An Ottawa-area legislator has been appointed interim leader of Ontario’s Liberals after the party’s stunning defeat in last week’s election.
John Fraser was selected after a vote by caucus members, riding association presidents and party executives.
Fraser’s appointment comes a day after the Liberals held their final cabinet meeting, a gathering that focused on rebuilding the party that governed the province for the last 15 years.
Outgoing premier Kathleen Wynne resigned as party leader on election night after her government was defeated by Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives. The Tories, who won a majority, will take power on June 29.
Prior to being elected Fraser, a married father of three, worked in McGuinty’s Ottawa constituency office for 14 years.
University of Toronto political science professor Nelson Wiseman said the degree of difficulty of Fraser’s job will depend greatly on whether party manages to gain official status in the legislature.
Liberals will be ‘swinging blindly’ without official party status
Wynne has said she hopes Ford will change the rules to grant the Liberals’ the designation, which currently requires eight seats in the legislature. Ford has only said he’d talk to his team about the issue in the days and weeks to come.
“That’s a very big factor,” he said. “If they don’t have official party status they can’t serve on legislative committees. If they don’t have the research support … they’ll be swinging blindly when large technical bills come up.”
“It’s hard work,” he said. “It’s a 24-7 job. It’s very demanding.”
Wiseman said it has also become an expectation of modern politics that the interim leader won’t run to helm the party permanently, something that didn’t used to be the case.
“Once upon a time you’d be the interim leader and then it was seen as a stepping stone to becoming the leader,” he said. “Leadership races have become these big productions now where everyone gets a vote and the onus is now selling tens of thousands of memberships.”