Vladimir Putin

To be Premier: The Empire Club of Canada invites Ontario Liberal Leadership Candidates to Debate

The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.

The Empire Club of Canada will bring together all the Ontario Liberal Party candidates for a special evening on January 15th to answer one important question: Why should you be Premier?

The Empire Club of Canada has a rich history of being the chosen forum for government and political leaders to convey their visions. In that spirit, The Empire Club of Canada will bring together all the Ontario Liberal Party candidates for a special evening on January 15th to answer one important question: Why should you be Premier?

The debate will be framed around this fundamental question on which any provincial leadership campaign turns. Each candidate will be asked to make their case why of all the people on the stage, they most deserve the chance to be Premier; Next, they will be asked to defend their case before the Empire audience and by extension all Ontarians.

This is a rare public opportunity for our audience to hear all of the candidates on one stage, positioning themselves as the next leader of the Ontario Liberal Party and, if they are so chosen, Premier of Ontario.

Join moderators Don Guy (Pollera Insights) and Karman Wong (journalist, strategist) as they dive into the issues that will shape the future of the Ontario Liberal Party. And take the opportunity to hear each candidate’s vision for the party and province.


Michael Coteau, MPP

Michael Coteau has lived a Canadian success story as an immigrant who worked hard to get ahead. He has focused his career in business, education and public service on giving back to his community.

Michael was born in Yorkshire, England in the early 1970s. His mother is English and his father is Grenadian, and they immigrated with their young family to Canada when Michael was a toddler. Growing up in the Flemingdon Park neighbourhood taught Michael the value of community, the importance of education, but also the challenges facing working-class neighbourhoods across the province.

Michael was the first member of his family to graduate high-school and university. He became president of the Carleton Young Liberals, and graduated with degrees in history and political science.

After graduation, Michael worked as an English-as-a-Second-Language teacher. He started his own small business in web development and became executive director of a national literacy nonprofit. Michael also worked as a community organiser with a United Way affiliate.

He ran for school board trustee in 2003, and was re-elected to serve his ward two times. At the school board, Michael fought for better student nutrition programmes, after-school programming, anti-racism strategies and the incorporation of digital technology in the classroom. He was elected by his colleagues as vice-chair of the board.

Michael was first elected Member of Provincial Parliament for Don Valley East in 2011. In government, Michael took on challenging files, including serving as Minister of Children and Youth Services tasked with reforming supports for autism, and Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, with responsibility for delivering a successful Pan and Parapan Am Games. He also served as Minister of Community and Social Services, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, and Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism. The Toronto Star called Michael “the busiest MPP—times three” because he ran three ministries at once in the former government.

In 2018, Michael defeated a star Conservative candidate, Toronto’s deputy mayor, to win his third election serving his North York constituency. He is one of the five Liberal MPPs in the Legislature.

He and his wife, Lori, have two young daughters.

Steven Del Duca

Steven Del Duca has been an active Liberal since he was 15. His roots in the party run deep.

He has been hard at work for 30 years as a local campaign volunteer, a riding president, a campus club president, a political staffer, a campaign manager, an Executive Council Member, a candidate, an MPP, and a Cabinet Minister.

Our party is in the fight of its life, and Steven has the experience needed to win that fight. He knows the party, he knows the grassroots, and knows that Ontario Liberals must rebuild and deliver real change. Steven is a first-generation Canadian – the son of a Scottish mother and an Italian father.

His parents came to Canada looking for opportunity, and they found it. Steven wants to build an Ontario where genuine opportunity is real for everyone, where both entrepreneurs and workers can thrive, and individual success is only limited by talent, effort, and dedication.

Ontario is in the fight of its life. Steven is a leader who will be relentless in the pursuit of progress, who will work night and day and never stop fighting for a better Ontario. Steven served in Cabinet as Minister of Transportation, and as Minister of Economic

Development and Growth, and he brought two driving principles to that table: dignity for workers and support for entrepreneurship.

