Don Valley West MPP Kathleen Wynne has officially announced her entry into the Ontario Liberal Party leadership race.
Wynne, who resigned from cabinet on Friday, planted herself firmly as a centrist candidate, promising to repair the Liberals' relationship with teachers while fighting a $14.4-billion deficit.
"As a former minister of education, I know how essential that partnership is and how much we risk losing without it," she told a packed room in her Toronto riding.
Wynne was first elected to Queen’s Park in the October 2003 election. She has held several cabinet positions in the Liberal government led by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.
The leadership opportunity Wynne is vying for became open when McGuinty announced last month he was stepping down as party leader.
His successor will become the next premier, inheriting a minority government that faces an opposition that could force a snap election.
Wynne said the Liberals must choose a leader who will serve their party well, but also one who can rise to the challenge for all Ontarians at a time when the province is facing serious economic problems.
"It’s a critical moment for the province because we must choose a leader who can help navigate through these difficult times, who can stay the course on our economic plan, who can help bring opposing sides to the table and find real, creative solutions to the issues that we face," she said.
Wynne is the second Liberal MPP to join the leadership contest. Toronto Centre MPP Glen Murray announced his own candidacy on Sunday.
There's speculation former cabinet minister Sandra Pupatello and ex-MP Gerard Kennedy, who lost to McGuinty by just 140 votes in 1996, are also seriously considering bids.
Wynne would make history if she won the leadership race, becoming Ontario's first female premier and its first openly gay premier.