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Liberal Party leadership hopeful visits Picton

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
Ontario Liberal MPP for Kingston and the Islands, Ted Hsu (pronounced “shoe”), was in Picton Monday night for a meet-and-greet at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. The aim of the event was to get to know people in Prince Edward County as part of his bid to run as leader of the Ontario Liberal Party where his key push is for a “fresh start”.

“I believe that we need a fresh start, a certain kind of fresh start and a different way of doing politics, and I think we need to get out and meet people face-to-face, and that’s why I have been travelling across the province,” said Hsu.

“I believe, if you are going to represent someone, you have to be a listener. If you want to fix their problems, you’ve got to understand their problems, and we have to be able to express what they are feeling, to be able to connect with voters, we have to do all those things, and earn trust.”

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Ted Hsu

n the grassroots format, Hsu shared a little about himself, where he comes from, his background, experience and skill base, and related a few stories of what motivated him to run for the leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, and his hope to challenge Doug Ford in 2026. So far there are five candidates in the leadership race. Party members will choose in November.

He named his top three priorities as cost of living, health care, and climate change.

“I want to do all these things and I want to use my experience and I want to help the Liberal Party win, and how to do that is connecting with voters,” said Hsu.

Around 20 people came out to meet Hsu and following a 15-minute talk, the floor was opened up to questions from the audience, where a broad, interesting and productive discussion ensued covering a variety of issues and topics from health care to education, the Ontario Disability Support Program, and Picton Terminals got a mention too.

Hsu arrived in Canada at just six months of age when his parents and grandparents fled communist-ruled China for a better life.

Hsu’s pitch is for a “fresh start” as he embarks on touring select communities, both urban and rural, in Ontario over the summer months where he states the Ontario Liberal Party “needs a fresh start”. He has criss-crossed the province visiting more than 100 communities to share his vision for the party and to hear local concerns.

Just a few days prior to visiting Picton, Hsu toured south-western Ontario, visiting Chatham, Windsor, London, Sarnia, Owen Sound and Collingwood over the weekend.

“It’s important to go out and meet people in every community, or as many communities as we can get to across the province,” he said, adding, “It’s something we couldn’t do up to the last election.”

Hsu said he thinks the Liberal Party has lost its connection with rural small-town Ontario.

“Only 15 years ago, there were many liberal MPPs representing rural parts of Ontario and we have to get that back.”

Addressing the issue of the shortage of family physicians specifically, he said he hears a lot of concerns from people at his MPP office.

“I often get people calling in, seniors, who lost their family doctor to retirement. We have about 25,000 people in Kingston who don’t have a family doctor,” noted Hsu, who added that many seniors feel they won’t ever get a family doctor, including his own 90-year-old father, who he said is worried.

He also acknowledged the housing crisis in Kingston, with so many people looking for places to live.

“We are building the wrong kinds of housing, and people are so desperate to find a place to live.”

He said he is motivated by all these crises together to do something, and to do more: cost of living crisis, health care capacity, construction of schools, mental health and addiction, the lack of skilled labour.

“We have to do more. We have to marshal all resources that we have in society, and to be as productive as possible to deal with all the subtleties in this crisis, and one of the ways to do that is have a strong economy.”

Hsu said his vision of a strong economy is not to lower taxes or cut red tape.

“I don’t think that’s the vision we should aim for: my vision for a strong economy is one where workers get school and child care, good training, the best tools and technology, etc,” he said. “We fall behind because the private sector businesses in Canada have not invested in resource development, so anything we can’t build. Our workers must have the best tools and technology; we need the best financing, the best access to markets, all these things.”

In the question session, one audience member who identified herself as a retired teacher, spoke to education and health care, specifically addressing pay, working conditions and the lack of respect afforded to these professions by government.

“I see some patterns of behaviour by this Ford government that not only plays itself out in education, but also in health care, and that is by diminishing, devaluing primarily female-dominated professions – nursing and education. We are under-legislated now that limits the amount of money that we can negotiate,” she said.

“Our working conditions are getting abysmal, and the respect seems to be going down the tubes. There are a million things we can do, but one of the things is to get rid of the legislation that puts caps on salaries.”

Another audience member asked what Hsu would do differently to make the party better.

“The job of a newly-elected leader is to go around and attend social events and turn this group of individual members into a community to know each other, they want to do things together. You need to build a community and that turns into your campaign team and when things get tough in elections, you come together. Also, you need to put out some policies, especially for rural and urban Ontario,” responded Hsu.

A discussion on the nutrition element of health care ensued where several audience members spoke to the preventative aspect saying there is no help at all when it comes to preventative medicine, suggesting if it keeps people out of the doctor’s office, it must be a good thing.

“I want to be able to go to my family doctor and know I will be offered preventative healthcare rather than being handed a bottle of pills,” he said, adding one of the best places to spend money is on prevention.

“The Ford government has cut funding to public health, and in the meantime there has been inflation, so public health has been cut by a quarter, which is a pretty large cut,” Hsu responded.

One woman raised the licence plate renewal fee that was recently waived and asked if Hsu would bring it back.

“Doug Ford cut the cost of the licence plate renewal and it just infuriates me as it’s the loss of one or two billion dollars in revenue,” she said. “We don’t have spending problems, we have revenue problems.“

“You are a nice guy”, asked a gentleman audience member, “but are you tough enough?”

“I am not interested in taking cheap shots at Doug Ford,” responded Hsu. “I am good at stealing votes, I am good at talking to people that might vote Conservative and getting them to vote Liberal instead, and establishing personable connections.”

“I don’t think Doug Ford is worried about people attacking him. I think he is afraid of people taking away votes, and I can do that,” Hsu added.

Hsu put his name forward as a candidate at the beginning of June for the leadership of Ontario’s Liberal Party. Elected as MPP for Kingston and the Islands in 2022, Hsu served as federal MP for Kingston and the Islands from 2011-2015. He chose not to run for re-election in 2015 to spend more time with his family.

Some of Hsu’s endorsers come from a variety of people in the political fields past or present, such as Greg Sorbara (former minister of finance and former president of the Ontario Liberal Party) and Carol Mitchell, former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip is also listed as a supporter.

Hsu admitted the Liberal Party had a poor communications strategy in the last election.

“At times, I find Liberals have great ideas, but have a very difficult time of trying to succinctly and quickly in sound bites get it out and make it an issue as opposed to what we have seen on the other side which is 10 seconds of… buck a beer, for example,” said the audience member.

Hsu stated three things essential in messaging: it has to be clear, memorable and repeatable.

When asked to come up with one word that could hopefully describe Hsu’s campaign “when you are trying to unseat Doug Ford”, Hsu, after some thought, came up with “trustworthy”.

Other audience members called out suggestions: accountability, integrity, deliverability, hope, positivity.

“I think I am well-placed to ensure that the Liberal Party becomes relevant again in rural Ontario,” concluded Hsu.

To have a vote in the Ontario liberal leadership race, people have to sign up register (free of charge) to become a member of the Ontario Liberal Party to be able to vote, which is open to those 14 years old and and older.

Filed Under: Local News

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