By AMARACHI AMADIKE, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
As the Ontario Liberal Party gears up for its annual meeting in Hamilton this weekend (March 3 to 5), Beaches-East York Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith has signalled an interest in leading the party back to glories of the past.
Having joined the then third place federal Liberal Party of Canada because they were “in need of generational renewal”, Erskine-Smith is looking to repeat history, this time on a provincial level.
“Ontario deserves better than the incompetent populism we see at Queen’s Park,” said Erskine-Smith in an interview this week with Beach Metro Community News. “Our healthcare system is mismanaged, education isn’t a priority, housing starts have slowed, and there’s no credible climate plan.”
With Ontario’s Liberals failing to garner widespread support from voters –winning only eight seats in the June 2022 provincial election which saw Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative Party elected to a second straight majority government – Erskine-Smith said he believes it’s time for the Liberal Party in Ontario to go through a transformative period.
And that transformation should start this weekend in Hamilton, he said.
“If we are going to deliver the change that our province needs, we need to change as Ontario Liberals And the AGM in Hamilton represents an opportunity to do just that,” said Erskine-Smith.
“We need to open up our party, to create more engagement with and accountability to our grassroots, and to ensure every community has a strong voice in our party.”
Erskine-Smith told Beach Metro Community News that the events of the annual meeting will play a major factor in his decision on whether to run for the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party.
However, he has begun putting together an advisory team of academics and financial experts in preparation.
“We can’t cede an economic agenda and fiscal discipline to Conservatives, just as we can’t cede compassion and fairness for those in need to the NDP,” said Erskine-Smith.
“We can and should do both. And we should do so with integrity and honesty, to build back trust in our democracy.”
One of those reported to be on his team is Vince Gasparro, Managing Director and Head of Sustainable Finance at Roynat Capital – Scotiabank and one-time advisor to former Prime Minister Paul Martin.
“We also need to remind everyone that politics, for all of its faults, is one of the most important ways we can make a positive difference in the lives of those around us,” said Erskine-Smith. “If you want better from our politics, then the answer is participation.”
Erskine-Smith believes that the way to do this is to revert to the grassroots method of politics by increasing volunteer engagement as well as rebuilding field organization and fundraising potential.
Although eyeing a move to provincial politics, the 38-year-old Member of Parliament says he is still very much active at the federal level as he has stayed engaged with inner workings of the coming federal budget.
As a member of the Industry and Technology Committee, he is also involved in discussions regarding the widely debated Rogers-Shaw merger.
At this point in time, it is unclear what riding Erskine-Smith would be looking to represent provincially if he did run for and win the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party.
However, he said he has no plans on the seat held by current Beaches-East York Liberal MPP Mary-Margaret McMahon.
“Mary-Margaret McMahon is a strong local MPP and I would run in a different riding if I take this next step to represent all of Ontario,” said Erskine-Smith.
Although a candidate from a central Toronto riding, he said he feels confident of the support his team can generate from all areas of the province. He said the response he has received, so far, has been positive “in part because of my reputation for speaking my mind”.
“Integrity matters more than geography, and how one acts matters more than where one is from,” said Erskine-Smith.
With problems in the province continuing to pile up, Erskine-Smith said that he aims to address common issues in communities all across the province such as access to primary care, mental health and addictions, housing affordability, and environmental protections.
A child of two local teachers, “excellence in our school system” also sits atop his mind, he said.
“No matter where one lives, we all deserve competence, compassion, and integrity in our representation,” said Erskine-Smith.
Amarachi Amadike is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro Community News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.