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“5 Questions” Interview(s) with Ontario Liberal Party Candidates: Steven Del Duca

Our next candidate for the Ontario Liberal Party Leadership to submit replies to the questions is Steven Del Duca (you’ll find his website link in one of the replies to one of the questions).

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?

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We are very lucky as Ontario Liberals to have such a strong slate of diverse candidates running to be leader of our party. Since launching my campaign, I’ve personally had the incredible opportunity to meet hundreds of party members from all across this beautiful province. Often their first question to me is how I intend to build a stronger, more modern and re-energized Ontario Liberal party. 

I’m the son of a Scottish mother and an Italian father who came to Canada looking for opportunity. They taught me the value of hard work at a very early age. For my parents, success in life was based only on talent, effort, and dedication – not religion, skin colour, or who you love. This is something I’ve carried with me ever since. 

My plan is built on the idea that everyone should have the opportunity to succeed. I want to build a province where genuine opportunity is real for everyone. Where both entrepreneurs and workers can thrive, and where people can go as far as their hard work and skills will take them. This goal has laid the foundation for many of my policy ideas, including an Economic Dignity Charter that provides basic workplace benefits for all Ontario workers.

I believe I have the experience and tenacity to create an Ontario where this is possible. I’ve been hard at work for over 30 years in the Ontario Liberal party as a local campaign volunteer, a riding president, a campus club president, a political staffer, a campaign manager, an Executive Council Member, a candidate, an MPP, and a Cabinet Minister. 

If chosen as leader, I promise to be relentless in the pursuit of progress and I will never stop fighting for a better Ontario.

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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?

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I wholeheartedly believe that the future strength of our party depends on the immediate inclusion and participation of grassroots Liberals across the province. We heard loud and clear at AGM that a large portion of our party wants to see change. And I completely understand the desire that so many Ontario Liberals have in wanting to modernize and strengthen our party. 

For one, it’s clear that we need to think hard about how we select our future leaders. That’s why I’ve already committed to appointing a task force that will review options on how we can reform the leadership selection process based on domestic and international best practices. For me, it’s critical that this task force consults widely with grassroots Liberals and utilizes the latest in digital engagement technologies. 

I also want to create new opportunities for strong – and badly needed – voices to play a bigger role in our party. As an example, I introduced a “30 under 30” pledge so that 30 of our candidates running in the next election are under the age of 30. In addition, I have committed that a minimum of 50% of our candidates will be women. I have also suggested that we should amend our party constitution to add new positions to our Executive Council, including a Vice President of Francophone Affairs, a Vice President of Indigenous Affairs, and a Vice President of Rural Affairs to ensure that these voices are heard around the table. 

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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?

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This is so important, and it’s something I’ve been talking about for quite some time. In March, I actually penned an op-ed that argued that it’s time for Queen’s Park to fundamentally change the way it works with rural, northern and remote Ontario – in short, I said that it’s time to stop lecturing these communities and start actually listening to them.

For some time, these communities have made it abundantly clear that they’ve been left behind by governments of all partisan stripes. They face daunting challenges: young people moving away for school or for jobs, spotty internet access, crumbling infrastructure, and a lack of transportation options.

In my op-ed, I put forward a real plan for what I believe rural progress looks like:

  • Investing in our agri-food sector and supporting the over 800,000 Ontarians who work in it;
  • Decentralizing government so that we can spur job creation in places where the cost of housing is low and quality of life is high;
  • Delivering reliable, affordable high-speed internet access to the entire province; 
  • Reconsidering the uploading of roads and bridges that were dumped on rural and northern municipalities by premier Mike Harris a generation ago; and;
  • Working with municipal leaders and their associations to deliver genuine transportation options, and connecting rural communities by creating coordinating bodies and funding mobility solutions.

I’ve also called on the Ontario Liberal Party to hold an additional leadership debate in a community with a population of 25,000 or less. These are just a few of the ideas I believe we need to consider to make our party a viable option for those living in rural, remote and northern communities. If I’m chosen as leader, I intend to work hard to ensure that these communities have a stronger voice in our party.

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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 Ontarians back to the party and vote for the OLP? 

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Absolutely – as a party we need to work together to develop a strong and compelling plan that will inspire people to consider voting Liberal again in the next election. One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about launching my leadership campaign is getting to listen and learn from Ontarians all over the province. These conversations have been the catalyst for many of the policy initiatives I’ve put forward so far. These include initiatives that will support youth and students, seniors, patients, commuters, small businesses and rural, remote and northern communities.

You can learn more about these ideas on my website (https://www.stevendelduca.ca/), but at a glance:

  • Students: I will reinvest in postsecondary education to make sure everyone has better access. I will restore per student funding levels, reduce class sizes, and invest more in our education sector, particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. And I plan to have at least 30 candidates under the age of 30 run under the Liberal banner in the next election.
  • Patients: I have committed to creating more long-term care beds and freeing up room in hospitals. I will use a patient-first approach to ensure bureaucracy isn’t standing in the way of care. And I will introduce a province-wide pharmacare program so that Ontarians won’t need to choose between paying for medicine over food for their families.
  • Commuters: As a former Minister of Transportation, I know we must invest in transit and transportation infrastructure so commuters can get to and from work quickly, efficiently, and with a reduced carbon footprint. I will expand our investments in infrastructure and encourage commuters to move to transit by cutting off peak transit fares in half.
  • Small businesses and workers: I will create a Charter for Economic Dignity that revamps the way we train and retrain workers to better match skills with jobs. This includes a basic workplace benefits package for all Ontario workers. I will put in place a framework that protects consumers and entrepreneurs, and I will work closely with provincial and local chambers of commerce to support entrepreneurs and small businesses.
  • Environment: I am committed to working closely with our federal and provincial partners to set – and meet – ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Seniors: I will provide support to seniors by reversing Doug Ford’s drastic cuts and making sure we build a health care system that allows people to age with dignity and in their own homes.
  • Communities: I will decentralize government to spur job creation where the cost of housing is low, and the quality of life is high. I will also deliver reliable, affordable high-speed internet access to the entire province, and better connect and support our rural, remote and northern communities.

There are so many more great ideas out there, and if I’m lucky enough to be chosen as leader, I’m committed to continuing this important conversation. Together we can build a platform that all Ontario Liberals can be proud of. 

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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?

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There’s no doubt that our party is facing a number of challenges heading into the next election. Driving up our membership numbers, fundraising, nominating candidates, and kickstarting a platform and policy process are just a partial list of what’s required for success. 

The truth is there are no shortcuts to success. As a party, we know we need to start challenging ourselves to work harder, listen longer and learn more. If I’m chosen as leader, I want to start modernizing our campaign approaches so that we can build a lean, mean political machine that is able to take on Doug Ford and the PC Party. But most importantly – and I’ve said this many times – we need to work as hard as possible to rebuild trust with Ontarians that we can govern again. I truly believe we can come together as a Liberal family to meet these challenges and defeat Doug Ford in 2022.

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