Liberal strategist Pat Sorbara advising Kate Graham’s leadership campaign

By Sabrina Nanji January 6, 2020

Pat Sorbara told Queen’s Park Today she’s ramped up her role as a senior adviser to Kate Graham’s Liberal leadership campaign. 

Sorbara had informally offered guidance to other candidates including Michael Coteau, but has stepped up to Team Graham in the run-up to the January 17 deadline to sign up delegates for the leadership convention. 

Sorbara, a longtime Liberal and the architect behind Kathleen Wynne’s 2014 election victory, said she’s advising Graham because she believes her campaign is about making the party “viable” and “relevant” following its brutal election defeat in 2018. 

(Sorbara was booted from her role as Wynne’s campaign co-chair six months before the election after facing charges related to the Sudbury byelection scandal, of which she was eventually acquitted.)

Graham told Queen’s Park Today she’s “grateful” for the “amazing depth of experience” that Sorbara brings to the table.

“She’s genuinely talking about what hasn’t worked and she is prepared to really hear [party members],” Sorbara said Monday in a phone interview. 

Graham may be a political rookie compared to some of her rival candidates but she does have some heavyweight Grits behind her, many of whom have connections to Wynne, including close ally and former treasury board president Deb Matthews and Wynne’s son Chris Cowperthwaite

Four Liberal sources told Queen’s Park Today Wynne herself has been informally making calls singing Graham’s praises and helping to facilitate connections with high-profile Grits. It is unusual for a former leader to formally endorse a candidate to replace them.

Meanwhile the Ontario Liberal Party announced Monday that it now has 37,831 members, up from about 10,000 before the leadership race began. 

Graham, who has not disclosed how many members signed up through her campaign, has been strategically hitting the pavement harder in ridings with fewer members. Each riding sends 16 delegates to the convention. If a riding has 100 members, for example, including 50 existing members that didn’t necessarily sign up through their preferred candidate, Graham is hoping to woo those 50 people into her camp, thereby securing eight delegates.

Perceived frontrunner in the leadership contest Steven Del Duca has boasted 14,173 membership sign-ups before the December 2 cut-off, while Coteau has claimed 8,500.

Del Duca, Coteau and Graham will face off with Mitzie Hunter, Alvin Tedjo and Brenda Hollingsworth at a delegated convention on March 7 in Mississauga.