Marit Stiles might not have to wait nearly as long as she thought to move into the official Opposition leader's office in Queen's Park.
The party is looking at moving up its leadership confirmation date to early February before the Ontario legislature resumes sitting, QP Briefing has learned. The party had originally planned to install its new leader in early March.
Stiles was the only candidate confirmed in the party's leadership election. It's now expected that the party will vote on whether to confirm her as leader.
As QP Briefing first reported, the party began exploring changes to its leadership race before its candidate sign-up deadline neared and Stiles remained the only contestant.
The party's chief electoral officer, Éric Hébert-Daly, has now drafted a report recommending changes to the leadership contest, including its timing, an NDP source told QP Briefing. The NDP's provincial council will meet early in the new year to discuss the report before making any decisions. If it's adopted, the contest will wrap in early February.
On Wednesday, Stiles held a livestreamed event in Ottawa where she took questions from former federal NDP candidate Emilie Taman. Before the event got started, Taman gave an update on the leadership process and said changes were coming.
Stiles jumped into the race on Sept. 22 and was immediately seen as the front-runner. She had done lots of work behind the scenes to position herself as Andrea Horwath's natural successor, including attending various candidate nomination meetings ahead of the election, according to multiple NDP sources.
She had been "patiently waiting" for her time to come, one senior party source said months ago. She even laid the groundwork to succeed Horwath before the former leader stepped down by positioning herself as a leader-in-waiting by cozying up with top party brass, party sources said.
Since Horwath announced she was stepping down on the night of the June 2 election, Stiles has spent significant time amassing support. She's crisscrossed the province, lent on-the-ground support to municipal electoral candidates and arranged discussions with prominent members from different sects of the NDP.
The prospect of Stiles being challenged dimmed since the summer. Other MPPs flirted with running but ultimately chose not to. Stiles was endorsed by eight MPPs in the NDP's 30-member caucus ahead of the Dec. 5 entry deadline for leadership candidates.
Traditional leadership races are a great way for a party to raise money, grow support, and generate media coverage.
"In terms of raising money, in terms of bringing new people into the party, and all of that, it's much more challenging to do when it's just one person," one senior party source said.
For example, the preliminary contest guidelines stipulated that each candidate’s campaign expense limit was supposed to be $900,000, which they were expected to pay with cash they fundraise. Any surpluses at the end of the contest were then to be transferred to the party. Fewer candidates would mean fewer lump sums transferred to the party at the end of the campaign.
Stiles and others from her camp seem to recognize the drawbacks to her running unopposed, as she had encouraged others to challenge her.
With files from Charlie Pinkerton.