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Something strange happening in Canadian politics – The Hill Times

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CHELSEA, QUE.—Something strange has been happening in Canadian politics since the Trump contagion to the south. Voters elect a mostly reasonable, often affable, Member of Parliament only to discover, as they watch their MP climb the leadership ladder, that they are not so reasonable, not so affable after all. That, in fact, some are drifting rapidly from the centre to the fringe, even to tinfoil-hat territory.

It is evident, most recently, with Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, whose public appearances—tweets, videos, press conferences—have taken on an almost manic tone. One 40-second video has him bouncing around in front of the Parliament Buildings in -23 weather—“-37 in Yellowknife!”—accusing Liberal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault of threatening to shut down Canada’s energy sector in 18 months, leaving us all freezing in the dark.

First, Guilbeault could never achieve such a coup even if he tried. Governments move too slowly. Second, even the most ardent environmentalists acknowledge that renewables are not ready to replace fossil fuels that quickly. But, more important, OToole’s claim is not true—and he knew when he said it that it wasn’t true, as The Toronto Star’s Althia Raj underscores in a recent column.

What Guilbeault has vowed to do—elaborating on an international commitment first endorsed by Stephen Harper in 2009—is end federal subsidies to fossil fuel companies by 2023. It’s a tall order, but it is no sneak attack: it was promised in the Liberals’ election campaign and now, at last, they are preparing to deliver. In an interview with The Narwhal, Guilbeault mentioned “eliminating fossil fuels” in a list of his government’s ambitions, an obvious error (he had spoken previously of eliminating fossil fuel *subsidies*.)

As Raj reports, O’Toole publicly acknowledged the minister “made a mistake” in a Zoom presentation, before an unusually animated O’Toole made his video, distorting Guilbeault’s intention. The Conservative leader apparently doesn’t care, because that is the way politics works these days. Hysterical exaggerations, often flatly untrue, advanced without a shred of shame or remorse.

Consider the Conservative leader’s recent condemnation of Justin Trudeau for “normalizing lockdowns” and single-handedly bungling the management of the pandemic, by failing to provide rapid tests and PPE. By now, everyone knows that lockdowns are determined by provinces and not by Ottawa— indeed, premiers are more inclined to ignore federal suggestions than embrace them.

As to rapid tests, some will recall stories a year ago of millions of rapid tests gathering dust in provincial storerooms, of premiers, like British Columbia’s John Horgan, reluctant to use them because they were seen to be not as reliable as lab-based PCR tests. In fact, as Trudeau underscored last week, his government has sourced 425 million rapid tests overall. Some 85 million were delivered to provinces before December, and the Omicron onslaught, and another 35 million last month. And, as O’Toole must surely know, another 140 million are arriving now and being distributed.

There have been, and still are, shortages in some provinces, but the problem can hardly be laid at the feet of the federal government—certainly, not entirely—as anyone following the news knows. But this distortion is of a piece with O’Toole’s incoherence on the pandemic.

He and his wife are both vaccinated, after an early bout of COVID, and he regularly urges everyone to get their shots. He supports mandatory vaccines for the Canadian Armed Forces—as a veteran and proud defender of the military—yet is ambiguous about his own caucus, playing with words to hide the fact that there are some vaccine resisters in the Conservative ranks.

He also took up the cause of long-haul truckers who were resisting mandatory vaccines to be imposed by the federal government this week. O’Toole claimed the requirement would disrupt crucial supply chains and called for rapid testing instead. Then, in a confusing climb-down, the government backed away from its vaccine deadline insisting that any unvaccinated Canadian drivers quarantine for several days before coming home. Unvaccinated American truckers will be turned back.

Vaccines, quarantines, rapid tests: any way this unfolds there will be (hopefully short-lived) supply chain disruptions and, ultimately, little daylight between O’Toole’s and Trudeau’s positions.

O’Toole also accuses the prime minister of characterizing all vaccine resisters as “racists” and worse, which is not what Trudeau said. In fact, he and O’Toole are in agreement that some who haven’t been vaccinated may be fearful, uninformed, or unable to manoeuvre the system. Trudeau’s target is the small minority of wilful resisters and protesters, with links to far-right movements who are also anti-immigrant, anti-feminist, and anti-government.

