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Mississauga mayor Bonnie Crombie announces her Ontario Liberal Leadership run in Mississauga, Ont. on Wednesday, June 14, 2023.Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie is taking a leave of absence from her municipal role to focus on her bid to lead the Ontario Liberals, her campaign says.

Ms. Crombie, who has remained as mayor since launching her campaign in June, will begin her leave on Oct. 7, campaign spokeswoman Taylor Deasley said Wednesday. The news was first reported in the Toronto Star.

Mississauga council is expected to appoint an interim mayor to replace Ms. Crombie, the Star said.

Fiona Persaud, a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office, said Ms. Crombie’s last day in the office will be Oct. 6 and the city will undertake the acting mayor bylaw, which will see councillors rotate as acting head of council on two-month rotations to fulfill mayoral duties.

Ms. Persaud said Ms. Crombie will spend the coming weeks working with the city manager to review “key priorities” for council, including the 2024 city budget.

“The Mayor has all the confidence that Mississaugans are in good hands and that Council will continue to press forward on the issues that matter most to them including affordability, housing, transit and climate change,” Ms. Persaud said in a statement.

“The Mayor thanks everyone for their support and will continue to keep Mississauga’s priorities top of mind as she embarks on her leadership bid.”

Ms. Crombie, the perceived front-runner in the race, is set to take on her four rivals in the party’s first leadership debate on Thursday in Thunder Bay. She has pitched herself as an experienced manager who is ready to take on Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives in the next provincial election in June, 2026.

Mr. Ford has been highly critical of Ms. Crombie’s decision to stay on as mayor while campaigning for the Liberal job, calling it a “slap in the face” to the city’s residents.

A spokesman for the Ontario PC Party criticized Ms. Crombie on Thursday.

“It must be nice to take a prolonged vacation from your job. It’s clear Bonnie only sees being mayor as a backup plan rather than what it is: a full-time job. She’s hedging her bets on becoming leader of the Ontario Liberals when she should be serving the people of Mississauga. Classic Bonnie: It’s always about her,” said PC spokesman Zachary Zarnett-Klein.

Speaking to The Globe and Mail as she launched her campaign in June, Ms. Crombie said she planned to take a leave of absence at some point toward the end of the race. Party members are set to cast their ranked ballots on the weekend of Nov. 25 and the winner is to be unveiled Dec. 2.

The other candidates in the race to lead the third-place party are Liberal MPs Nate Erskine-Smith and Yasir Naqvi, along with provincial representatives Ted Hsu and Adil Shamji.

The Ontario Liberal Party announced this week that its membership now totals more than 80,000 people and the leadership race represents the largest contest in the party’s history. Ms. Crombie claimed to have signed up 38,700 people, while Mr. Naqvi said he signed up more than 31,000. Mr. Shamji said he recruited 12,000 new members. Mr. Erskine-Smith, however, said leadership campaigns are known to publish “self-reported, unrealistic and inflated numbers” and that he wouldn’t be participating in “this spin.” Mr. Hsu said he brought in thousands of new members and wouldn’t release specifics.

Ms. Crombie has raised $850,253 so far in the contest, more than her other leadership rivals combined.

The Liberals, who were in power for 15 years until Mr. Ford’s victory in 2018, have nine members in their provincial caucus.

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