Candidates in the Ontario Liberal Party’s race to become the next leader kicked off the first official debate Thursday in Thunder Bay, Ont., taking aim at presumptive frontrunner Bonnie Crombie.
MP Nate Erskine-Smith, MP and former provincial minister Yasir Naqvi, and Ted Hsu, former Liberal MP and current member of the provincial caucus, have all made criticisms, both veiled and not so veiled, of the mayor from Mississauga.
Variously discussed were the three donations she received from real estate developers, her record on housing as mayor, and some campaign missteps, such as statements that she would be open to land swaps in the greenbelt under certain circumstances.
“Trust is really important and we have to be very careful in this case,” Naqvi said.
“You can’t elect a leader who says one day he’s going to open the Greenbelt and changes his mind the next day, or a leader who takes money from the same people who donate to Doug Ford and says that somehow they are I will act differently.
The Trillium reviewed fundraising data and reported that Crombie’s campaign received more donations from developers and builders.
Hsu came to Crombie’s defense on the latter point, but took his chances.
“Let me just say here that we need developers,” he said. “There are a lot of good developers. We need people to build housing, but I think one thing we can do to build trust is first write down your housing policy and then go out and ask for money.
Erskine-Smith said Mississauga is not building enough housing and Crombie expressed reservations about recommendations from Ontario’s housing affordability task force to increase supply.
“Experience matters, but what matters more is what you do with that experience, and two issues voters will definitely need to trust us on in the next election are housing and the Greenbelt,” he said. he declared.
“Are we going to win with a proven leader in home building with that experience? And are we going to win with a leader who said he was going to open the Greenbelt and then next week said, I didn’t think so, the Greenbelt is sacred? How to build trust?
Crombie, who announced Thursday she would take an unpaid leave of absence as mayor to campaign for Liberal leadership, said she is proud of her record on housing in Mississauga.
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“We have unlimited heights and densities in our downtown. I have 135 towers – unlimited heights – that will be built over the next 25 years, (of which) 35 over the next five years will be mixed-use waterfront communities. People want to live in Mississauga and I am very proud to be its mayor.
Crombie also boasted of a key quality that she said would make her a good Liberal leader.
“I’ve had the opportunity to confront Doug Ford several times and I know I irritate him,” she said. “And I think that’s a very good thing.”
Adil Shamji, current member of the provincial caucus, made his opening remarks drawing heavily on his experience as an emergency physician and his time working in Northern Ontario , where the debate took place.
“I’ve written a lot of prescriptions in my life, but I’ve never been able to write a prescription for housing, groceries or clean air and the closest I can get is to be elected,” he said. “The opportunity to be leader of our party and the next premier of Ontario is an opportunity to write these ordinances for 15 million people. »
The party is scheduled to hold four more debates, in Stratford, Toronto, Ottawa and Brampton, until mid-November. Party members will vote by priority on the weekend of November 25 and the winner will be revealed on December 2.
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