SCOOP: Grits drop campaign debrief report
"We lost our way"
ABOVE THE FOLD
First in Queen’s Park Observer — GRIT POST-MORTEM: Covid, cash and a changing political landscape.
That’s what the Liberals are blaming for their brutal election showing in June, in which they turned up a paltry eight seats, not even winning the leader’s spot, resulting in his resignation.
In a new 13-page campaign debrief report — drafted after discussions with the party grassroots, officials, top campaign staff, the former leader (now Vaughan Mayor) STEVEN DEL DUCA and more — the Grits laid out the factors at play and a path to 2026.
Here’s what they found:
— A lack of resources: “With only eight seats in the legislature — the Party had minimal staff in both the Party Office and the Leader’s Office. As a result, the Party had very little staff to form what had previously been referred to as the ‘Ontario Liberal Machine.’ We lacked the critical infrastructure our Party had become accustomed to before the 2018 election.”
— And cash: While boasting about clearing the party’s $10-million debt from 2018 two years out from the 2022 vote, the report also points out that “spending power of our competition was significant.”
As we’ve previously reported, the NDP was the biggest spender, forking out $13 million, followed by the PCs with nearly $11.4 million. The Grits spent $9.6 million.
As for 2026, the Grits’ treasurer pegs the cost of a “successful” campaign at roughly $13 to $15 million.
— No cool points for Del Duca: “A strong majority of participants felt our Leader was unpopular and that the OLP campaign failed to address this issue.” That was echoed by an earlier candidate post-mortem (read on for more) that said the party failed to turn Del Duca’s “strengths into electoral assets.”
While many Grits admire Del Duca’s stellar organizing and fundraising abilities, he can lack charisma, especially when compared to the bull-in-the-china-shop-style of DOUG FORD. Del Duca scored a couple of charm points when making dad jokes about said lack of charisma, but it didn’t resonate with voters.
Most Grits were “critical of the Leader’s ability to showcase his brand and his position on policy issues that were top-of-mind for Ontarians.” Also: “The Leader was often insulated from the ground realities of the election campaign, including in his own riding. This provided barriers to his effective participation in crafting and delivering messaging.”
— Off the plank: When it came to the party’s platform, “many members and candidates felt we were trying to be too much of everything — and through that, we lost our way. We heard from candidates that people did not know what OLP stood for…Many respondents felt the platform missed key issues, was not well-timed and was not well developed.”
— Meanwhile, “82 per cent of local campaign executives said volunteer recruitment was the biggest challenge faced in their riding.”
— Covid cancelled campaigning: Like most things, the pandemic changed the hustings. “The hustle and bustle of a traditional campaign was no longer a reality and the team had to work around this overwhelming limitation” of lockdowns… “The traditional ways of community engagement were no longer available” and “the Leader was not able to benefit from a traditional tour.”
— A changing landscape: As veteran Grit strategist TIM MURPHY previously told me, while the Liberal brand is strong in Ontario, it’s not enough to stand on anymore. The party also intimated as much, saying that “voter apathy was at an all-time high,” thanks in part to the pandemic.
“More and more Ontarians are becoming issue-based voters. Simplistic solutions to real problems are gaining traction and that has been demonstrated in the waves of populist movements we have seen around the globe. This was depicted in the lowest voter turnout in the recent history of Ontario.”
— Looking ahead: In order to be competitive in 2026, the report recommends, among other things: rebuilding local riding associations, launching a consultation on the leadership process, obtaining and correcting voter data, bringing in a full-time campaign director at least one year out, introducing a policy convention, and reviewing the constitution to ensure “clear lines of responsibilities and accountability for both OLP staff and the executive council.”
Catch up on our earlier coverage, including our scoop about a damning post-campaign report from candidates, a key campaign official ducking out of the big debrief and a primer on what one insider called a “shit show” meeting.
DOUG FORD’S WEDNESDAY — 11:30 a.m.: The Premier will deliver remarks at the funeral service for late OPP Constable GRZEGORZ PIERZCHALA in Barrie.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS
BEYOND THE BUBBLE — CARLO OLIVIERO, most recently Premier DOUG FORD’s director of stakeholder relations, is headed to the private sector.
ON THE CIVIL SERVICE SIDE — KATHLEEN CHOW is now a senior policy adviser at the Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery.
LIAM COWARD, a longtime NDP organizer based out of St. Catharines, has passed away. MPP MONIQUE TAYLOR offered condolences: “Liam will always be remembered as a positive, inspirational and engaging mentor and friend to so many at Queen’s Park.”