Yet O’Toole wants “reasonable accommodation” for all resisters and suggests frequent testing rather than vaccines—except, he must know the rapid tests are not as reliable when it comes to detecting Omicron. Meanwhile, the pandemic runs rampant, hospitals are overwhelmed and parents are worried sick for their school-age children.

To keep his ragged band of followers from splitting asunder, O’Toole—a formerly likeable, middle-of-the-road backbencher and junior minister in Harper’s government—is behaving like an unhinged bile-machine. It is particularly laughable when he accuses the prime minister of avoiding taking a stand on Quebec’s discriminatory Bill 21, of “attempting to play both sides” by leaving it to Quebecers to decide the issue, rather than forcefully defending the bill’s victims, notably Muslim women schoolteachers. Laughable, because that is exactly what O’Toole has been doing.

The brilliant political cartoonist, Michael de Adder, summed up public reaction to this new, hyperactive O’Toole with a depiction of a giant hand, labelled Public Opinion, flicking a tiny O’Toole away like an annoying fly.

For all that, O’Toole is a model of reserve compared to Maxime Bernier. Old-timers (guilty) remember Bernier as a dapper, friendly urban sophisticate with libertarian economic views—hence the sobriquet, Mad Max. However, he was thought to be socially liberal and displayed no overtly anti-immigrant, or social conservative views as a member of Harper’s cabinet.

That was then. Bernier, of course, has become a vehement anti-vaxxer, anti-masker, a critic of the immigration Quebec needs to fill jobs, and, since losing the leadership to O’Toole in 2019, a harsh critic of his former rival. He calls O’Toole #RedErin and “wet noodle” and vows NEVER to go back “to that morally and intellectually corrupt party.”

Bernier sees “fascists coming out from under rocks everywhere,” as he noted in a recent tweet, this one aimed at Alberta’s NDP health critic David Shepherd, who expressed cautious support for mandatory vaccines. He routinely calls Trudeau a fascist. The Toronto Star “is run by hateful fascists.” RCMP Chief Brenda Lucki is “gestapo” for asking Canadians to report suspicious internet activity.

Bernier also opposes the recently proposed Quebec tax on the unvaccinated— probably a trial balloon, rather than enforceable policy—and says Premier Francois Legault’s government “is responsible for the death of thousands of elderly Quebecers in nursing homes. Now it wants to force the unvaccinated to pay for its abysmal management of the pandemic.”

Bernier has his high-profile fans, including Dr. Jordan Peterson, the Canadian academic who made an international reputation opposing trans rights, or “radical trans ideology,” and taking on wokeism in all its manifestations. Peterson also likes Conservative finance critic, Pierre Poilievre, noting on Twitter last week: “It’s nice to see a politician with some courage. You should have run for the Conservative leadership, and maybe you could bring Max Bernier back on board. He has some spine, too.”

Poilievre was flattered by the vote of confidence from “an outstanding, world-renowned Canadian thinker.” When chided by Liberals for his praise of the discredited psychology professor, Poilievre replied, with typical subtlety: “There’s more brainpower in Dr. Peterson’s pinky finger than in all the bobbleheads in the Liberal caucus combined.”

So goes the debate within the new politics. (Rebel News Ezra Levant tweeted, after O’Toole posted a coded defence of “LIBERTY” last week, in a nod to anti-vaxxers: “You weird liar.”) It is steeped in vitriol, fuelled by resentment and untethered from facts. As Alberta Premier Jason Kenney once famously said of Trudeau, it has “the intellectual depth of a finger bowl.”

But it is dangerous and corrosive, nonetheless. Bernier is able to muster large crowds in downtown Montreal on a frigid January day. His People’s Party of Canada (PPC) is gaining strength in Alberta and Saskatchewan. As for Poilievre—shrewd, ambitious, coldly calculating, a master of the personal smear—he could well replace O’Toole when the time is right.

Many voters would not want these harsh, angry men—no matter their politics—sitting on the local school board, never mind running the country.

But there is no telling what will happen if Trudeau stumbles—as he inevitably will; as all long-serving prime ministers do.

O’Toole may look benign in retrospect.

Susan Riley is a veteran political columnist who writes regularly for The Hill Times.

The Hill Times 

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Politics Briefing: Conservative leadership candidates to face off in French-language debate – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

The six candidates to lead the federal Conservative party will be making their case to win the race at a French-language debate Wednesday night.

The debate in the Montreal suburb of Laval is the second organized by the party committee managing the race after a previous debate, in English, held in Edmonton on May. 11.

