Former Sudbury NDP MP and Liberal MPP and cabinet minister Glenn Thibeault said he’s currently “kicking the tires” of a provincial Liberal leadership run.
The local politician first indicated as much to the Hill Times last month, and reaffirmed his status as a potential contender in conversation with Sudbury.com this week.
“It’s a lot of tire-kicking,” he said, adding that as soon as this story appeared in Sudbury.com he would have a lot more people to speak with.
“I’m getting phone calls from members of the party, from people who have talked to me in the past about putting my name forward to run for leader,” he added.
“It’s humbling and everything else that goes along with that when people are still talking about your name in that kind of light and want to see something different, but there are so many things that need to fall into line and happen to even consider something like that.”
Thibeault’s last public appearance on the political scene was in 2018, when he was defeated in his re-election bid by NDP candidate Jamie West in that year’s provincial election.
Prior to his run as MPP, Thibeault served as New Democrat MP for Sudbury — a run that ended when he decided to step down from federal politics to successfully run for the provincial Liberals in the 2015 byelection.
“I’m not the first person ever to switch political parties,” Thibeault told Sudbury.com this week of his decision to change teams in 2015, which he clarified was done to align himself with a party more closely espousing his values.
“There was nothing there,” he said of the byelection scandal. “You can make up innuendo all you want, and the unfortunate thing with all of that is that good people had their name tarnished and brought through the mud for no good reason.”
It’s this kind of nasty politics that Thibeault said gives him some pause when looking at re-entering the fray.
“We need to start getting back to where the real issues are and not making things so personal,” he said. “I can’t count the number of times I’ve been spit on or spit at, and the name-calling… When you look at some of the negative sides of it, do you really want to subject yourself to all that again?”
There are, however, many rewarding aspects to a life in politics, he said, pointing to various funding he was able to help bring into Greater Sudbury, including funds for Place des Arts and the construction of a PET scanner suite at Health Sciences North.
Since his failed 2018 bid for re-election, Thibeault has been working as a consultant and lobbyist, and has aided in provincial and municipal campaigns behind the scenes by providing candidates with advice.
In this year’s provincial election, the Ontario Liberal Party under then-leader Steven del Duca remained close to status quo, growing in ranks from seven seats to eight. Greater Sudbury’s Nickel Belt and Sudbury electoral districts went to incumbent NDP candidates.
“I think the party really needs to take a look and figure out who we are and what we’re about,” Thibeault said. “This party needs to rebuild.”
If he proceeds with a leadership run, Thibeault said it will be accompanied by his vision to reshape the party from its top-down format.
“We’ve had too many leaders come in and dictate what the issues are,” he said. “We need to rebuild and reshape ourselves, so I need to hear what folks in Thunder Bay and Kenora and Sudbury and Cornwall would have to say.
“Let’s not overlook the local piece, which has been done by all parties in the past. … I think there are opportunities to listen and have regional needs,” he said. “Talking about the 413 in Sudbury or even Thunder Bay isn’t a priority issue. As leader, you’ve got to be able to say the Greenbelt is a priority for the Toronto area, but it’s going to be different for the Sudbury area.”
As it stands, Thibeault reiterated that he has “nothing to announce,” and that regardless of what he decides regarding his political future, the party will need a complete rebuild – “full stop.”
More details surrounding the Ontario Liberal Party’s leadership race will be determined during next year’s AGM.
“I’ve got a few months of tire kicking before I really have to make a decision,” Thibeault said, adding he will need to make up his mind by January in order to create a team to hit the ground running as quickly as possible.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.