Kathleen Wynne may not be premier of Ontario for too long

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

I don't mean to rain on Kathleen Wynne's parade but there's a good chance that her celebration will be short-lived.

That's because Wynne, who won the Ontario Liberal party leadership on the third ballot at the party convention on Saturday, is probably not going to be premier for too long.

[ Related: Ontario Liberals in hard fight regardless of leader: survey ]

It has nothing to do with her political astuteness or even the fact that she's a lesbian. (I'd like to believe that no one considers a candidate's sexuality before voting)

It does have everything to do with history. Simply put: replacement leaders of flailing political parties have horrible records.

For example, Bill Davis ruled Ontario from 1971 to 1985 and resigned as PC leader while riding high in the polls. He was replaced by Frank Miller, who won just a minority in 1985 and eventually lost power to Liberal Premier David Peterson. Miller, it's been said, was dogged by Davis' late-term policy decision to fund Catholic schools.

Also in Ontario, Premier Mike Harris stepped-down in 2001 after his popularity took a beating in wake of the Walkerton tragedy and cuts to social services. Ernie Eves replaced Harris as premier in a PC leadership race in 2002 but wasn't able to shake-off Harris' baggage and was defeated in a general election 18 months later.

And federal examples don't bode well for the provincial Liberals either.

When Pierre Trudeau stepped down, John Turner took over as Liberal leader and lost the subsequent election to Brian Mulroney. When Mulroney jumped ship, Kim Campbell and the PCs won only two seats in the 1993 election.

Jean Chretien left 24 Sussex in 2003 with the Liberals enjoying a strong majority. Dogged by the sponsorship scandal, Paul Martin took the Liberal helm, won a minority government in 2004 but lost power in 2006.

There are exceptions to the rule — Alison Redford won an election in Alberta after taking over for Ed Stelmach and current Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger succeeded Gary Doer.

But those retired premiers didn't leave their successors with the same 'baggage' that McGuinty is leaving Wynne. From Ornge, to eHealth, to the pricey cancellation of power plants to the Bill 115, the McGuinty Liberals have a lot of baggage.

And even more damaging — unlike leadership candidates Sandra Pupatello and Gerard Kennedy — Wynne was there for all of that. In other words, Pupatello or Kennedy would probably have a better chance to defeat Tim Hudak's Conservatives or Andrea Horwath's New Democrats.

How does that old saying go: 'those that don't learn from history are destined to repeat it.'

Do you think this applies to Wynne? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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