The Ontario Liberal Party (OLP) is in the midst of its largest-ever leadership election, with the vote set for this weekend, followed by the official announcement on December 2. Four candidates, Bonnie Crombie, Nate Erskine-Smith, Yasir Naqvi, and Ted Hsu have crisscrossed the province in their bid to rebuild the party and convince fellow Liberals that they are best suited to take on Doug Ford in 2026.
What’s different this time around?
This has shaped up to be a historic leadership campaign for Ontario Liberals following a pivotal change made at the party’s Annual General Meeting in March. Members voted to amend the party constitution, introducing a one-member-one-vote ranked-ballot system. The system allocates points to candidates based on first preference votes until one candidate accumulates over 50 per cent of the total points, ensuring a fair representation from across the province.
Bonnie Crombie, a former MP and three-term mayor of Mississauga, has been the perceived front-runner since joining the race in June. Crombie continues to gain momentum and is widely recognized as the candidate best positioned to challenge Doug Ford. Despite her name recognition, she is criticized as being too similar to the Ford Conservatives due to her past comments on governing from the right of centre, a perceived lack of commitment to Greenbelt protection, and a less-than-favourable track record on housing. Crombie will aim to expand her popularity beyond the GTA and secure a first-ballot victory.
Nate Erskine-Smith, the federal Member of Parliament described as a maverick, teamed up with caucus colleague Yasir Naqvi in an attempt to prevent a Crombie victory. Advocating for ethical governance, public education, healthcare, and addressing climate concerns, they encouraged supporters to rank each other as second choices. Erskine-Smith was the first candidate out of the gate and prioritized voter mobilization in regions often overlooked by past leadership campaigns. He will continue to focus on grassroots organizing to engage new party members from all corners of the province ahead of the weekend ballot.
Yasir Naqvi, a former provincial cabinet minister and current federal MP, leverages lessons learned from past Ontario Liberal governments in his bid to challenge Doug Ford in 2026. In his pitch to ethnic voters and traditional OLP supporters, Naqvi has emphasized his previous experience as party president and his role in previous governments. He has picked up steam and could surprise onlookers when results are announced on December 2nd.
Ted Hsu, positioning himself as the “nice guy” in the race, embraces a third-place ranking, believing it could quickly translate into being the second choice for party members. As the sole leadership candidate from the current OLP caucus, Hsu is well-received in eastern Ontario but faces the challenge of convincing members looking for a more established candidate.
Following the membership cutoff in early September, the OLP announced that a record-high 100,000 members would be eligible to vote in the leadership race. The candidates now turn their attention to getting those supporters to the ballot box.
The leadership announcement in two weeks is just the first step for the Ontario Liberals. Whoever is selected has a long road ahead of them as the party attempts to regain relevance before the 2026 election.