Liberals Admit ‘Listening Problem’

Interim leader John Fraser cited the partial sale of public utility Hydro One as a turning point for the Liberals before their devastating defeat in Ontario’s spring election.
Interim leader John Fraser cited the partial sale of public utility Hydro One as a turning point for the Liberals before their devastating defeat in Ontario’s spring election.

Voters demoted Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government to a third-party rump of seven MPPs in the June election because it had a “listening” problem, party members said Saturday at a post-mortem in Toronto.

“They made the right call … they’d had enough of us,” Liberal interim leader John Fraser told more than 700 delegates from across the province after a tense question-and-answer session behind closed doors with top campaign officials on what led to Doug Ford’s stunning Progressive Conservative victory.

Fraser said the turning point for the party that governed Ontario for almost 15 years — Tuesday would mark that anniversary — was the sale of almost half the shares in taxpayer-owned utility Hydro One to raise billions of dollars to build transit and other infrastructure.

Public opinion polls at the time showed the move was highly unpopular, but Wynne’s government persisted, saying the partial privatization was the best way to raise the money.

“We didn’t hear what they were saying back to us,” said Fraser, MPP for Ottawa South, in a comment echoed by others at the meeting.

Sources said the crowded feedback session with campaign strategist David Herle, former deputy premier Deb Matthews and two others — with Wynne in the audience — had an “angry undercurrent,” with so many questions that the time allotted had to be extended.

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