The world of work has changed. Steven sees an economic and social safety net that is inadequate to deal with the disruption of automation and digitisation, and he believes that government has a responsibility to find positive solutions to meet this challenge. He knows that broadly shared economic prosperity is impossible without addressing these challenges. Simplistic slogans and political platitudes won’t do – real solutions and real progress come from hard work. Steven has been hard at work for years, and he wants to make sure we are ready to fight Doug Ford. Ontario is counting on us, and better can’t wait.


Steven Del Duca was first elected to the Ontario Legislature in September 2012. Prior to his election, he had a long record of community involvement and a dedication to public service. Steven was the fundraising chair for the Annual Vaughan Hospital Fundraising Gala that raised over $1 million, and the driving force behind the Greater Toronto Region Economic Summit that was established in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis to find solutions and map a path to recovery.

Del Duca holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from Osgoode Hall and studied Political Science and Canadian History at the University of Toronto and Carleton University. He lives in Vaughan with his wife and their two daughters – and their dog Hunter.

Kate Graham

Kate Graham is running to Lead the Ontario Liberal Party (OLP). She is running because she wants to change how we do politics in our party, and in our province. She is running to realize her vision of an Ontario where every single person is living a happy, healthy life, where they can achieve their big dreams.

Kate is a community builder who believes that when people come together, anything is possible.

The daughter of two teachers, Kate was born and raised in Southwestern Ontario. Growing up in Exeter, later moving to London where she now lives.

Kate Graham teaches, studies, and writes about politics at Western University, King’s University College, and Huron University College. She is a Fellow at the Centre for Urban Policy and Local Governance at Western, working to strengthen the leadership of Canada's communities.

Before entering academia, Kate spent a decade working as a public servant: most recently as the Director of Community & Economic Innovation where she was responsible for the City’s government relations, strategic initiatives, culture and economic partnerships portfolios, and was the youngest member of the city’s Senior Leadership Team.

Kate is widely recognized as a thought leader in women’s political participation in Canada. Her PhD research and dissertation spawned The Mayor’s Project, Canada’s most comprehensive look at mayors across the country. As part of her work as a Canada 2020 Fellow, Kate developed, hosted and produced a podcast called No Second Chances, where she interviewed nearly every female Prime Minister and Premier that has ever served in Canada.

Kate also has a long history of community leadership and volunteerism. She is most proud of her work as Chair of the Pillar Nonprofit Network, during which time London’s first social innovation shared space, Innovation Works, was officially launched. Kate was recognized with an Ontario Volunteerism Award, and was named one of London’s Top 20 Under 40 for her community work.

After running as the Ontario Liberal Candidate in the 2018 provincial election in the great riding of London North Centre she led the Listening Project following the election (hear Kate talk about this project on TVO’s The Agenda).

Kate is running to be Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, working alongside an incredible team of people who share her vision of change for the party and province.

Brenda Hollingsworth

Brenda Hollingsworth was born and raised in Ottawa. She attended Queen’s University for her B.A. (Hons.) and the University of Ottawa for Master of Arts and Law degrees. She was called to the Bar of Ontario in 1997.

Brenda practiced at both a national law firm and a litigation boutique on Bay Street in Toronto before returning to Ottawa in 2004. Prior to her entry into the Ontario Liberal Party Leadership Race, Brenda worked as a litigation lawyer at Auger Hollingsworth Professional Corporation, a firm she co- founded in 2005 with her husband Richard Auger.

Brenda was named an Ottawa Business Journal Forty Under 40 award recipient and took home the Women’s Business Network’s Businesswoman of the Year award in the Professional category. She was also recognized as one of Ottawa Life Magazine’s “Top 50 People in the Capital.”

As part of the eight-member Federal Judicial Advisory Committee, Brenda spent three years volunteering her time to evaluate federal judicial appointment candidates. She has served on advisory panels for The Advocates Society and the Ontario Bar Association. Brenda loves to write and frequently publishes articles, blogs and essays about all aspects of law and practice.

