Another former minister threw his hat into the Ontario Liberal leadership race on Saturday, bringing the number of people vying to become the province’s next premier to four.
“I want to be your jobs premier,” Charles Sousa told a large cheering crowd at his candidacy announcement Saturday at a banquet hall in his Mississauga riding.
Mr. Sousa, the province’s citizenship and immigration minister until he resigned from cabinet Friday, told the crowd that if he becomes premier, he will create more jobs for the province’s beleaguered auto and northern mining industries.
“It’s now time for renewal,” he said with his wife, three children and elderly father by his side. “It’s time for a new direction forward.”
The 54-year-old, who grew up in the city west of Toronto, said his background as a banker will help him run a government that is fiscally responsible and at the same time, create more jobs.
If chosen Liberal leader, he would make it a priority to “transform” Ontario’s rural communities by bringing more high-skilled jobs in areas like information technology.
Doing this will also attract more of these types of workers to the province, said Mr. Sousa.
“We need to get things moving so let’s get things done,” he said.
Mr. Sousa also made a number of other promises, including putting in a high-speed rail system that would connect Hamilton to Oshawa and eventually, expand it from Windsor to Quebec City.
Improvements will also be made to transit systems in the northern communities, and with the Toronto Transit Commission, which Mr. Sousa says should be overseen by the provincial agency Metrolinx.
Yet when pressed about how he was going to fulfil these lofty priorities with Ontario’s current $14.4-billion deficit, he said those details will be released shortly.
Liberal MPPs Lorenzo Berardinetti and Soo Wong and long-time Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion were at the announcement to lend their support.
Sousa joins former cabinet ministers Sandra Pupatello, Glen Murray and Kathleen Wynne in the race to succeed Premier Dalton McGuinty.
On Saturday, John Wilkinson, the former revenue and environment minister who lost his seat in last year’s election, circulated a note to supporters indicating he will not be making a leadership bid.
Nevertheless, the four hopefuls will likely have more company next week.
Eric Hoskins, former children and youth services minister, resigned his cabinet post earlier this week — a prerequisite for making a leadership bid — and is expected to announce his intentions within days.
Meanwhile, Gerard Kennedy, who lost to McGuinty in the 1996 leadership race by just 140 votes, said he hasn’t made up his mind yet.
Mr. Sousa said he welcomed the competition, adding the race will show the Liberals still have the ideas to continue running the province unlike the Progressive Conservative and the New Democrats.
“We have an opposition I find extremely divisive, extremely regressive and extreme,” he said.
“They’re not offering any progressive ideas. On one hand is being around ‘slash and burn’ and the other is ‘do nothing’ policy and ‘just go with the flow.’ You can’t be that way, you need true leadership.”
Mr. McGuinty prorogued the legislature Oct. 15 when he announced he would step down as premier, and has since faced a heavy criticism for the move.
The prorogation killed planned committee hearings into the costly cancellation of two gas plants, as well as a rare contempt motion against embattled Energy Minister Chris Bentley.
Mr. McGuinty must also now deal with running the province with a rapidly shrinking cabinet as ministers launch their leadership bids.
Potential candidates have until Nov. 23 to launch their bids. The party will choose Mr. McGuinty’s successor the weekend of Jan. 25, 2013, in Toronto.
Progressive Conservative MPP Rod Jackson called Mr. Sousa a “key architect” in Mr. McGuinty’s cabinet, which he claimed was responsible for “reckless overspending” for past nine years.
“Ontario families want to see a government that is focused on the economy and reining in spending, but they won’t get that with Charles Sousa,” Mr. Jackson said in a statement Saturday.