TORONTO — Marit Stiles officially became the new leader of the Ontario NDP on Saturday after a majority of party members voted in favour of the lone candidate.
The party confirmed Stiles through a leadership vote at an event in downtown Toronto, making her the leader of the Official Opposition in the legislature.
“Today we start the countdown to the end of Doug Ford’s disastrous government and the beginning of a bright new future for Ontario,” Stiles said of the sitting premier in a speech to party supporters following the official declaration of her position at the party helm.
Stiles, who has been a New Democrat member of provincial parliament since 2018, was the only person to run for the leadership. She represents the Toronto riding of Davenport, served for years as the party’s education critic, and has previously been a school trustee and president of the federal NDP.
She has said her focus after being elected leader will be on defeating Ford and his Progressive Conservative government in the next provincial election, which is expected to take place in 2026.
Ford congratulated Stiles for becoming leader on Twitter, stating he’s “looking forward to working with [her] and all of Team Ontario as we build our future.”
But an Ontario PC Party statement released following Stiles’ confirmation ridiculed her as “Leader of the Party of No.”
“With Marit Stiles being confirmed as the leader of the NDP, Ontario is getting more of the same,” the statement reads.
“While our PC team will continue to move forward with our ambitious plan to get it done, Marit Stiles will continue to say no every step of the way.”
Longtime New Democrat Peter Tabuns had served as interim leader since former leader Andrea Horwath announced her resignation on provincial election night last June.
Stiles thanked Tabuns for stepping up to lead the party and ensuring “there would be no free pass for Conservatives.”
Horwath, who was elected mayor of Hamilton last month, had led the NDP since 2009 and saw it rise from third party to official Opposition status in 2018, though the party’s seat count decreased in this year’s election.
“We are starting on a strong foundation, and we have our former leader Andrea Horwath to thank for that,” said Stiles.
Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Stiles’ experience as a school board trustee and education critic have shown she can stand up to, and ultimately defeat, Ford’s PC government.
“Marit is the real deal,” Singh said. “She is a force for change and she is a leader who will run for Premier of this province and lift us all up.”
Stiles was joined on stage at the leadership announcement by Ontario Federation of Labour President Patty Coates, in addition to labour leaders from across the country.
She emphasized that unions and workers are essential to the NDP, as well as the need to build on labour victories in the past year. She specifically cited union pressure that ultimately led the government to repeal a bill that imposed a contract on some of the province’s education workers, banned their right to strike and preemptively invoked the notwithstanding clause to shield it from constitutional challenges.
“I want them to expect better, everybody, including unionized workers in this province. I want them to expect more,” said Stiles.
“I want them to know that they deserve a government who’s not afraid to talk about labour issues, who’s not just going to put on a hard hat and safety vest when it’s election time and make a lot of promises.”
When asked what Stiles had to say to criticism that an NDP majority in the next election was unrealistic, she responded, “They haven’t met me yet.”
“We’re going to win this election, I feel absolutely confident in that and that’s because I know how to win.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 4, 2023.
— With files from Allison Jones.