Brenda is a strong believer in community, activism and social justice. Under her direction, Auger Hollingsworth has made significant contributions to the Ottawa-area food banks, flood clean-up programs, Holiday hamper programs and initiatives aimed at improving the lives of kids living on reserves.

A proud mother of two sons, Brenda’s family time is often spent cheering at the hockey rink, football field or rugby pitch. Brenda lives in Ottawa with her husband Richard Auger and their two boys, Zach and Jordy.

Mitzie Hunter, MPP

Mitzie Hunter is the MPP for Scarborough-Guildwood and Critic for Finance, Treasury Board, Government and Consumer Services, Tourism, Culture and Sport, she recently served as the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development. Prior to this post, she served as the Minister of Education and the Associate Minister of Finance, responsible for pension reform.

Mitzie Hunter understands our community and the power of working together. As a lifelong city builder, she is passionate about unlocking the city’s potential by ensuring fair and inclusive access to employment and prosperity.

As the former CEO of the Greater Toronto Civic Action Alliance, Mitzie worked to solve some of our toughest social, economic, and environmental challenges. Prior to this, she was the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation, Vice-President with Goodwill Industries, and a Regional Director at Bell Canada.

Mitzie grew up in Scarborough, graduated from the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus with a BA, and completed her MBA from the Rotman School of Management.

Mitzie continues to bring people together to solve problems while creating jobs and opportunity in our community.

Alvin Tedjo

Alvin is a father of three, a dedicated public servant and a passionate advocate for education, child care and the environment.

He was Director of Government Relations at Sheridan College and Senior Policy Advisor to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. He studied at Queen’s and Harvard universities.

During his career, he has worked to make postsecondary education more affordable, bring more green infrastructure to Ontario, and create innovation and entrepreneurship hubs in communities. He has previously served as Vice President of the Ontario Coalition for Better Childcare, advocating for children and families. He also founded Canadians for Paternity Leave, where he successfully pressured the federal government to increase paternity leave for Canadians.

Alvin believes that the Ontario Liberal Party needs new voices and new energy to rebuild, reform, and get ready to replace our short-sighted government in 2022. To do that, we need to be honest about what the big challenges are, put forward a vision of what we want our future to look like and put bold ideas on the table to get us there.


Don Guy

Don Guy has been described as a “legendary political strategist”, a “brilliant strategist” and a “policy wizard” who has a unique understanding of the nexus between communication and policy. He is pleased to return home to Pollara as owner and Chief Strategist.

He is a founding partner of KTG Public Affairs and a member of global research and strategy firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and has provided the research and strategies that have fuelled some of the most successful public affairs campaigns in Canada.

Don is treasurer of the InterAction Council of Former Heads of State and Government, an international NGO think tank. Don’s graduate academic training was at the University of Toronto, where he took his MA and doctoral studies in political and democratic behaviour.

Karman Wong

Karman Wong has more than 20 years of experience as a communications professional, with the unique perspective of being on both sides of the camera.

Karman worked as a reporter and anchor for Toronto’s number one news channel, CP24. For nearly a decade she provided live, in-depth coverage on a range of stories - from federal, provincial, and municipal elections to crime, current affairs, entertainment and breaking news.

Previously, Karman spent over ten years as a communication advisor to the Premier of Ontario, several cabinet ministers and candidates for political office.  She served as the Premier’s Director of Issues Management and Legislative Affairs, responsible for managing the government response and guiding the government through contentious matters.  In this role, Karman also oversaw the legislative agenda for government and prepared the Premier and senior government members for Question Period.  For several years prior to this role, Karman handled complex public policy issues as a spokesperson and Press Secretary to the Premier of Ontario.

Karman now heads up a communications company and works with a variety of public and private sector clients on public relations, crisis communications, media training and strategy.

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