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“5 Questions” Interview(s) With Ontario Liberal Party Candidates: Kate Graham

Kate Graham is the next of the leadership candidates for the Ontario Liberal Party to submit her answers to my “5 Questions”. You can find Kate’s website here. Her answers in their entirety are below.

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?

It’s time for generational change in the Ontario Liberal Party. Voters sent a clear message in the last election, and to earn back the support of Ontarians we need to demonstrate that we heard that message. That means showing that we have new leadership, and are prepared to do politics differently. I’m the youngest candidate in the race. I’m not a former Cabinet Minister. I’m the registered candidate from the Southwest. My experience comes from a level of government where there weren’t political parties, and people with different ideas had to work together. We need more of that at Queens Park.

Over these last seven weeks I’ve had hundreds of volunteers, many who are completely new to politics, ask me, “How can I help?” There is a hunger in this province for a movement that engages, excites, and empowers people to shape the decisions that affect their lives. This is the kind of campaign – and party – we are building. That kind of leadership and collaboration is our path to victory, and it’s what is going to change our province for the better.

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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?

I supported the 1M1V motion because I believe it would have made participation in the OLP leadership race more accessible, affordable and open. It was also aligned with what I heard during the Listening Project, an effort I led with a group of candidates to connect with candidates who ran in ridings across Ontario about the messages they heard at the door, and the things they wanted to see change in the party. We need to implement the recommendations of this report (see attached, pg 20 onwards): listen more, clearly define who we are, re-energize our base, change how we communicate, hold earlier nominations, and adapt our fund-raising techniques to the new environment. 

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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?

When I was a kid growing up in Exeter Ontario, there was lots of support for the Ontario Liberal Party in Southwestern Ontario. In 2018, I ran in the last Liberal seat in the Southwest — and lost, just like every single new candidate (and most of the current caucus). We need to earn back trust in areas outside the GTA to be viable in the future, which requires us to reconnect and listen to people in those areas. We also need to empower local ridings, local communities and local leaders at every possible opportunity. As the only registered candidate outside the GTA, this is a top priority for me.

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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? 

 Our campaign is focused on wellbeing as a policy framework. We strive for an Ontario where every single person can live a happy, healthy life, and is able to achieve their big dreams. We need to move beyond just GDP and unemployment rates as the only measure of a Premier’s success, and look at how they are making life better for the average Ontarian. 

While a well-being focus is new to Ontario, it is a specific policy approach adopted by other progressive leaders around the world, from Prime Minister Katrina Jakobsdóttir in Iceland to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand. I believe we need a made-in-Ontario approach to well-being. My primary areas of focus are improving affordability, fighting climate change, growing better jobs, and empowering local decision-making. 

Our four well-being priorities demonstrate a broadened definition of prosperity for our province: they incorporate not just the health of our finances, but also of our people, our communities, and our planet. 

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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?

Having knocked on thousands of doors during the most recent municipal, provincial and federal elections, I’ve heard clearly from people about the frustration they are feeling about politics and politicians. People are feeling disappointed and angry. Trust in politicians is at a low point, and we need to ask ourselves why.

Our best path forward to focus not on Doug Ford, but on rebuilding into a strong, engaged, and election-ready Ontario Liberal Party. Ontarians are smart. They will assess Doug Ford’s leadership, and the numbers show that already have. The Liberals need to be ready to earn back their trust and rebuild their faith in government.

I believe the desire for change will be even stronger in 2022 than it is today. But it matters what kind of change we are presenting, and how we make it happen. We want to see a government that improves quality of life in this province by listening to people, by collaborating widely to solve hard problems, and by giving people the tools they need to have a meaningful impact on the issues they care about. 

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