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Crombie's entry in the race would inject new drama into an already crowded field seeking to revive the Ontario Legislature’s third partyChris Young/The Canadian Press

Bonnie Crombie, the popular mayor of Mississauga, is poised to jump into the race to lead Ontario’s ailing Liberal Party and is set to announce the formation of an “exploratory committee” of political strategists.

Her entry in the race would inject new drama into an already crowded field seeking to revive the Ontario Legislature’s third party, which has seen massive defeats in the past two elections after spending 15 years in office. It now has just seven MPPs and lacks even official party status.

Just last week, Ms. Crombie stood smiling alongside PC Premier Doug Ford’s Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister, Steve Clark, after he introduced draft legislation that would dissolve the province’s Peel Region and make Mississauga a stand-alone city government. It was the realization of a long-time goal for Ms. Crombie, elected three times as mayor of the municipality of more than 800,000 people west of Toronto.

But that accomplishment clearly didn’t take her eyes off a potential run for Liberal leader that would give her a chance to challenge to Mr. Ford directly in the next provincial election, set for June, 2026.

A source with Ms. Crombie’s putative campaign said the exploratory committee would be officially unveiled Tuesday morning as Ms. Crombie does a wave of interviews with media outlets. The Globe and Mail is not identifying the source as they were not allowed to speak publicly about the announcement.

However, on Monday, her website,, inadvertently went live prematurely, revealing her pitch to the province’s Liberals, who are due to announce their choice for new leader in December.

The website, which was hastily taken down, said Mr. Ford’s government has “made things worse through cutback and underfunding of key public services,” and that it has the “wrong priorities.” It was back online late Sunday night, with 40 people including prominent Liberals listed as members of the exploratory committee.

But it also proclaimed that Ms. Crombie, a former federal Liberal MP, is a “centrist by nature” who is “socially progressive but fiscally responsible,” sending a clear signal to Liberals who grumbled that the party’s failed campaign in 2022 under Steven Del Duca, now mayor of Vaughan, Ont., veered too far left.

The website also took aim at Mr. Ford’s plans for Ontario Place. They involve hundreds of millions of dollars in government money to prepare the site and build a 2,100-space underground parking complex to make way for an Austrian firm to build a large spa and waterpark on the Toronto waterfront site. (The previous Liberal government had also been in talks with the company, Therme, for Ontario Place, before the 2018 defeat of then-premier Kathleen Wynne.)

Ms. Crombie’s website pitch says the money could be better spent on the health care system.

She also warned that the province is at “a tipping point,” with health care “fraying the edges” and schools “shortchanged,” accusing the current government of doing “irrevocable damage for generations.”

Ms. Crombie has long been debating a run for the Liberal leadership, making appearances at both the recent federal Liberal convention and at the provincial party’s annual general meeting in Hamilton in March.

Marcel Wieder, the public-relations consultant and strategist behind the union-funded Working Families ads that have targeted PC leaders in the past, has been among those offering advice. He has also worked on Ms. Crombie’s local campaigns.

As mayor of Mississauga, Ms. Crombie earned a public rebuke from Mr. Ford for protesting against his move to restrict the ability of municipalities to collect money from developers to pay for infrastructure, something she and other mayors have warned will result in billions of extra costs and require property-tax hikes.

Ms. Crombie’s rivals for the Liberal leadership include Toronto Liberal MP Nate Erskine-Smith, the only candidate to have officially signed up, and former Ontario attorney-general Yasir Naqvi, who has also assembled a team and has been campaigning.

Others seriously considering a run and who have been campaigning include three rookie MPPs: Ted Hsu, a former MP and the MPP for Kingston and the Islands, Stephanie Bowman, a former bank executive and the MPP for Don Valley West, and Adil Shamji, a former emergency-room doctor and MPP for Don Valley East.

Some Liberals hope Ms. Crombie’s popularity – she won her third mayoral term last year with almost 80 per cent of the vote – could break open Mississauga and other areas in Toronto’s vote-rich sprawling suburbs, known for their telephone area code: the 905. It’s a tall task: At the moment, the PCs hold every seat in Mississauga and in Peel Region.

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