The event will be a kind of political homecoming for candidate Jean Charest, the premier of Quebec from 2003 until 2012. The other candidates in the race are Ontario MPs Scott Aitchison, Leslyn Lewis and Pierre Poilievre as well as former Ontario legislature member Roman Baber, and Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown.

In recent days the candidates have been in Quebec preparing for the debate.

Mr. Charest and Mr. Poilievre are fluent in French as is Mr. Brown. It remains to be seen how the other candidates will make their points during the debate, which begins at 8 p.m. and runs for two hours.

The moderator is Marc-Olivier Fortin, a former Conservative Party regional councillor and national councilor for the party.

The debate comes a week before the June 3 deadline for selling party memberships, an exercise that has dominated the candidates’ time as they seek to rally support in the race. The winner will be announced by the party on Sept. 10.

When the leadership committee announced its debate plans in April, it said it was reserving the right to add a third debate in early August, but there has been no decision announced on such a gathering.

Please watch The Globe and Mail for coverage on Wednesday’s debate. There’s also an explainer here on the leadership race, with information on the candidates, and more details on the race itself.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

OTTAWA NOT RULING OUT COURT ACTION ON QUEBEC LANGUAGE LAW – Federal Justice Minister David Lametti says his government is not ruling out a court challenge to Quebec’s newly adopted language-reform law. Story here. Meanwhile, there’s more from Quebec correspondent Eric Andrew-Gee on the law, which is the largest expansion of Quebec’s language laws in more than 40 years. Story here.

TRUDEAU FORCED TO CANCEL APPEARANCE AT FUNDRAISING EVENT – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was forced to cancel plans to attend a fundraising dinner in Surrey, B.C. on Tuesday after two speakers at the event said protesters hurled racial slurs at the mostly South Asian attendees entering the venue. Story here. Meanwhile, Mr. Trudeau says Canada Border Services Agency will be the department that decides whether Iran’s men’s soccer team is allowed into the country for a game next month. Story here.

CANADA SHOULD HAVE BEEN INCLUDED IN TRADE TALKS: BUSINESS LEADERS – Canadian business leaders say Canada should not have been left out of the launch of new American-led trade talks about the Indo-Pacific region. Story here.

PROSPECTS TO SUCCEED KENNEY CONSIDER OPTIONS -The race to replace Jason Kenney as United Conservative Party leader and Alberta Premier has two entrants so far along with a number of cabinet ministers who, when asked if they plan to run, delivered answers ranging from maybe to a hard no. Story here.

ONTARIO ELECTION – Ontario election today: The main party leaders are all holding in-person events for the first time in days. There’s a profile here of Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca, who says his politics come from personal life as he makes a run for premiership. TVO looks here at what women and racialized candidates face on the campaign trail. And check Vote of Confidence, The Globe’s Ontario election newsletter.

THIS AND THAT

TODAY IN THE COMMONS – The House has adjourned until May 30.

ANNUAL TEDDY WASTE AWARDS – The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has released their 24th annual Teddy Waste Awards, highlighting the “best of the worst” in government waste. Details here.

ALGHABRA IN NEW BRUNSWICK Transport Minister Omar Alghabra is in Saint John, N.B., announcing new funding for the port of Saint John and for the railway system in New Brunswick.

BLAIR IN INDONESIA – Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair is in Indonesia, leading a Canadian delegation at the seventh session of the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction from Wednesday to May 28.

MENDICINO IN HALIFAX – Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino made a crime-prevention announcement in Halifax.

THE DECIBEL

Wednesday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast features children’s rights and technology researcher Hye Jung Han , an advocate with Human Rights Watch, and lead researcher on a new report that found that some online learning platforms are tracking children in ways they say actively or passively infringe on a child’s privacy rights. The Decibel is here.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

In Saskatoon, the Prime Minister held private meetings, met with long-term care home residents, and was scheduled to make an an announcement on long-term care with Saskatchewan Seniors Minister Everett Hindley and hold a media availability. The Prime Minister was also scheduled to meet with students from the University of Saskatchewan College of Agriculture and Bioresources as well as researchers from the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization at the University of Saskatchewan. And the Prime Minister was scheduled to visit a local daycare facility and meet with families to discuss early learning and child care.

LEADERS

No schedules released for party leaders.

