TORONTO — Members of the Ontario Liberal Party are voting this weekend to select their new leader to go head-to-head with Premier Doug Ford in the 2026 election.
The party has been without a permanent leader since last year, when Steven Del Duca resigned after the 2022 provincial election produced a second dismal result in a row for the Liberals.
The four candidates members will choose from are Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, Liberal MP and former provincial cabinet minister Yasir Naqvi, Liberal MP Nate Erskine-Smith and former Liberal MP and current provincial caucus member Ted Hsu.
The leadership race has seen the candidates sign up a record number of members, with more than 100,000 people eligible to vote for the new leader, up from 44,000 and 38,000 in the two previous leadership contests.
Voting takes place largely in person on Saturday and Sunday for Liberal members in ridings across the province, with a small number of members in more remote communities voting by mail.
The ballots are set to be hand counted on Dec. 2, with the results being announced that day at an event at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
Members are voting through a ranked ballot system, and they can either rank all four candidates, two or three of the candidates, or only list their top candidate. Points are then awarded on a weighted system, depending on how many people vote in each of the 124 ridings.
Each constituency association gets 100 points, to be awarded based on the percentage of the vote each candidate receives from members in that riding. As well, there are 10 student clubs that will award 50 points, and eight women's clubs with five points each, for a total of 12,940 points.
Voters' first choices are added up and if one candidate gets more than 50 per cent of the points, then they win. If no one candidate reaches the 50 per cent threshold, the candidate with the lowest score drops off the ballot and their voters' second choices are counted and distributed to the remaining candidates.
The process continues for up to three rounds until someone has more than 50 per cent.
Erskine-Smith and Naqvi have endorsed each other as second choices, though their supporters are not obligated to rank them that way.
Former Liberal premiers Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne are set to speak at the Dec. 2 event before the results are announced, as is interim leader John Fraser. He has led the party on an interim basis twice, after Wynne resigned in 2018 and after Del Duca resigned in 2022.
The party also announced last month that it had paid off its $3 million debt from the 2022 election, thanks in part to fundraising during the leadership campaign, which saw the party garner more than $1.46 million in the third quarter of 2023.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2023.
Allison Jones, The Canadian Press