Yasir Naqvi officially launches bid to be next Ontario Liberal party leader

Yasir and his family pose for a photograph on stage.
Ottawa Centre MP Yasir Naqvi wants to make a comeback at Queens Park. The former MPP is running for the Ontario Liberal Party leadership. Photo by Charlie Senack.

By Charlie Senack

Ottawa Centre MP Yasir Naqvi is eyeing a return to Queen’s Park as he officially enters his bid to be the next Ontario Liberal party leader. 

Naqvi officially announced the news during a campaign rally at St. Anthony’s Banquet Hall in Little Italy on June 3. It’s the location from which he’s launched every political campaign since first running in 2007. 

The former Attorney General of Ontario, Naqvi said he’s looking to transform the Ontario Liberal Party and attract voters from all sides. 

“I want to build a big tent, an inclusive party that represents all of you,” Naqvi told the crowd of about 100 people. “Not just a party of the 416 and 613 [area codes], but a party that is strong in all 124 ridings across the province.”

Naqvi focused on his family’s story before and after immigrating to Canada. When the politician was 10, Naqvi’s father was thrown in jail for nine months after holding pro-democracy movements in Pakistan. They then moved to Niagara Falls and ran a motel before the five-person family moved to a small, two bedroom apartment. 

It was his upbringing that Naqvi said inspires him to envision a better Ontario. 

“It has had a profound impact. Perhaps I learned the first very important lesson in life which is you never accept the status quo no matter what,” he said. “But what we had was the promise of Ontario. We knew that when my dad got sick Ontario’s healthcare system was there for him. My parents knew that our public education system was there for their children so we could build a better and more successful Ontario.”

Yasir Naqvi shakes hands with a supporter.
Yasir Naqvi shakes hands with supporters after announcing his bid for Ontario Liberal Party leader on June 3. Photo by Charlie Senack.

Naqvi, a former lawyer, said he did not enter politics to stay comfortable. He has spent the past year traveling across Ontario talking to residents about their struggles and ambitions. 

The promise of Ontario is “slipping away” under Doug Ford, he said, referencing education and health cuts implemented by the current Progressive Conservative government.

Before being elected as the Ottawa Centre MP in 2021, Naqvi served provincially in the same riding for three terms before his defeat to Joel Harden in 2018. He was among 51 Ontario Liberals to lose their seats at Queen’s Park during that election.

“I have a lot of experience from my time in government. I know how decisions are made. We have made some good decisions and we have made some mistakes,” Naqvi said. “I’ve learned from those mistakes. That makes me a better leader. What I will be able to do is make sure that we have a good government for the people of Ontario. The promise of Ontario has been broken under Doug Ford.”

Five people are currently running for the job previously held by Steven Del Duca. Naqvi is seen as a front runner in the race alongside Mississauga mayor Bonnie Crombie, who labels herself as a “socially progressive but fiscally responsible” centrist. 

Naqvi said he plans to keep serving as the MP for Ottawa Centre as he seeks to lead the Ontario Liberals. The new leader will be announced on December 3.

Yasir poses for a photograph next to his election signs.
Yasir Naqvi currently serves as the MP for Ottawa Centre. He served the same riding for three terms as MPP before his defeat in 2018. Photo by Charlie Senack.

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