Ontario Liberal leadership candidate tries to rally support in Oshawa

Kate Graham, Ontario Liberal leadership candidate, hosted a discussion in Oshawa recently. Photo credit: Liam David

Provincial Liberal leadership hopeful Kate Graham made a pit stop in Oshawa recently in an attempt to gain support for her bid to take over for interim leader John Fraser.

Graham, a Western University professor, was joined by about 25 Liberal supporters in a downtown Oshawa coffee shop.

Despite lacking provincial government experience, Graham said, “I would say I have a lot of experience. I have different experience.

“I think for people who want change, having experience outside of Queen’s Park is a good thing.”

However, many of her rivals have been at Queen’s Park before.

They include: Michael Coteau, MPP for Don Valley East; Steven Del Duca, former MPP for Vaughan; and Mitzie Hunter MPP for Scarborough-Guildwood. Also in the running are Brenda Hollingsworth, an Ottawa lawyer and Alvin Tedjo, an academic.

The meeting began with a speech from Graham. She outlined her goals and her four-point plan for Ontario, which includes empowering Ontarians, job creation, a carbon-neutral province and a more affordable life.

Graham then opened the floor to the attendees to hear their concerns. The conversation ranged from affordable housing to recent changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Plan. However, it got most heated during discussions about minimum wage, which is currently $14 per hour, set by the previous Liberal government.

Abdul Mohammed, 58, a recently laid-off engineer was concerned about how small businesses can afford wage increases.

He voiced displeasure about potential job cuts as a result.

“If I have $11 an hour, I have something. If I have no job, I have nothing. I’m living on the street,” he said.

Afroza Hossain, who organized the meeting and ran as Oshawa’s Liberal candidate in the recent federal election, said, “if I could have it my way, minimum wage should be $25 an hour.”

The conversation quickly erupted into debate.

David Carter, a food-bank volunteer talked about the people he sees.

“You’ll see people show up in their big cars, beautiful cars. You go ‘wow. What are they doing here?’ Well, they used to have a job and dignity. Now they’ve got nothing, but an expensive car to pay for,” he said.

Graham allowed some discourse on the matter but soon quieted the meeting, like a teacher reigning in her class.

Graham holds a PhD in political science and worked for the City of London. In that role, she spearheaded advisory committees.

While Graham is an experienced academic, she has never held elected provincial office.

She ran to be London North Centre’s MPP in 2018, but was routed during the catastrophic fall of Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals. The party collapsed in the election fallout, winning only seven seats. The Liberals lost Official Party status and Wynne resigned as leader.

“People wanted change, but I don’t think they liked the change they got,” said Graham, of the election result.

Graham said she was inspired to run by the current state of the Liberals and the policies of the Conservative government.

“I really want the party and the province to change. The Liberal Party will rise again and I would like to shape that rise,” she said.

Only Liberal party members can vote in the leadership race. They will appoint delegates to go to the Liberal Party convention to elect a leader on behalf of the members. The convention will be held on March 7, 2020.