legislature.

That caucus is getting even smaller.

Last week, two of the Ontario Liberals current seven MPPs announced that they’d be leaving the caucus to pursue other opportunities. Ottawa-area MPPs Marie-France Lalonde and Nathalie Des Rosiers said they would be leaving Queen's Park later this year. Lalonde will seek the nomination for the federal Liberals in the riding she currently represents provincially — a vacancy that emerged after MP Andrew Leslie, who’s been in office for just one term, announced that he wouldn’t be seeking re-election. Des Rosiers will leave electoral politics altogether, to become principal of Massey College, at the University of Toronto, after two and a half years at the provincial legislature.

Lalonde was a possible candidate for the provincial Liberal leadership. But so far, only two candidates — former cabinet ministers Del Duca and Michael Coteau (a sitting MPP) — have declared that they’re running.

Everyone agrees the Liberal Party needs to rebuild and modernize. Del Duca, himself, has come up with a series of ambitious plans. He wants to create a 124-member caucus that has at least 30 candidates under the age of 30, and half of whom are women. He wants to find a way to respect the taxpayer's money while also investing in Ontario — something he believes the Liberal government lost track off in their last days in office.

Most importantly, the Liberal Party is contending with picking someone who can beat Doug Ford, and Del Duca believes he could be that person.

"The overarching concern I have is that I don't believe Doug Ford and the people around him are competent," Del Duca says. "And I think that what we've seen so far ... really disturbs me, and not as a Liberal, not as a partisan or a political guy. That disturbs me as an Ontarian."

June election was 'like trying to tread water in quicksand'

Del Duca knew he was going to lose his seat in Vaughn, Ont. — a riding he has lived in for 30 years and one that has voted Liberal provincially and federally for an entire generation — a week and a half before voting day.

"It was like pushing against a massive tidal wave," he told National Observer in an interview. "And there was just no defense mechanism to deal with it."

So, he told his wife, his parents and his campaign manager that the math was not in his favour. The loss of his riding was writing on the wall that the Liberal Party would be south of 12 seats, he said. They would come in at third place. Election night, however, was "a decimation."

Like most other Liberal candidates running in the June election, Del Duca heard the Liberal Party's defeat at the doors. The residents he had grown up with weren't disenchanted with him, but said his government was "out of touch," that the Liberals had been in power too long, that they didn't like former premier Kathleen Wynne.

"It didn’t matter how much I pushed back. It was like trying to tread water in quicksand. You just can’t do it," Del Duca said. "They had made up their minds well before the four weeks of the campaign. There was a very thick, very impossible to penetrate wall between me and people in my community. This time around the desire for change was huge."

Del Duca says the Ontario Liberals had allowed themselves to lose track of "the day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month pocketbook challenges or anxieties" residents face. Ontarians believed the Liberals weren't empathetic to those concerns as they pushed "large transformational policies," he says.

"I think we got to a place where we frankly misjudged the notion that when we said we would do this for free and that for free, that voters would believe us," Del Duca said.

"Government is right to invest taxpayers dollars in things that will actually make Ontario better and stronger and that's what we believe we were doing," he said. "But this notion that we could somehow convince voters that all of this was going to be accomplished magically and for free with no cost to them or their kids or, frankly, their grandkids was something that didn't sit well with the electorate.

"And so to me, I think the final nail in our coffin was the people."

Climate change 'is crying out for leadership' in Ontario

Del Duca isn't "slavishly attached" to balancing the books, because he believes in investing and building. But he wants to see the Liberal Party members remind themselves that Ontarians "don't expect government to be perfect they don't expect us to fix every single thing that needs fixing. But they do expect us to be respectful and responsible."

Ford is not doing that right now, Del Duca said. In an effort to be "anti-Kathleen Wynne and anti-liberal," Ford and his caucus have been unable to develop a personality "that projects confidence in themselves, confidence in Ontario's future," making one "horrifically backward decision" after another.

Ford's cuts to education are hurting the talent pool that serves as Ontario's "single biggest economic advantage." Healthcare is also being take decades back from where it stood last year, Del Duca said.

On climate policy, too, the Ford government is "picking partisan fights instead of listening to science and figuring out how to protect people," he said. What Del Duca would like to see is a policy system that would remove the politics from climate policy. "It doesn't mean that only Liberals have the best way to fight climate change. I don't believe that to be true," he said. "I'm quite certain that the Green Party and the NDP and even some Conservatives and certainly some Liberals have knowledge and ideas. They want to be innovative. They want to be creative, too."

