By Charlie Senack
Ottawa Centre MP Yasir Naqvi is considering a switch back to provincial politics as he eyes the Ontario Liberal leadership position.
He served Ottawa Centre as a member of the Ontario Legislative Assembly for three terms before his defeat in 2018. He told the Kitchissippi Times he’s seeking “feedback and guidance” from residents across Ontario.
“I’m getting a lot of encouragement and support to do this. The Ontario Liberal Party has a lot of hard work to do to rebuild the party,” Naqvi said. “The last two elections have been fairly challenging, but there’s this strong desire and optimism to do this work to defeat (Premier) Doug Ford in 2026.”
In 2018, Naqvi was among 51 Ontario Liberals to lose their seat when the Progressive Conservative blue wave swept across the province. It lost the party its official status during the worst electoral defeat in Ontario’s history.
After Naqvi lost to NDP candidate Joel Harden, the former Attorney General of Ontario didn’t take long to get back into politics. He ran as the Ontario Liberal candidate during a byelection to replace Catherine McKenna in 2021, and won with 45.5 per cent of the vote.
He said while his Number 1 job is still serving in that role, he believes his experience at the Ontario Legislature and Parliament Hill would be an asset.
“My confidence and optimism for the world would make me a viable and strong leader,” Naqvi said. “(It) gives me the knowledge of how decisions are made, and the hindsight of mistakes that have been made so we don’t make them again.”
The Ontario Liberals have spent the last five years trying to reinvent their party without former leader and Premier Kathleen Wynne. Steven Del Duca took the party into the recent 2022 provincial election, where Liberals picked up only one seat. Del Duca lost his own riding and resigned as leader.
The party has to ponder which direction it should take. Forty senior Liberals wrote to Ontario Green Party leader Mike Shreiner to request he cross the floor and run for leader of their party.
“It’s a no,” Schreiner initially wrote in a statement to news media, but later asked for more time to mull over his decision.
“I’m going to ask people to give me time to think about their arguments,” he wrote. “I want to know what my constituents in Guelph, my friends and colleagues in the Green Party, and people across Ontario think about this letter.”
Schreiner has since decided to stay with the Ontario Greens.
Naqvi said the Ontario Liberals have always been a “big tent party” that welcomes people from all political backgrounds and walks of life.
“We are a modern, centrist party that’s focused on reforming our health care and education system at all times and do so in a pragmatic way,” he said. “I’m under the view that if someone wants to leave their political party and join ours, they are most welcomed.”
Ontario Liberals are scheduled to host their annual general meeting in March and decide what process to use to elect a new leader. Naqvi said he thinks the rules and timeline will be outlined by spring.
Naqvi is currently touring the province to speak with Ontarians and hear their concerns. He said he expects to make a final decision soon.
“People realize that Doug Ford is not good for Ontario,” Naqvi said. “We need to stop him from breaking our hospitals (and) schools, which are under serious threats of privatization.”