Ontario’s interim Liberal Leader urged party members “not to dwell on our mistakes” as they gathered Saturday for a post-mortem on the June election that saw voters shrink Kathleen Wynne’s majority government to a third-party rump of seven MPPs.
“They made the right call,” Ottawa South MPP John Fraser said in a speech prepared for 700 delegates from more than 100 ridings across the province.
“They’d had enough of us.”
Liberals — including Wynne — spent the morning in a session grilling campaign strategist David Herle on what went wrong in an effort to reach voters that saw the party stray from a long-standing promise to balance the budget by 2018 to a return to multi billion-dollar deficits with expanded pharmacare, child care and new dental care initiatives.
“This morning, we confronted some harsh truths,” Fraser added.
“We lost our way and, in turn, we lost the election.”
Defeated Toronto MPP Arthur Potts called the session with Herle and other campaign officials including former deputy premier Deb Matthews “a good gnashing of teeth.”
Media were not allowed in the question-and-answer session so party members, including other former MPPs and cabinet ministers — could speak freely.
In an attempt to turn a frequent “minivan party” taunt from Premier Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservatives into a rallying cry, Fraser said Liberals must rebuild so they are ready to become “an alternative to the cuts and the chaos we know are coming” under the new government that has promised to find $6 billion in “efficiencies” on Ontario’s $150 billion annual budget.
“My gut tells me that when Doug Ford is done ransacking Ontario, there will be even more young Liberals ready to build again,” Fraser added.
He told the crowd “time will tell” how long voters will keep the Liberals, which had governed Ontario since 2003, in the “penalty box.”
He said Wynne’s predecessor, Dalton McGuinty, travelled across Ontario in a minivan after winning the leadership in 1996 — a year after former PC premier won an election the Liberals had been expected to win — to build the party up “riding by riding, meeting by meeting, dollar by dollar.”
“So go ahead, Doug Ford, call us the minivan party.”
The Liberals are $10 million in debt from the election.