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Bonnie Crombie wins Ontario Liberal leadership race, says party focused on beating Doug Ford

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie will lead the Ontario Liberal Party in its fight to regain official party status at Queen’s Park — and challenge Premier Doug Ford in the 2026 election — after being elected the party’s new leader on Saturday.

The perceived front-runner throughout the campaign, Crombie finally reached the threshold of votes needed to become the next party leader late Saturday afternoon, after officials released the results of a third and final round of balloting.

The crowd in downtown Toronto erupted in cheers and chanted “Bonnie! Bonnie! Bonnie!” after the victory was announced.

“There is no question, being an Ontario Liberal is back,” Crombie said in her victory speech. “Thank you for taking a spark and turning it into a big red flame here today.” 

Aside from taking down Ford, Crombie will also attempt to lead the Liberals back to official party status after a disastrous 2022 election that saw the party win just eight seats and leader Steven Del Duca step down after just two years on the job.

She defeated Toronto Liberal MP Nate Erskine-Smith, Liberal MP and former provincial cabinet minister Yasir Naqvi and Liberal MPP Ted Hsu.

Ford government ‘in all of our sights,’ Crombie says

Crombie quickly shifted her victory speech to the fight against Ford in 2026, promising to make life better for Ontarians while criticizing the sitting premier’s track record on health care, education and climate change.

“Ford and his conservative cronies have been the opponents in all of our sights this entire campaign,” she said. “This is our moment.” 

When it comes to next steps for the party, Crombie says the Liberals need to focus on building trust with voters, recruiting candidates who reflect the province and fundraising.

Speaking to reporters, she said the PCs are out-fundraising the Liberals “10 to one.”

“We’ll need to focus on raising money so that we can be competitive in 2026,” she said.

Two men are seen through a doorway talking.
Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, right, talks with Yasir Naqvi as he waits to hear the results of the final round of voting. Erskine-Smith finished with 47 per cent of points. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

After working as a business leader, MP and then mayor for almost decade, Crombie said today’s victory was the greatest honour of her life.

Crombie has been a popular mayor in Mississauga, cruising to a third term last October. After her win, Crombie was asked about the Liberals’s prospects in Peel Region, which is currently dominated by the PCs.

“I fully intend to take all seats in Peel Region,” Crombie said.

Crombie does not have a seat at Queen’s Park. She said she would consider running for MPP in Lambton-Kent-Middlesex — the seat vacated by former labour minister Monte McNaughton in September — but wouldn’t commit to putting her name on the ballot. Ideally, she said, she would run in Mississauga.

Crombie said she would likely step down as Mississauga’s mayor in the new year.

Crombie, as Mississauga mayor, has been a vocal opponent of Ford’s changes to how municipalities collect certain fees from developers that help the cities fund infrastructure — the Association of Municipalities of Ontario has said the move shortchanged municipalities by $5 billion — and has pushed hard for the dissolution of Peel Region where her Toronto-area city is located.

In her victory speech, Crombie thanked the late Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion, her mentor, for teaching her the importance of being a good listener and sound financial manager. 

Ford government already on the attack, NDP congratulatory

Ford’s Progressive Conservatives published an attack ad on social media minutes after Crombie was elected leader. 

“Bonnie and the Liberals just don’t get it…They’ll cost you,” reads an image of Crombie the conservatives shared on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The image includes bullet points that suggest a Crombie-led government would see “higher taxes, more gridlock, fewer homes.”

Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles struck a different tone, congratulating Crombie’s win with a post on X.

“As you set a new direction for your party, I’m looking forward to your ideas and contributions to the debate on the future of our great province,” Stiles said.

Crombie won on the third round of ranked ballot voting after leading the first round and second round, but falling short of the 50 per cent threshold needed to win. She took the leadership with roughly 53 per cent of points needed to win, after finishing with 43 per cent in the first round and 47 per cent in the second round.

Crombie’s team entered Saturday’s contest suggesting she could win after the first round of votes was counted. But the race finished closer than expected, with Erskine-Smith finishing with 47 per cent of the available points.

A composite image of, from left to right, a man in a black suit with a red tie, a man in a blue suit with a blue tie, a woman in a white suit and a man in a black suit with no tie.
Ontario Liberal Party leadership hopefuls, left to right, Ted Hsu, Yasir Naqvi, Bonnie Crombie and Nathaniel Erskine-Smith. Crombie came out on top Saturday. (Sean Kilpatrick, Justin Tang, Chris Young, Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press)

The Liberals had boasted that the leadership race saw the candidates sign up a record number of members, with more than 100,000 people eligible to vote for the new leader — up from 44,000 and 38,000 in the two previous contests.

But only a fraction of those members cast ballots last weekend, with 22,827 people voting. The party notes that is higher than the 12,988 Ontario Liberals who cast ballots in the 2020 leadership race and more than the 19,438 in 2013.

A timeline of recent Ontario Liberal leaders

  • Dalton McGuinty, 1996 to 2013 — McGuinty announced his resignation in 2012, paving the way for an intense leadership competition.

  • Kathleen Wynne, 2013 to 2018 — Wynne stepped down after her party was defeated by the Progressive Conservatives.

  • John Fraser, 2018 to 2020 — Fraser served as the party’s interim leader.

  • Steven Del Duca, 2020-2022 — Del Duca stepped down after the PCs once again defeated the Liberals in the 2022 election. 

  • John Fraser, 2022 until today — Fraser said he has ruled out a third stint as interim leader.

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