Q+A: Nobody puts Ted Hsu in a corner
Also: Steeltown turnout (or not), MPPs hit the ridings, Stiles' new recruit, Fedeli does Texas, bail reform talks, daycare debacle, privatization creep and much more
ABOVE THE FOLD
MPPs may have exited the building, but Queen’s Park is anything but quiet.
We went deep with wannabe Liberal captain TED HSU — but first, let’s catch up on a wild weekend in Ontario politics.
In case you missed our special Saturday dispatch following a hectic News Friday before the constituency week break — here’s the cheat sheet:
VINCENT KE is off the PC bench amid allegations of Chinese election interference, and we’ve got fresh accusations about those ties.
Parliamentary Assistants got shuffled in the hullabaloo. Ditto a lawyer MPP whose licence remains suspended due to professional misconduct, who’s now in charge of the Justice committee.
Meanwhile, CHARLES SOUSA enters the fray.
SCOOP: NDPers swipe left on TikTok.
Pour one out for KISKA (and other headlines).
Birthday boy and Labour Minister MONTE MCNAUGHTON gets dirty (in the name of toilet reform).
Q+A: TED HSU says he may sit in a far corner of the Legislature — as part of the eight-seat, unrecognized and decimated Liberal caucus — but the ex-MP, now-rookie MPP for Kingston and the Islands says he’s got the chops to not only make it work in the House, but to make the party competitive again.
I chatted with Hsu about what gives him an edge in an already crowded field, how being at the Pink Palace compares to the Hill, and his strategy for dealing with political baggage.
Here are the highlights (lightly edited for clarity and length):
How does being at Queen’s Park compare to being on the Hill? There are a lot of things. One is that things move a lot faster here — part of it is that it’s a smaller size, but part of it is also because the Standing Orders don’t allow a lot of the potential procedural delays that you can still do in the House of Commons.
So, in the House of Commons, you can still delay things — and then incur the wrath of the public for slowing things down — but here, if the government, which has a majority, wants to pass a bill in like three days, they can just do it.
The government has given itself some advantages here, and I keep mentioning it to [House Leader PAUL] CALANDRA.
Calandra, a fellow former MP, likes to say he’s aligning the rules at Queen’s Park with that of the House of Commons. I guess you’re not buying it? Yeah, he can’t really use that argument too much. I was put on the new Procedure and House Affairs Committee because I had that experience.
I’ve been in this far corner of the Legislature in the chamber — and I know how to work things from that corner.
Which has better coffee? It’s hard to say. I mean, I think the coffee is probably about the same. On Parliament Hill, they have meals, they’ll have lunch and dinner if you’re on House duty. And here, there’s coffee [laughs].
Why are you considering a bid for Liberal leader? There are three main areas I would address in answering your question…
One is, I’m very motivated to get up in the morning and work because I feel that we’re facing simultaneous crises — that’s housing and cost of living and health care capacity and climate change. And there’s still crises left over from the pandemic — like mental health and addictions, disruption to education — so it’s dealing with these crises that I know our kids are inheriting, my two kids are inheriting.
The second point: I have a lot of real world experience that I want to put to use. So, I’ve worked in science, I’ve worked in business — I managed a business and I ran a sustainable energy association. I have experience in politics as a federal MP — and I have experience as a federal MP in the exact same position, more or less, that the party is in right now. I can also help the party win because I won two elections, in 2011 and 2022, I won my seat.
That’s the other thing — I have a seat, and having a seat is important because we don’t have official party status. There’s no funding for a party leader’s office, there’s no funding for research or communications. And so whoever the new leader is going to be will have to work really well with the caucus that we have, and our our Queen’s Park team.
When will you make it official? I’m waiting for the party to announce the race and set the rules and the timeline.
Your potential rival NATE ERSKINE-SMITH told me a late 2024 race would be a dealbreaker for him. Are there any dealbreakers for you, say, in terms of the timeline or cost of entry? Nothing I can foresee. There could be a surprise, but I don’t see any dealbreaker rules.
Back when you were an MP, you had a petition in favour of that federal committee motion that was widely viewed as reopening the debate on abortion. Can you clarify your stance now? I will support a woman’s right to choose and support access to abortion. At that time, my stance was: I will present every petition that my constituents want me to present to Parliament because I believe that the right to petition your government is very fundamental to democracy. And I voted against the motion, even though I presented a petition for it.
Are you worried your political rivals could use that against you come campaign season? I think my statements and my voting record in the House of Commons is very clear. I’m confident and happy to face that if somebody wants to bring it up in the public square, that’s fine.
You supported one-member, one-vote over delegated conventions at the AGM. Tell us why. I supported one-member, one-vote for the simple reason that in order to select the right leader, we need to hear from all the people who cannot afford to go to a leadership convention. It’s expensive to pay travel, a hotel, the registration fee, and to spend a couple days at a leadership convention. We need to hear from people who are struggling with housing, cost of living, and are not able to get to a family doctor — and we need to hear from everybody else.
9:45 a.m.: NDPers JESSICA BELL and CHANDRA PASMA are in the Media Studio to talk about staffing and funding (or lack thereof) at school boards. Also on hand: HELEN VICTOROS, president of the Elementary Teachers of Toronto, and DEBORAH WILLIAMS, TDSB trustee.
10:15 a.m.: NDP Leader MARIT STILES is holding a presser at the Kingston Coffee House with the head of the Kingston chapter of the Ontario Health Coalition, ROSS SUTHERLAND. Teaser: “They will be discussing a lack of transparency from the Ford Conservatives regarding Kingston Health Sciences Centre use of a for-profit laser eye surgery chain. Stiles will also be available for questions.”
11 a.m.: Labour Minister MONTE MCNAUGHTON is in Kitchener for an announcement.
11 a.m.: Associate Housing Minister MICHAEL PARSA make an announcement in Dunnville.
THE HOUSE IS OUT — MPPs are back in their ridings for the March Break constituency week. They’ll be back at it Monday, March 20, for budget week. After that, there are nine more sitting weeks (and two more constit breaks) before the House recesses for the summer on June 8.
Committees are also out.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING — Clocks sprang forward one hour this weekend, and while we’re grateful for the extra sunlight, it’s closer to being kaput now that a U.S. bill to make the twice-yearly change permanent has been re-tabled.
Why it matters: Ontario already has a law on the books to end the time changes, so long as Quebec and New York State play along.
STEALING OUR THUNDER — Ottawa’s budget drops March 28, five days after Ontario reveals its fiscal plan.
IN OTHER NEWS…
— TURN OUT (OR NOT): Just 5.2 per cent of registered voters cast their byelection ballots in Hamilton Centre early. Elections Ontario’s preliminary results from advance polls, which ran March 8 to 10, show 4,166 voters took part — less than half of those who cast their ballots early in the general election last spring.
That’s low, but comes with the caveat that turnout in byelections are traditionally even lower. That said, at 43 per cent, turnout in the 2022 election was a record low.