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Bonnie Crombie taking leave of absence as Mississauga mayor
Sept. 12, 2023

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie will start a leave of absence Oct. 7 to focus on her bid to become leader of Ontario’s Liberals and take on Premier Doug Ford in the next provincial election, the Star has learned.

“This is the natural next step,” a source with direct knowledge of the decision said Wednesday night, speaking privately to discuss internal deliberations.

The move comes two days after the party deadline for new members to join and be eligible to vote on a new leader on the last weekend of November. A winner will be announced Dec. 2 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Crombie, the presumed front-runner among five candidates, claimed almost half the party’s 80,000-strong membership list is supporting her -- although a leadership rival, Liberal MP Nate Erskine-Smith (Beaches-East York), cast doubt on “inflated” membership claims from her camp and others.

Also seeking the job as leader of the nine-member Liberal caucus of MPPs at Queen’s Park are Liberal MP Yasir Naqvi (Ottawa Centre) and Liberal MPPs Ted Hsu (Kingston-and-the-Islands) and Adil Shamji (Don Valley East).

Crombie could not be reached for comment.

“This decision was not taken lightly,” said the source, referring to Crombie’s responsibilities as a mayor in her third term. “But it’s a reflection of the confidence round her right now that she’s really the only person who’s going to be able to take on Doug Ford for the Liberals in 2026.”

Ford’s Progressive Conservatives have already taken shots at Crombie, putting out a fundraising appeal last month saying she was “missing in action” at the annual Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference in London.

“Mississauga deserves a mayor who’s going to show up for the job,” said the plea signed by Business Minister Kaleed Rasheed, the MPP for Mississauga East-Cooksville.

Mississauga council is expected to appoint an interim mayor in Crombie’s absence.

The campaign enters a new stage Thursday night with all candidates gathering in Thunder Bay for a two-hour debate, the first of five being organized by the party in Stratford, Brampton, Toronto and Ottawa.

There will be another debate next Wednesday moderated by Toronto Star Queen’s Park columnist Martin Regg Cohn at Toronto Metropolitan University’s Democracy Forum.

As of Aug. 25, Crombie had raised more money than her rivals combined with $724,000 in contributions toward a campaign spending limit of $900,000.