OPINION

The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on how, with Bill 96, François Legault is trying to tiptoe out of Canada’s constitutional order: It was always assumed that, if Quebec ever left Canada, it could only happen through the front door, and only if a clear majority could be persuaded to vote “oui” to an unambiguous referendum question. Such a result being of no interest to a majority of Quebeckers, Canada needs to recognize the fact that the current government of Quebec is trying to tiptoe out the back door. It is doing so by poking ever larger holes in Canada’s constitutional order, which protects fundamental rights, and replacing it with a parallel regime where the executive can curb rights and meddle in people’s lives with little to no judicial oversight.”

David Shribman (The Globe and Mail) on how, in a country where mass shootings are the norm, Americans have moved beyond outrage: This week, the country seems to be past outrage, living in some emotional netherworld where logic, and pronouncements from faith leaders, and the screeches of pain and horror and fear, have no purchase, and where a generation of young people has been reared with the peculiar and perverse assumption that this is normal. Because it has become normal.”

Eva Jewell and Ian Mosby (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how reconciliation can’t be achieved with only symbolic gestures: We write an annual report for Yellowhead Institute on Canada’s implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action. When these calls were first released on June 2, 2015, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau – before he became Prime Minister – promised that his party would complete all 94 if elected. But the reality has proven to be much different. According to our most recent analysis, Canada has completed only 11 of the 94 calls to action over the last seven years. While overall progress has been glacial, last year we found that in the three weeks following the Kamloops revelations, Canada completed three calls to action – more than in the previous three years combined.”

Jillian Oliver (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how Australia’s `teal wave’ is a wakeup call for Canada’s Conservatives: “The results should be a wake-up call for Canada’s federal Conservatives, whose leadership candidates are pledging to roll back Canadian climate policies if they were to form a government. Their presumed frontrunner, Pierre Poilievre, has said he wants to “build pipelines in all directions” and eliminate Canada’s price on carbon. His main challenger, Jean Charest, would not honour Canada’s emission-reductions commitments to the UN and instead reinstate weaker climate targets from more than a decade ago.”

Tom Mulcair (The Montreal Gazette) on how Quebec’s Bill 96′s passage to be followed by holy chaos: The first big chapter of the Bill 96 saga has come to an end with the bill’s adoption by the National Assembly. By a linguistic quirk, on the anglo side it will always be called Bill 96 (like “Bill 101,” which actually became a law in 1977). On the franco side it will get a promotion to being called Loi 96 (Law 96). One way or the other, it’s on its way to court, where it is likely to get eviscerated, much to the quiet delight of separatists, who will see that as further proof Quebec independence is the only way forward. Bill 96 is overtly unconstitutional. It creates outrageous powers of search and seizure for language police who could inspect a company’s computers looking for inappropriate use of English. This is Keystone Kops material, but the Coalition Avenir Québec government has its spokespersons out there denying that Bill 96 actually says what it says in black and white.”

Murray Mandryk (Saskatoon StarPhoenix) on how Saskatchewan’s next NDP leader must depart from the approach of outgoing leader Ryan Meili: “In what turned into a bit of an exit interview Thursday, outgoing NDP Leader Ryan Meili was asked what advice he had for his successor. Don’t be your own attack dog on every issue, Meili essentially told reporters in his last scrum at the legislature as Opposition leader. Leave it to others to carry the attack and present your broader, more positive vision as to where your party is going. It was sage counsel for either Carla Beck or Kaitlyn Harvey, vying to become the next NDP leader of what is now a 12-member opposition rump. It also pretty much sums up most — if not all — of the problems of not onlyMr. Meili’s leadership but what’s ailed the Saskatchewan NDP for the past decade and a half.”

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop.

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Charest, Poilievre stress divergent visions in Conservative leadership debate

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LAVAL, Que. — Two front-runners in the federal Conservative contest kicked off the race’s only French-language debate Wednesday night with differing visions of Canada, with Ottawa-area MP Pierre Poilievre stressing freedom and former Quebec premier Jean Charest pitching unity.

“My legacy will be the freest country in the world where people will be able to control their lives, including their health decisions,” Poilievre said in his opening statement, highlighting “freedom of speech without censorship by the state or the woke movement.”

Charest said he hopes his legacy as Tory leader would be uniting his party and vaulting it to majority government.

“We will leave a more prosperous country to our children and a united country to our children,” said Charest.