To tap into this, Del Duca wants to create a non-partisan, special committee of cabinet — made up of members of all parties and experts — to tackle the climate crisis effectively. Federal Green Leader Elizabeth May recently proposed a similar idea in a 20-point climate plan, unveiled on May 16.

"If every political party has representation at that table and is there, in an authentic way, to inoculate the decisions that come out of that committee...they all become part owner of the eventual decision," Del Duca said. "How ridiculous would it be for me to go out and attack it? I couldn't with any credibility and I wouldn't even try."

Del Duca hopes Doug Ford reads about his non-partisan special committee to fight climate change and steals the idea. He says he'll be the first to tweet his congratulations and call him on the phone number the premier has shared across the province.

Climate change, Del Duca said, "is crying out for leadership in this province."

It went way deeper than "not liking Wynne" or "day-to-day pocketbook issues," or even "misinformation campaigns." And it wasn't because she was female or lesbian. Doug Ford had no policy platform at all, except to lie and demonize the NDP, clearly the only real competition.
Liberal MPPs who remained popular in their ridings lost because of the government's behaviour and failures.
People were beyond angry at a government that wasted over a billion dollars on Liberal riding gas power plants the voters there objected to ... which were dismantled so as not to lose the seats. Then they tried to cover it up by illegally deleting e-mails about it, leading to a police investigation and laying of criminal charges.
There was the e-Health computerized records scandal, in which huge amounts of money were spent and nothing accomplished. The incompetent person in charge left with a huge golden handshake, and apparently a good reference, when people generally thought she should have been ousted in ignominy if she couldn't be charged with something.
Then there was the new computer payments software, again expensive, that didn't work -- not dissimilar to the federal government payments software boondoggle.
Then there was the scandal- and incompetence-ridden moneypit of the Ornge air-ambulance, so badly managed by Liberal appointees that people died needlessly. There were millions in kickbacks to the over-paid head of the service, and outrageous perks for execs.
And all the while, that disability and welfare benefits have been continuously eroded by "increases" below the rate of inflation, much less keeping up with costs of essential goods and services: food, rent, energy, heat and waste removal.
But what angered people most of all was the sell-off of majority shares in the publicly owned Hydro One to the private sector, buying off the resistance of the union by letting their pension plan buy a chunk, all after campaign disavowal of any such plan angered the people. They changed legislation under which the Harris Tories in the early 90s lost a bid to do the same, in a union court challenge.
Wynne ridiculously said the government stll maintained control, with the 40% share left to it. She said as much as that the clearly private pension fund amounted to continued public ownership. She claimed the sell-off move (at a price far below value) couldn't raise the cost of hydro -- total BS as borne out by ever-increasing non-energy costs on power bills which while the cost of energy itself has risen, used to run about 50% as much as energy, now run about 150% of energy costs which themselves, depending upon time of use, have risen 200-400% of what they had been.
Up north, people were burning furniture for heat because programs to prevent power turnoff for non-payment were so badly underfunded. Then there was new wind power generators interfering with people's property, including viability of livestock and hence their occupation. That was a northern, rural issue folks in the big cities were largely unaware of. Changes to healthcare moved even basic medical services farther and farther from northern communities. The industrial development they were promised didn't show up.
Those are just the ones that made headlines and stayed there long enough that even people who don't generally consume news media couldn't fail to hear about.

Maybe people's memory span is such that the Liberals could be competitive within 3 years. Stranger things have happened, and Ford's so profoundly despised by now that he got booed by 3000 para-sports fans at the recent games, not a crowd generally to express themselves in negative terms.

No, Wynne lost because her party just wouldn't shape up, despite having been given many chances.

As seems likely with the current federal situation, people were fed up to the teeth with being treated like imbeciles, lied to, and wall-to-wall denial as mismanagement, scandal and cover-up mounted.

After Harper, Wynne, Ford and Trudeau, there's not much left to choose from, provincially or federally.
I've heard many people say they'll vote for whatever party Jody Wilson-Raybould moves to if she leaves the Liberals and stays in politics, both of which I hope she does. Politics could use some honesty and integrity, and people are pretty tired of rule-of-law for the governed while the governing play no-holds-barred, no-rules but winning.
Where is cloning when you need it.

Thanks for this information. I hadn't heard of most of it.

