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Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie stands on stage with supporters at a rally in Mississauga, Ont. on June 14 in which she announced her Ontario Liberal Leadership candidacy.Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Bonnie Crombie says she plans to return as Mississauga mayor next month to oversee the city’s budget, despite taking a leave of absence as she runs to lead the Ontario Liberal Party.

Ms. Crombie, whose unpaid leave starts Friday, said she will participate in the citywide budget process beginning the week of Nov. 27. Ontario Liberal Party members will cast their ranked ballots the weekend before, on Nov. 25 and Nov. 26, and the new leader will be announced on Dec. 2.

In a statement to The Globe and Mail on Wednesday, Ms. Crombie said that she will only return to her role after voting has closed for the leadership, “and it will be important that I focus my efforts on setting the city up for success in 2024, regardless of the outcome of the leadership race.”

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The three-term mayor said she wants “to ensure that Mississauga is making the right investments in key priorities including building more housing and transit, keeping our infrastructure in good working order while enhancing road safety among many others.”

Ms. Crombie, the perceived front-runner in the race to lead the province’s third-place party, announced in September that she would be taking a leave as Mississauga mayor “to give my all to Ontario Liberals,” but she did not specify that she would return before the result was announced.

Fiona Persaud, a spokesperson with the mayor’s office, said Wednesday that should Ms. Crombie become Liberal leader on Dec. 2, “she has been clear that she will resign as mayor of Mississauga and work with the city manager and council on a smooth and swift transition.”

Ms. Crombie officially launched her campaign in mid-June, three weeks after she said she was exploring a run.

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She has faced criticism from her opponents throughout the race, including for initially calling herself “right of centre” in media interviews – although she later said she misspoke – and for telling The Globe there may be justification in opening up parts of the protected Greenbelt to development. However, she has also repeatedly said the Greenbelt is sacred and criticized Premier Doug Ford for attempting to develop the area without proper consultations.

Earlier this week, Ms. Crombie said she has raised more than $1-million in her bid to lead the Ontario Liberals – the most of any candidate in the party’s history – and defended donations from developers that have become a frequent line of attack from her opponents.

Ms. Crombie fired back at her two main competitors, Liberal MPs Nate Erskine-Smith and Yasir Naqvi, who have attempted to paint her as too friendly with big developers for accepting contributions from large donors in the real estate and development industries. Ms. Crombie portrayed herself as the only candidate who can compete with Mr. Ford’s Progressive Conservatives’ fundraising machine, and said her campaign has followed all finance rules.

According to Elections Ontario records, Ms. Crombie received more than $30,000 collectively from 10 people whose names match those of executives at Vaughan-based development company HBNG Holborn Group. Shortly after those donations, she voted on a development application from the company before Mississauga council. Doing so did not break any rules, but her opponents say she should have recused herself.

Milton Chan, Mr. Naqvi’s campaign director, said in a statement that the 2026 Ontario election will be fought on trust and integrity.

“It is up to each candidate for leadership to ensure they are not placing themselves in a position where the motivations behind their decisions as a public office holder can be connected to the commercial interests of those providing their campaigns with significant donations,” he said.

Also running to lead the party is Liberal MPP Ted Hsu. A fifth contender, Toronto MPP Adil Shamji, dropped out of the race last week and endorsed Ms. Crombie.

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