Students and community members got a feel for what the provincial Liberal Party leadership candidates have to offer in the next election during a forum at the University of Guelph Monday night.
The five candidates – Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, MP Yasir Naqvi, MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, MPP Adil Shamji and MPP Ted Hsu – were on campus for a forum held by the Guelph Young Liberals club in Peter Clark Hall.
The next provincial election is tentatively scheduled for June 2026. Liberal Party members will vote for their new leader Nov. 25 and 26, with the winner being declared Dec. 2.
Each candidate shared their approach on issues important to those in Guelph: namely, the housing crisis.
“Housing is a human right, full stop,” said Shamji, MPP for Don Valley East.
But it’s also a generational fairness challenge, Beaches-East York MP Erskine-Smith said.
“It used to take five years to save for a 20 per cent down payment for a typical starter home. It now takes 22 years across Ontario,” he said.
“We have a housing crisis in our midst. We know that the University of Guelph has a plan to bring in 7,500 international students. To all the international students here, you are a vital part of our future. We don’t have anywhere to house you, and that’s not fair to you,” Shamji said.
“You’re being gouged,” Crombie said, calling international tuition “shocking” and pointing to the sky-high rental prices in the area.
Each candidate agreed to increase housing, there needs to be greater density in transit corridors and an end to exclusionary zoning.
“What we need is an all hands on deck approach if we’re going to resolve the crisis around housing, which means that all three levels of government need to work together regardless of what political stripe you come from,” said Ottawa Centre MP Naqvi.
That means the private and not-for-profit sectors are part of the solution too, he said.
“The province has an important role to play. We need to spread the population across the province,” Naqvi said, emphasizing growth and better transit to support that growth in mid-sized cities like Orangeville and Peterborough.
They also agreed the provincial and federal governments need to get back in the housing game, with a focus on non-market housing. Crombie in particular suggested the federal government investing in “deeply affordable” co-op housing options for municipalities.
She added that besides surplus land, municipalities have a lot of asphalt that can be repurposed for housing.
In mall parking lots, for example, she said “all we really need those parking spaces for is on Christmas Eve, let’s be honest. So let’s bring some purpose (to) some of those parking lots and build density right there.”
Other sentiments shared by the candidates included “real” rent control, incentives for building affordable housing, and a clearer definition of what affordable housing is. Shamji said it should be linked to the average gross household income around Ontario.