Hsu accepts early nomination ahead of rumoured spring 2025 provincial election

Ted Hsu, centre, with supporters at a recent event. Submitted photo.

The signs of a spring 2025 provincial election are in the air, and Ted Hsu is prepared.

Hsu, Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) for Kingston and the Islands and Ontario Liberal Party critic for Energy and Natural Resources and Agricultural and Rural Issues, was one of the first candidates officially nominated on June 23, 2024, for the next provincial election. Hsu accepted the nomination as a matter of course, pointing out, “I’ve been saying for a long time that I will run for reelection,” and he is looking ahead to how he can better serve the riding and the province.

After a quiet long weekend spent enjoying Canada Day festivities, Hsu spoke to Kingstonist about his early nomination. He explained that in media appearances Premier Doug Ford has ruled out a fall 2024 election — but when asked about a possible election in spring 2025, a year earlier than the current fixed election date of June 2026, Ford demurred, saying “Stay tuned.”

Hsu commented on how the province announced in May 2024 that by the end of October, every convenience, grocery, and big box store in Ontario will be able to sell beer, cider, wine, and ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages if they choose to do so. This means that as part of its agreement with The Beer Store, Ontario will have to provide The Beer Store with up to $225 million.

“Having to pay a couple hundred million dollars to do that has triggered people saying, ‘Well, why are you paying the money to do it early?’ And it’s so [Ford] can fulfill an election promise a year early,” Hsu said, noting, “[The premier refused to] say no to an election next spring.”

According to Hsu, another ‘smoking gun’ is that the Ontario Progressive Conservatives (PCs) have been conducting polls to ask people how they would feel about an early election. As a result, Hsu said, the opposition parties “really have no choice and have to get ready.” Hence his early nomination.

Hsu lives in Kingston, Ontario, with his wife and two daughters. His parents immigrated to Kingston in 1964, and he grew up in the Calvin Park area, attending Saint Thomas More Catholic School and Loyalist Collegiate and Vocational Institute.

A release from the Ontario Liberal Party says, “Ted’s diverse background of experiences helped him to understand the biggest challenges of the people of Kingston and the Islands and he became an effective legislator for those who reside here. In 2011, Ted was elected Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands, one of very few scientists in parliament. In 2014-2015, Ted revived and led a national campaign to restore the long-form census, which delivered vital information to our society.”

The release continues, “After finishing a term as MP, in 2015 Hsu announced he would not seek re-election. That decision, he says, was a hard one, but it was right for his family at that time. Five years later, Ted chose to once again serve the residents of Kingston and the Islands as an elected representative, and in 2022, he was elected as a Member of the Provincial Parliament.”

In 2023, Hsu ran for the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party and toured the whole province. He shared that ”getting to know policy from a whole-of-government perspective has really enriched what I can offer. I have a better understanding of all of Ontario.”

Hsu said he wants to remain an active voice in parliament because “I really feel that we’re facing multiple crises… affordability, housing, health, climate, and education.”

Multiple crises call for multiple solutions

“When it comes to mental health and addictions and affordable housing,” Hsu pointed out that people living in tent communities like the one that has grown up around the Integrated Care Hub (ICH) and in other places around the province “is something we should not get used to… We should be thinking of it as a crisis, multiple crises. This system needs to be fixed.” 

As for the government making it easier to buy alcohol, Hsu said, “I think there are some details to sort out. There isn’t much research about it, and I think we should be a little cautious in certain situations… If it’s done right, I’m not opposed to having beer in convenience stores, but there is no need to speed it up.”

However, he thinks the payoff might not be worth it “if [the PCs] are going to spend $200 million — and some people say there’s good reason to believe that it will cost a lot more than that, up to a billion dollars. There are just so many other things you could spend money on, whether it’s health care or getting help in the classrooms. We’re still waiting for a funding decision about the services for people suffering from addictions and homelessness here around the Integrated Care Hub.”

Further, “that money could go to infrastructure, Hsu said, giving the example of Tweed, where multiple bridges are on the brink of closure due to long provincial neglect. He added, “We also have our own infrastructure issues, which I have been following closely… We should be doing so many things, which I want to work on and prioritize.”

As for the housing crisis, Hsu said, “If you want to treat housing as a crisis, you have to make it easier to build more housing. Also, the government should be nudging the builders to build more modest housing. Smaller, more modest housing, denser housing — so more neighbours in more different neighbourhoods — things like triplexes and fourplexes, to make it more affordable.”

“The government doesn’t have to pay 100 per cent of the cost of affordable housing,” Hsu said. “They just have to pay enough to make the affordable housing economical, because people in affordable housing do pay rent.”

But affordable housing alone is not enough to support those dealing with mental health problems and addictions, Hsu emphasized. “Living in a tent around [the ICH] area is not the end goal. The people living in housing and businesses nearby are bearing the brunt of the impact of the disruption… much more than the rest of the community. So in the end, people need supportive housing, which requires deeply affordable housing. The end goal is moving people into different parts of the community in supportive housing so they can recover.”

Hsu says he offers “a different way of doing politics. It’s getting people to understand that things could be done and [why they should] get on board.” Submitted photo.

Hsu said, “To [the government’s] credit… in the last budget, there was money for supportive housing, but it was just for the support side. We still need a place for people to have shelter.”

In terms of education, Hsu has been watching as school boards have published their budgets these past few weeks. “Many of them are really struggling. Some of them are in deficit. And I think if you look at all of them, they’ve had to make some serious compromises.”

“I can’t believe some of the disruption and the violence in classrooms,” he pointed out. “Things like evacuations and kids swearing at teachers or throwing things.”

“If kids don’t learn properly because the classroom environment isn’t good, you pay for that for decades, for the rest of their lives. So I think we just have to have more people. We know we’re short of teachers and educational assistants. Teachers are crying out. They’re stressed. They’re retiring early.”

“When you add up all the dollars and cents,” Hsu acknowledged, “we have to make some sacrifices. But education and health care and housing: these are things that we can’t do without.”

Hsu’s political philosophy

“Whoever wins the next election,” Hsu said, “needs to get beyond the rhetoric and the one party attacking another party, and really grapple with the details.”

Hsu thinks there are better ways for parties to work together for the common good of the province. “A lot of things — question period and the media scrums and so on — I think they’re a little bit too partisan. We really need to work together.”

“You can’t just use rhetoric [and] personal attacks” as a politician, he said. “You have to say… ‘Here’s the problem and here’s the solution and here’s not the solution.’”

He gave the example of last year’s budget: “There was $200 million for new team-based primary care clinics, and that was a good thing. So you can be very supportive and say, ‘Yeah, that was a good thing. But you spent the same amount of money to get to the beer and wine and convenience stores, right? Why could you not have put another $200 million into primary care because people still don’t have family doctors?’”

Explaining those sorts of things in a respectful manner, he said, “is a different way of doing politics. It’s getting people to understand that things could be done and [why they should] get on board.”

Hsu explained that some of his philosophy comes from his scientific background. “I try to explain the problem to let voters know why they should be upset at the government… People will trust politicians more if they are given real reasons for liking something or not liking something else, instead of just ‘Those guys are the bad guys’ and lying about your political opponents. At some point, people realize that was a lie and then lose trust in you. But if you criticize your opponents with something real and explain it plainly, [then] as people dig deeper and deeper, they find, ‘Oh, yeah, this is the way things are’ — and they trust politicians more.”

“And actually,” Hsu concluded, “I think when one side or the other responds to that kind of criticism — real criticism — we just get better government.”

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