Hi f nordvie;

Just a couple of comments; the rest of yours I am basically on board with:

"People were beyond angry at a government that wasted over a billion dollars on Liberal riding gas power plants the voters there objected to ... which were dismantled so as not to lose the seats. Then they tried to cover it up by illegally deleting e-mails about it, leading to a police investigation and laying of criminal charges."

People were right to be angry, but the Conservatives and the NDP both made campaign promises that they would cancel the gas plants too, with obviously similar economic repercussions, and I really don't believe they would have behaved much differently from the Liberals under the circumstances.

The real villain in that piece was the proclivity at the time towards P3 partnerships for infrastructure projects in general.

The private corps decided that it made more sense to build new generating stations close to where the consumers lived, to reduce the cost of building new transmission lines. And they were right, from a purely economic perspective... but not from a political one.

Anyone want to be the politician who stands up and says to the NIMBYs: "Your new energy-inefficient urban-sprawl subdivision is the reason we have to build new generating capacity. So it's only right that you should have it in your own backyard, not someone else's." Bad enough with a natural-gas fired plant; try it with nuclear! Hah! And whose backyard is the 250,000-year lifetime high-level nuclear-waste storage plant going into? Some of the same people on the shores of Lake Erie who are protesting wind turbines. Go figure.

And speaking of wind turbines:

"Then there was new wind power generators interfering with people's property, including viability of livestock and hence their occupation."

As someone who worked for a major wind-power company for a while, and travelled a lot in the course of that job, I often had to shoo cattle and horses away from the bases of the working turbines that I had showed up to work on. One cow actually tried to follow me up the steel stairs into the base of the turbine before I'd even had a chance to shut it down; that's how scared they were. Of course they thought my truck had arrived with feed, but clearly there was nothing about the turbines themselves that deterred them.

And a significant occupational hazard - documented in company H&S memos - was caused by ground squirrels, badgers and other critters who loved to dig their underground communal nesting tunnels in the freshly-disturbed soil directly adjacent to the concrete bases of the turbines, rather than in the surrounding fields compacted by the farmers' heavy machinery. You could easily step out of your service truck into one of those burrows, and twist or break an ankle, and people did so. If the turbines didn't bother those crittters, then I have a hard time believing any of the other anti-turbine folklore...

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/12/dr-onthemoons-self...

No landowner was ever forced to accept turbines on their property against their will - at least not in North America that I'm aware of. But some people were very upset that their neighbours were getting lease payments from the turbines, while they didn't.

And I should add some anecdotal evidence from northeastern Oregon.

I was told by local staff that the real reason for some local political opposition to windpower was that it was turning the traditional hierarchy upside-down. The wealthiest and most influential people in that area had always been the early-settler farmers in the flat, fertile valley bottoms. But the market for their agricultural products was drying up because they couldn't produce on a scale to compete in continent-wide and globalized supply chains, so they were having a harder time of it.

Meanwhile, the people who were benefitting from windpower developments were the traditionally looked-down-upon owners of the bare, windswept mountain ridges, where not much could grow except seasonal grazing for sheep and cattle. Now those poor hardscrabble farmers were suddenly the ones reaping huge lease payments from windpower developments, which didn't much interfere with their grazing land at all, while nobody wanted to build turbines down in those rich, fertile valley bottoms where the wind just didn't blow as strongly...

Ford isn't competent, but that isn't the point. The point is, he's evil, and energetic. When he's energetically doing evil, competence would just make it worse. And half of his apparent incompetence comes down to a resolute refusal to pay attention when it's pointed out how much harm his policies are going to do . . . but for Ford and his type, doing harm is the objective. They want poor people to hurt more, they want the homeless and addicts to die, they want students who aren't rich to end up in debt, they want wages at the lower end to be inadequate. Sure, they're partly doing it because they want to grab all the money for the rich, but a lot of it is just that they really hate everyone who isn't part of their side/tribe, and that's the majority of the province they're supposedly governing. So the Ford types actively want to harm the majority of the citizens.
But the problem with the Liberals is that they may be competent, kind of, but they're evil-lite. They don't actively want to hurt anyone, but they're governing for the benefit of the corporations who bribe them and if that causes some casualties so be it. So again, competence is not the point; if the Liberals try to make a comeback based on being "safe hands", they will hopefully find that people know those aren't OUR safe hands, they're safe hands for rich bigwigs.

News flash: Doug Ford is incompetent! Also: grass is green, and the sky is blue on cloudless days.
Also, he's an asshole.