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“5 Questions” Interview(s) With Ontario Liberal Party Candidates: Michael Coteau

If you were to search through my archives, you would find back in 2012 that I did a series of “5 Questions” with Ontario Liberal Party leadership candidates who were running to replace Dalton McGuinty (eventually won by Kathleen Wynne). It is 2019 and we have another OLP leadership race, and so I figured I’d pull the 5 Questions format out again and quiz the candidates.

I’ve heard from 6 of the 7 candidates who were willing to participate – the 7th I’ve not heard back from as of yet, but will include in this series if they wish to participate. I thank all of the candidates for participating in this forum.

I’ve sent the same questions out to every candidate and/or their teams and will publish them in the order I receive them. I have made no endorsement for any of the candidates at this time (and may or may not eventually).

The first candidate to send a reply is Michael Coteau – his replies are posted in their entirety without editing.


1) There are many candidates running to be the next Ontario Liberal Party leader. What would you say to delegates looking for reasons to vote for you / elect you as leader?  

We need to pick a leader who knows how to win and who can win based on our shared values as Ontario Liberals. I am values driven, I build coalitions that bring people in to work together and I’ve never lost an election because I work hard. 

I have a seat in the Legislature and am doing the hard work to oppose and replace Doug Ford as Premier. But, we need to go further if we’re going to beat him in 2022. We have to earn the public’s trust, offer bold ideas that people can get behind and open up our party to more people. We need to listen to people, and take action that actually helps them.   We need to believe we can do better, and put a plan in place to make it happen.   

I am an immigrant whose parents are from Yorkshire, England and Grenada, and I grew up in a proud but struggling community in Flemingdon Park. I worked hard, becoming the first member of my family to graduate high school and university, thanks to our public schools and OSAP. I started my own small business, worked as a community organizer, ran a national nonprofit and served as a school trustee, MPP and cabinet minister, taking on the toughest files at Queen’s Park. I believe my experience and my life story makes me the clearest possible contrast with Doug Ford. 

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2) As you know, the OLP recently had a vote on whether to change electing the leader of the party from the current delegated convention to “One Member One Vote”. Though that measure failed to reach the 2/3 vote measure to pass, it still had majority support, which would seem to suggest among OLP members there is a strong desire to modernize the OLP.  If you accept that premise, (and regardless of whether you supported OMOV or not),  how would you, as Ontario Liberal Party leader, modernize the party so it becomes  a more inclusive party to its members, as well as building and supporting a strong grassroots organization across the province?  

Losing the way we did in 2018 was hard. But, if we’re to take anything from this experience it is the fact that we have an unprecedented opportunity to build a new, modern party from the ground up. Ignoring that opportunity will be to our detriment.   

I’ve been careful with my words in recent months. I don’t say “rebuild”, because it implies what we had was perfect. If we’re going to modernize, we need to take the opportunity to build something new that works in a changing era of politics.    Earlier this year, I released a discussion paper (https://www.michaelcoteau.com/the_big_5) about creating more internal accountability in the party, empowering our grassroots and our young Liberals. My hope this that through measure like this and a bold, positive agenda, we can grow the on-the-ground engagement we need to build a healthy party.

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3) Is there anything the OLP can do to bridge the gap that is the rural/urban divide on Ontario with voting preferences? Specifically, what is your vision and plan for rebuilding the party outside of the GTHA and Ottawa regions given our party’s lengthy history of strong representation from Rural and Northern Ontario?  

If Doug Ford, a guy who grew up in a rich Toronto family, can bridge this gap, so can we. But, we need to actually listen, understand and bring people in.  I grew up in a working-class neighbourhood. My mom worked as a building superintendent and my dad fixed appliances. I went to school because of OSAP. I bring this up because I know what it is like to be counted out, or to feel unheard. Despite being from Toronto, I think I can relate to people across this province who don’t have connections to government and who want in. That’s what I want to bring to the table as leader.   

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4) Do you currently have any general or specific policy solutions you’d like to see included in the next election platform  to try and draw Ontarions back to the party and vote for the OLP?  

I’m going to be releasing more around my policy goals as the race progresses. But, I’ll say this broadly—my goals are based on the premise that we can do better. I mean that in whatever sense you want to take it. To the party members who have not felt like they’ve had a voice, we can do better. To the people who want to leave a better future for their kids, I think we can do that too.   

We don’t need bureaucratic or overly complicated policies that people can’t relate to. We need a bold, positive agenda that inspires people to vote Liberal. We need a clear, moral diagnosis of the problems we face. My number one goal is to ensure Ontario is the best place to raise—and to be—a child. I want to bring real change to our party and province.    Stay tuned. More on this to come.

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5) As you know, the  OLP is currently a small 3rd party w/o official party status in the Ontario legislature – with that comes resource and staffing challenges.  With that in mind, if you are elected leader, how do you plan to oppose Doug Ford inside and outside the legislature to try and overcome this?

I am one of five Liberal MPPs in the Legislature opposing Doug Ford. I think that gives me a solid platform for speaking to people in this province  and opposing Doug Ford’s cuts. But, I believe the most important thing we can do is reach out to the ridings and build strength in local communities. So far, I’ve been to about 90 of the 124 ridings in this province. In each, I’ve met incredible volunteers who want to help build our party. We need to find a way to bring them in rather than centralizing power with a few. We need, as I often say, to improve our party and to change our province by showing that we will be a good government.    I am proud that in this leadership campaign, I have the most individual donors of any campaign and well over 600 volunteers across the province. I believe in building a strong, grassroots base, listening to the party membership and bringing new people in.

I invite you to be part of our team by visiting www.michaelcoteau.com

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