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MPP Marit Stiles of the NDP speaks to the media following the Speech from the Throne at Queen's Park in August.Andrew Lahodynskyj/The Canadian Press

Toronto MPP Marit Stiles is set to become the new leader of Ontario’s NDP as the lone candidate to have entered the race when nominations drew to a close Monday night.

Ms. Stiles, representing the riding of Davenport since 2018, will need to face a confirmation vote from party members before taking the reins from interim leader Peter Tabuns. The vote is scheduled for March, but could be moved up by the party’s provincial council.

The MPP and former Toronto District School Board trustee was welcomed in the legislature Tuesday morning with a standing ovation from all parties after being introduced as the NDP’s next leader by Mr. Tabuns.

Ms. Stiles launched her leadership bid in September to replace long-time NDP leader Andrea Horwath, who led the party to Official Opposition status in two consecutive elections. Despite maintaining position as the second party in the legislature, Ms. Horwath resigned on election night in June as the NDP lost nine seats and about 10 per cent of the popular vote it garnered in 2018.

Since her campaign launch event in September, Ms. Stiles has been endorsed by eight NDP caucus members as well as the United Steelworkers Union and Amalgamated Transit Union.

Despite not having any competition, Ms. Stiles said she has been driving across the province to meet with as many members and supporters as she can. This past weekend she was in London, the Peel Region and Oshawa to speak with voters on the issues facing the province, something she said she will continue to do up until the 2026 election. Ms. Stiles said she believes excitement has been building around the uncontested leadership race, even in Brampton where the party lost three seats in the last election.

“I don’t feel like there’s no energy. Everywhere I’ve gone, people have been excited to come out,” she said in an interview last week, noting she was even preparing for a debate in case another contender did enter the race.

On her tour of the province, Ms. Stiles said she has been hearing concerns about the first few months in office for Premier Doug Ford’s re-elected Progressive Conservative government. She said people have taken issue with the province’s plans to amend the Greenbelt – despite previously insisting they wouldn’t – and its use of the notwithstanding clause to impose a contract on education support workers.

Ms. Stiles, who initially moved to the province from Newfoundland to go to university, said the message she is trying to get across to Ontarians is that it can be different.

“People are being told this is as good as it gets. I remember when it was a lot better, so I’m going to fight very hard to get back to that,” she said. “I think I can show Ontarians that they can expect more from the people who represent them and that New Democrats are the folks that they can count on.”

There were several prospective candidates looking at a leadership bid in the final days before Monday’s deadline. Toronto-St. Paul’s MPP Jill Andrew was planning to launch a campaign, but in a statement Tuesday morning she said the race guidelines were unclear.

Candidates were required to submit a $50,000 registration fee and obtain 100 member signatures in support of their campaign.

Chris Glover, two-term MPP for Spadina-Fort York, was also collecting signatures and working toward a bid. He was added to the list of leadership contestants on the NDP website Monday afternoon, which the party said was done in error.

Later Monday, Mr. Glover announced on Twitter he wouldn’t be running.

NDP political strategists said it’s not a bad sign that Ms. Stiles was unopposed in the race, pointing to six former premiers across the country who won the next election after being acclaimed as party leader.

Brian Topp, who came second in the 2012 federal NDP leadership race to replace Jack Layton, said these races don’t bring in money for the party because all the fees go toward affiliated events. They also typically don’t lead to increases in membership as most people recruited don’t stay in the party, Mr. Topp suggested.

Mr. Topp said the party needs to focus on gaining the trust of Ontarians and demonstrating that it is ready to govern. He said he believes the NDP can find balance between supporting the labour movement and social issues and focusing on what people care most about, including health care and the rising cost of living.

“The NDP’s problem is that it didn’t get enough votes, and the reason it didn’t get enough votes is that it didn’t persuade enough people that it could be trusted with the government, and so that is what needs to be cured,” Mr. Topp said.

That will be no small task against the PC government, Mr. Topp said, but it starts with the new leader persuading the public that it is time for change and that the main issues facing the province could be better addressed with the NDP in power.

Brad Lavigne, former national director and director of communications for the federal NDP, said he believes Ms. Stiles is the right leader to take the party the next step – forming government.

“She’s getting New Democrats who’ve been sitting on the sidelines for a while excited again,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Ontario Liberals are still without a permanent leader after Steven Del Duca resigned after failing to reach official party status for a second consecutive election. The party has yet to launch a leadership race, but will be holding an annual convention in March.

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