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Marit Stiles only candidate in Ontario NDP leadership race

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Toronto-area MPP Marit Stiles is set to become the next leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party.

The party confirmed the news on Tuesday morning, saying that Stiles will “work tirelessly to end the era of Conservation cuts and privatization.”

“Together with Marit, we will work to build a party and a 2026 election campaign with space for working people and labour, progressives, racialized and equity-deserving Ontarians, and young people," Ontario NDP President Janelle Brady said in a statement.

"Marit can give people hope and unite the province to defeat Doug Ford — to make life affordable and rebuild and improve health care and education."

Stiles will take over for interim leader Peter Tabuns after members formally participate in a confirmation vote scheduled for March 2023. The provincial council could choose to expedite the process; although it is unclear if they will.

Speaking to reporters following Question Period, Stiles said she was excited to start the “real race” to defeat Premier Doug Ford in 2026.

“There is no question that Ontarians are looking for the NDP to unite, to mobilize, and to start the race right now to defeat Doug Ford,” she said.

“The work is now. The legislature's sitting for another couple of days. I will continue to cross this province to build and to mobilize, to build our movement so that we can actually be in a position to not just fight the Ford agenda but actually propose the solution.”

Stiles, a former education critic for the NDP and school board trustee, launched her leadership bid in September. The MPP has represented the riding of Davenport since 2018 and says she hopes to bring a positive vision to the party.

"Just as we're easing back into public life like this, people are being pummelled by the rising cost of groceries and rent -- you name it," Stiles said at her campaign launch in September.

"It's about jobs and opportunities."

Ford congratulated Stiles on social media, saying he is looking forward to "many spirited debates."

In order to be nominated, a candidate needed to get 100 signatures from members, with at least half coming from women, gender diverse or non-binary members. A quarter of those signatures also need to be from “equity-seeking groups.”

Contenders also had to pay $55,000.

LOSS OF LEADERSHIP RACE COULD COST PARTY

CTV News Political Analyst Scott Reid says that while a sole contender may be good for Stiles, it isn’t ideal for a political party to have an “outright coronation.”

“Leadership races generate energy. They attract donations and money. They attract new members. You find new talent, candidates are tested, and then they rise to the challenge or fall by the wayside and then all of that translates into a more effective opposition and, most importantly, more effective preparation to compete in the next election campaign and ideally, to win and form a government. They've robbed themselves multiple steps,” he said.

“That happens sometimes, but it means that they're now going to have to create it out of a caucus instead of out of the party.”

Reid added that it’s possible to generate donations and new members in a leadership tour instead, but it places the onus on the shoulders of one individual.

Heading into the deadline, Stiles received eight public endorsements from NDP MPPs. While a number of other contenders expressed interest in running for party leader, none went through with the nominations.

Kim Wright, an NDP strategist, said the lack of further nominations means there is unity within the party.

“What we've seen is that Marit Stiles and her team got out early,” she said. “The more people got to know her in that potential leadership role, the more they rallied behind her.”

“The caucus will be united and is united.”

Wright said Stiles has done “pretty much every job within the Ontario NDP,” which puts her in a unique position to lead the “next generation of New Democrats.”

“She has been a political staffer. She's been a researcher. She'd been an organizer. Then she got elected,” Wright said. “She is incredibly personable, she is about community building, she is very empathetic, and really does, not only individual conversations well, but can give a barnburner of his speech.”

However, the party may not be as united as Wright believes.

MPP Jill Andrew released a statement Tuesday morning saying she intended to run in the leadership race but ultimately decided not to.

“Our financial team worked tirelessly and managed to raise every last penny needed to enter the race, working through some unclear guidelines,” Andrew wrote. “Those guidelines coupled with the integration of processes between the leadership rules and Elections Ontario put me at a huge disadvantage – one that no amount of dedication to the application process could erase for me.”

CTV News Toronto reached out for clarification on what part of the process put Andrew at a disadvantage, but has not heard back.

‘GET IT OVER WITH’

As it stands, there are now two faces for the Ontario NDP until a confirmation vote takes place. Neither Stiles or Tabuns would speculate on Tuesday about whether the party would choose to have the vote early.

But according to Reid, the party should just “get it over with.”

“There's no suspense over who it's going to be. Put the reins in their hands,” he said.

“She's the only candidate. She will win, so make it official fast and then let her get going at the difficult job she has.”

Over the last two months, Stiles has promised to create a online policy forum that will report feedback to the NDP convention, improve transparency in the candidate approval process, reduce membership fees, and pilot a new local organizer program to support riding association fundraising.

In her platform—titled “Strengthening Our Party, Building A Movement”—Stiles says while the NDP was elected as the Official Opposition twice, “we can no longer be satisfied with a second place showing.”

“‘Good enough’ is no longer good enough,” her website says. “There’s too much at stake and people are counting on us.”

The position opened up after the June 2022 elections, when long-time leader Andrea Horwath resigned.

Horwath led the NDP since 2009 and is now the mayor of Hamilton.

The Ontario Liberal Party also needs to select a new leader, but the process is happening significantly slower. Interim leader John Fraser told reporters Tuesday that a general meeting will take place in March 2023, in which the rules for the leadership contest will be decided.

A new leader may be chosen sometime in the spring of 2024, he said.

With files from the Canadian Press

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