In announcing his bid for the leadership of the Ontario Liberal party, St. Paul’s MPP Eric Hoskins positioned himself as a relative newcomer to politics with a wide range of valuable experience outside government.
“I’m not a veteran, I’m not a newcomer, I’m somewhere in between,” Hoskins told reporters moments after announcing his candidacy Tuesday at the Centre for Social Innovation on Bathurst Street south of Bloor Street West.
Hoskins’ statement came a day after former Parkdale-High Park MPP Gerard Kennedy described himself as an outsider unburdened by unpopular policies of today’s Liberal government because he has been away from Queen’s Park for six years.
As Hoskins sat with his arm draped over the shoulders of his seven-year-old son Rhys, his wife, Samantha Nutt, introduced her husband as a humanitarian, the co-founder and former president of War Child Canada dedicated to helping children in war-torn areas around the world, a doctor, a public health specialist, a Rhodes scholar and an officer of the Order of Canada.
“Eric is not politics as usual and I think that is a good thing,” she said.
It’s a theme Hoskins picked up when he came to the podium to cheers from supporters, including Pickering-Scarborough East MPP Tracy MacCharles and 15-year-old high school student Justice Betty, who said they were backing his leadership bid because of his devotion to others and his ability to inspire Ontarians.
“I am not, as many have pointed out – some encouragingly, others, uhh, diplomatically – a veteran politician,” Hoskins said.
“And although I am not a novice either, it is true that I am relatively new to politics.”
But Hoskins, first elected in a byelection in 2009, argued his lack of political experience is more than compensated for by his extensive work in other fields.
“Here’s what I am not new to: I am not new to the purpose and responsibilities of good government. Nor am I new to the task of building communities, strengthening social programs and investing in the education of our children,” said Hoskins, who resigned his seat as minister of children and youth services last Friday to run for the leadership.
“I am not new to ensuring that limited budgets work efficiently and effectively. (I am) not new to creating mechanisms of financial accountability, to improving health care, investing in children and our youth and to promoting economic development even, and especially, in uncertain climates and uncertain times. Politics offers one perspective on the work that must be done but life outside of politics, grounded in diverse experience, offers another.”
Hoskins, who served as senior advisor to former federal foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy on issues such as human rights, child soldiers and banning landmines, said he will listen to Ontarians and build consensus as part of the necessary job of renewing the Liberal party.
“As a party, we must do more than move around the storefront if we wish to earn their trust and confidence,” he said.
“We must look instead at what we are offering Ontarians, what our party stands for and how we might restore confidence in our policies and ideas after two and a half consecutive terms.”
While Hoskins said the party’s policies have benefitted health care, education, the economy and the environment, he admitted there have “been some disappointments too.”
It is time for the party to look at both its strengths and weaknesses, he said.
“Some, no doubt, will call my approach unseasoned or too earnest and will claim that what the party needs to restore its fortunes are more aggressive tactics – bumper sticker platitudes, party partisanship and easy politics,” he said.
“To those who say that, I say then you are not listening because this is not what Ontarians are asking of us and this will not renew our party or our standing in this province.”
Hoskins said he will reveal his platform in the weeks leading up to the leadership convention in Toronto Jan. 25 to 27.
In addition to Hoskins and Kennedy, others who have declared their intention to seek the leadership so far include Don Valley West MPP Kathleen Wynne, Toronto Centre MPP Glen Murray, Mississauga MPP Charles Sousa and former Windsor MPP Sandra Pupatello.