The Ontario Liberal leadership hopefuls met for the first of five debates on Dec. 1, 2012.
Credits: QMI AGENCY
TORONTO -- When Premier Dalton McGuinty announced in October that he would be stepping down, he characterized the Ontario Liberal leadership campaign as an opportunity for renewal for both the party and the province.
But is Ontario truly getting renewal or just more of the same Grit policies?
The decision facing leadership candidates is whether to move the party in a new direction or stay more or less on the current track set by the McGuinty team.
After three terms in government -- two majorities and one minority -- the Ontario Liberals are struggling with big problems such as the future of energy, labour unrest with teachers and, above all else, a weak economy and massive deficit.
The centrist party is under pressure to cut spending but also to invest in public services and regain positive relationships with public sector labour groups.
With the new year at hand and a leadership convention just weeks away, the seven candidates explain in their own words what renewal means to them.
"Renewal means reconnecting with Ontarians and listening to their priorities, their ideas and their concerns.
It means developing bold new ideas that will make Ontario and its citizens more prosperous. It means building a strong, united and energized Liberal party that can gain the confidence of Ontarians during this challenging time."
"I helped rebuild this party from 1996 to 2006. Renewal today means making our party the most modern and democratic in North America, more capable of solving problems that matter to average Ontarians. It means more power and roles for grassroots party members and independence for MPPs, with a new-style leader accountable to both."
"I am the only candidate that has led government that cuts taxes, always balanced budgets and cut its debt in half. I present the only clear, specific plan on how to grow jobs, reduce debt and taxes to accelerate economic recovery."
"Renewal means greater access to the party leader and to the elected arm of the party. As the Ontario Liberal party leader, I would commit to greater access throughout the term, not just during an election. I strongly believe we need to formalize a process that will establish two-way communication.."
"My focus is helping Ontarians succeed. We need to make changes. We need to do a better job listening to local communities. To renew our mandate, we need to give members and candidates a stronger voice. My plan will help local Liberal associations engage in policy, raise funds more easily and keep more of it for elections. "
"The Ontario Liberal Party must think of renewal in terms of empowering the people of Ontario. To do this we must first listen to Ontarians to determine what matters most to them and their families. Any plan for renewal we come up with as a party must honestly reflect the concerns and dreams of Ontarians..."
"I'm running to govern and ready to win -- and renewal is vital to both. It means bringing a fresh energy and focus, and engaging Ontarians to build on Ontario Liberals' incredible record of success. There have been challenges and we have to deal with those, but we got the big stuff right -- rebuilding health, education, and creating jobs."