The event took place in Laval, Que., north of Montreal, as a deadline approaches for candidates to have supporters signed up as party members to be eligible to vote in the contest.

Patrick Brown, the mayor of Brampton, Ont., who can also speak French, stressed winning “in urban areas,” which he noted remains a challenge for Conservatives. Brown has spent the race campaigning against a controversial secularism law in Quebec that prohibits some public servants in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols on the job, which he says is an affront to religious freedom.

Candidates took the stage after a language reform bill passed Quebec’s legislature that critics say goes too far in protecting the French language by potentially denying the province’s anglophones the ability to access services like health care in English.

Scott Aitchison, an MP from rural Ontario who’s running, released a statement ahead of Wednesday’s event pledging that a government led by him would work with Quebecers to see the new language bill and province’s religious symbols law repealed.

He called Premier François Legault’s language reform “divisive” and said the bill is “designed to exploit frustrations by discriminating against the English speaking minority in Quebec.”

“Government policies that unite francophones and anglophones are what Canada needs. We cannot allow fear and anger to win in this country,” Aitchison said.

Other candidates staked out positions on matters relevant to Quebecers and the party’s membership in that province as well.

Brown, who is promising to fight Quebec’s religious symbols law in court, said on Wednesday he would get rid of the country’s existing firearms law and replace it with a new one that better balances protecting Canada’s streets with respecting the rights of its citizens.

The Liberal government’s approach to firearms, which includes a regulation banning so-called assault-style weapons, has been a source of frustration for Conservatives, many of whom represent gun owners.

Another rallying cry for Conservative leadership hopefuls Poilievre, Lewis and Roman Baber is to end all remaining COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates.

Baber is the Independent Ontario MPP whose opposition to a provincial lockdown got him booted from Premier Doug Ford’s caucus. His campaign announced Wednesday that he had won the support of Daniel Bulford, one of the leaders of the weeks-long convoy protest that jammed the streets of Ottawa in February.

Among the themes expected to be discussed during the debate were immigration, health, the party’s future and winning more seats in Quebec.

The latter has been a long-standing issue for the party, which currently only holds 10 of the province’s 78 seats, while the governing Liberals have 35 and the Bloc Québécois boast 32.

Since the Conservative Party of Canada formed in 2003, the most seats it has been able to hold has been 12 under former prime minister Stephen Harper.

Former Tory leader Erin O’Toole tried to change that during last year’s federal election by making numerous campaign stops in Quebec and promising to enter into a new contract with the province that would better respect its areas of jurisdiction.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2022.

— With files from Stephanie Taylor in Ottawa

 

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

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Steven Del Duca says his politics come from personal life as he makes run for premiership – The Globe and Mail

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Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca speaks during a campaign rally in Toronto, on May 17.Cole Burston/The Canadian Press

Anyone who has heard Steven Del Duca speak during this election campaign likely knows he has two daughters in public school, two elderly parents who want to age at home, and that his Saturday mornings include grocery shopping for his family.

Weaving in personal touches to speeches is a tried and true political tactic, but the Ontario Liberal leader says his politics come from his personal life.

“Family is really the centre of everything … so it’s just a very natural, I guess, lens for me to view those issues,” he said in a recent interview.

Del Duca’s focus on home care comes not only from his 83-year-old Italian-born father and his 80-year-old Scottish-born mother, but also his grandparents, all of whom lived past 80 – one to 97 – and stayed in their own homes.

Education policy is important to Del Duca as the father to two daughters, Talia, 14, and Grace, 11, but he also mentions a teacher who kept him on track as he was drifting in his final year of high school.

By that time, he was already actively engaged in politics and didn’t have much interest in what the school curriculum had to offer in social sciences, and the teacher worried that his grades wouldn’t be able to get him into university.

So she developed two large research projects that he could do as independent studies and got the principal to sign off on it.

“I loved it because it gave me a chance to actually take what I was doing in reality, fuse it to with what I was reading and learning about and kind of taking a run with it,” Del Duca says.

“I don’t know how it would have worked out otherwise.”

Thirty years later, he’s taking a run at much bigger projects: the premiership and rebuilding the Ontario Liberals four years after their walloping that saw them lose official party status.

One of Del Duca’s oldest friends, Anthony Martin, has known him since the two were in Grade 3, and is not surprised to see him running for the province’s top job. Martin says his friend was always well informed about current events for his age, but once he was bitten by the political bug, that was it.

