MPP Mitzie Hunter enters race to be Ontario Liberal leader
After months of speculation about her future within Ontario’s Liberal Party, former Education Minister Mitzie Hunter is making it official – she is entering the 2020 Liberal leadership race.
“I feel the magnitude of the moment. I recognize that it’s an incredibly important thing to do to step forward and say you’re going to lead, to put your hand up to do that.”
In an exclusive interview with CTV News Toronto ahead of her official announcement, Hunter says she has made the $100,000 commitment necessary to officially enter the race and feels she has what it takes to lead.
“I have experience as leader both in the private sector, in non-profit and of course in government being a cabinet minister. So now this is taking that bold step to the next level,” Hunter told CTV News Toronto.
Hunter was one of just seven Liberal MPPs who managed to hang onto their seats after the governing party received an electoral thrashing at the hands of Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives in June 2018.
Even then, Hunter managed to squeak back into office garnering just 74 more votes over her PC opponent, according to Elections Ontario voting data.
“We were in office for a long time, and I get that people wanted change,” Hunter says. “I don’t think they’re happy with the change that they received.”
While Hunter acknowledges the party needs to be “reflective and learn the lessons of our experiences” she is also quick to defend the party’s contributions.
“I actually believe that Ontario’s values align very well with the Liberal party.”
Hunter entered provincial politics during a 2013 by-election and was re-elected eight months later during the general election, which saw the Liberals regain its majority in the legislature.
In 2016, amid a barrage of negativity over the implementation of the controversial 2015 sex-ex curriculum, a cabinet shuffle saw Hunter promoted to education minister – the second largest ministry in Ontario.
“I made a commitment as education minister to be in a school at least once a week, because I really wanted to be in the classroom to see what learning was like,” says Hunter, noting that she her family immigrated from Jamaica in the 1970’s.
That was one of the motivating factors, she says, to work on a financial and literacy program for Grade 10 students, which she launched in 2017.
“I recognize to do more on financial literacy; we need to prepare young people for that future self, making sure that they save.”
Speculation that Hunter would run for the leadership had been swirling for months, as the MPP quietly built an exploratory team and held public events to boost her profile.
On Canada Day, Hunter threw a last-minute celebration dubbed the “people’s picnic” on the south lawn of Queen’s Park to protest Premier Ford’s cancellation of the annual celebration.
While the field of Liberal leadership candidates isn’t crowded, Hunter’s opponents have a major head start.
Former transportation minister Steven Del Duca, who announced his leadership bid in April, has been racking up Liberal endorsements, touring communities and dropping policy proposals.
Don Valley East MPP Michael Coteau launched his campaign in June and raked in around $45,000 in campaign donations, according to campaign filings made to Elections Ontario and campaign officials.
Hunter, however, doesn’t seem to be phased.
“I have to run my own race, and it’s the finish that matters.”
The next leader will be selected on March 7, 2020.