TORONTO — Marit Stiles is set to be the next leader of the Ontario NDP after the Toronto member of provincial parliament was the only one to vie for the role.
The New Democrats will now hold a confirmation vote for Stiles, and as long as a majority of party members are in favour, she will secure the job and become leader of the Official Opposition in the legislature.
Stiles, who has represented the riding of Davenport since 2018, dismissed suggestions Tuesday that a race of one meant there is a lack of enthusiasm.
"I'm excited because I think this is the important work that has to take place now," she said after question period. "The real race is the race to defeat Doug Ford in 2026."
Stiles will work tirelessly toward the next election to form a government "that puts working people at the heart of everything we do," Ontario NDP president Janelle Brady said in a statement.
"Together with Marit, we will work to build a party and a 2026 election campaign with space for working people and labour, progressives, racialized and equity-deserving Ontarians, and young people," Brady wrote.
"Marit can give people hope and unite the province to defeat Doug Ford — to make life affordable and rebuild and improve health care and education."
Stiles' bid was backed by endorsements from eight caucus colleagues. Despite some interest and partial filings from some other would-be contenders, Stiles was the only one to meet all the requirements to become a leadership candidate, including raising a $55,000 fee.
Her caucus colleagues Sol Mamakwa, Chris Glover, Wayne Gates and Jill Andrew had been musing about potentially running until close to the Monday deadline, but they all ultimately declined.
Longtime New Democrat Peter Tabuns has served as interim leader since former leader Andrea Horwath announced her resignation on provincial election night in June.
Horwath, who was elected mayor of Hamilton last month, had led the NDP since 2009 and saw it rise from third party to official Opposition status in 2018, though the party's seat count decreased in this year's election.
Stiles said she will build on Horwath's achievements.
"We're a strong official opposition," she said.
"We have a lot of work to do. There is a sense across this province that this government is heading in the wrong direction."
Stiles has previously served as a school trustee, the party's education critic and president of the federal New Democratic Party.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford congratulated Stiles in a tweet.
"I’m looking forward to many spirited debates as we both strive to make Ontario the best place to live, work and raise a family," he wrote.
By Allison Jones, The Canadian Press