Five senior Ontario Liberals got a spirited reception from party members at a campaign debrief on Saturday, Liberal sources told QP Briefing.
The group who took questions from members about the party's 2022 campaign included Omar Khan, Beckie Codd-Downey, Bob Lopinski, Brian Johns, and Jonathan Espie — each of whom held high-ranking roles in the Ontario Liberals' recent election effort.
The panel's Q&A was part of the party's campaign debrief, which saw about 600 members of the Ontario Liberal Party get together at the Sheraton in Toronto on Saturday.
The group represented the campaign's leadership team to party members.
The party's 2022 campaign director Christine McMillan didn't attend the debrief, which rubbed some attendees the wrong way. She shared months ago in a tweet that she wasn't going because she had already planned a family trip on the date it was being held.
Former leader Steven Del Duca, who resigned on election night, briefly visited the Sheraton on Saturday but didn't take members' questions with the campaign leadership panel.
While the session featuring Khan, Codd-Downey, Lopinski, Johns and Espie wasn't open to the media, QP Briefing heard about how it went from eight different sources, including some who were directly involved, others who attended, and others who have deep party connections and were relayed accounts about it by attendees. Sources were granted anonymity so they could speak about what was intended to be private.
The Q&A session was characterized in a range of different ways. One source went so far as to say there were "heckles" and "boos" during it; another described it as much less intense, saying it was "spirited and frank."
Meanwhile, Lopinski called it "honest and constructive."
"(We) appreciated the opportunity to both hear from the grassroots of the party and to provide (our) perspective on decisions that were taken, and why, and to hopefully learn from the experience,” he said.
The campaign leadership group faced an open floor of questioning from members, who asked about things including the campaign's strategic choices, the use of riding resources, and the technical tools that the campaign employed.
The Q&A immediately preceded interim leader John Fraser's noon-hour speech, which was strictly scheduled due to its inclusion of media. It lasted about an hour, but some members' frustrations were over questions being cut off — even though the panel did go over the originally scheduled time frame.
Another source's characterization was that some members were definitely "pissed" and complaining, but that most of the criticism was voiced in a constructive way.
Another called it a "bitch fest."
When asked about boos, three said they didn't hear any. One of these sources called the Q&A "a really good session," that was "cathartic."
Another who said they didn't hear boos said they've been to similar post-campaign events before that featured far more frustrated members. This source said, however, that "frustrations were expressed" toward the campaign leadership group over the handling and outcome of the 2022 election that saw just eight MPPs elected, the second-fewest in the party's history — behind only 2018.
— With files from Aidan Chamandy.