“He said he wanted to be premier, because, he thought that was where you could do the most good and make the most change in people’s lives,” Martin said.

Del Duca’s interest in politics was first sparked at age 14, when his older sister gave him “The Rainmaker,” the autobiography of legendary Liberal organizer Keith Davey, for Christmas.

He has since asked his sister why she settled on that present, a peculiar selection for a young teen, and “she can’t remember what possessed her to get that specific book.”

Regardless, Del Duca was hooked. He was then reeled in a few months later when a cousin invited him to a nomination meeting. It turned out to be a hotly contested race, with an incumbent being challenged for a federal Liberal nomination.

“I felt the electricity in the room,” he says.

Later that year was the 1988 election and Del Duca volunteered for the Liberals, knocking on the doors of voters who found a 15-year-old wanting to talk to them about free trade on the other side.

At age 48, Del Duca still likes talking, and he has developed a particular style. On the campaign trail he looks straight into the camera, delivering his words with a measured cadence that generally comes from reading prepared remarks.

Except there is no teleprompter in sight.

Del Duca says it’s partly due to him being quite hands on with platform development, but the seed was planted at his own nomination meeting in 2012.

He was being acclaimed to replace Greg Sorbara, who was retiring. Del Duca had actually written speeches for Sorbara, though he eschewed speaking notes.

“(It) used to drive me crazy,” Del Duca says. “He’d say, ‘Steven, this is such a beautifully written speech. I’m not using it.”’ Ahead of the nomination meeting, Sorbara told Del Duca not to use a written speech, but rather a single page of bullet points to “frame the mind.”

He was unsure about speaking off the cuff in front of so many people, and brought both his speech and his page of bullet points to the banquet hall. But after sitting in the parking lot and mulling it over, he left his speech in the car.

“It went fine,” Del Duca says. “That was really good advice Greg gave me … Even if you get back in the car afterwards, or you’re back at the office and think, ‘Oh shoot, I was gonna say those two things, but I didn’t,’ it’s OK. You connect with the audience far, far better.”

He would go on to spend nearly four years as transportation minister and a few months as economic development minister.

Liberal MP Yasir Naqvi, who served in cabinet with Del Duca, says he is someone who was always prepared, and can disagree with others cordially. The two have known each other since they were in the Liberals’ youth wing together, and Naqvi says personally Del Duca is a devoted family man.

Del Duca’s younger brother was killed in a car crash in 2018, and Naqvi says he was impressed by how Del Duca faced the tragedy.

“There were times of course he was fragile, but then he was also there for his parents, who lost their son,” Naqvi says.

“He was there for his sister-in-law, who lost her husband. He was there for his niece and nephews, who lost their father and of course, provide support for his family as well. Really, I was incredibly impressed by his strength, his calmness and his resiliency.”

Del Duca was chosen as party leader just days before the first COVID-19 lockdown.

March 7, 2020 was, in hindsight, not the best time for a mass gathering, and the timing was especially poor for Del Duca, who needed to spend the next two years both rebuilding the party from its disastrous 2018 election showing and introducing himself to voters.

But the new Liberal leader was one of the last things on voters’ minds as they dealt with devastating effects of the pandemic, and it has left Del Duca still fairly unknown, said Chris Cochrane, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

“It’s made life difficult for (him),” he said.

During last week’s debate, Del Duca came across as someone who had a good grasp of policy, but when it comes to a unique and easily identifiable charisma, Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford has him beat, Cochrane said.

“Doug Ford has a presence, a way of speaking, mannerisms, everything about him, that sends a message automatically, no matter what he says to the people he wants to vote for (him) that he’s one of them,” he said.

“As soon as you see (Ford) and you hear him speak, it’s unique to him … Jean Chrétien, for example, also had that, in the past. Del Duca doesn’t have that.”

But those who know him say he has a good sense of humour, trading dad jokes and offering up self-deprecating remarks.

He has also tried to cultivate a relatable image, often appearing in public wearing a suit with sneakers and ditching his signature black-rimmed glasses after getting laser eye surgery just before the campaign.

“I figured it was easier than trying to grow my hair,” he quips.

Want to hear more about the Ontario election from our journalists? Subscribe to Vote of Confidence, a twice-weekly newsletter dedicated to the key issues in this campaign, landing in your inbox starting May 17 until election day on June 2.

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