Kathleen Wynne poised to become Ontario’s next premier

Matthew Coutts
National Affairs Reporter
Canada Politics

Kathleen Wynne is poised to become Ontario’s first female premier, setting herself up for victory at the Ontario Liberal leadership convention Saturday evening.

Wynne rallied support through the day after entering the convention in second place. She pulled within two votes of the lead on the first ballot, behind only former provincial representative Sandra Pupatello.

The 10-year Member of Provincial Parliament, who held several cabinet positions during Dalton McGuinty’s time in power, celebrated diversity and inclusivity during her leadership campaign. She worked to position herself as a Liberal leader, and premier, who could take on Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives and NDP in the next general election.

Wynne was always at or near the front of the pack during the leadership race. Early numbers placed her near the front of a crowded list of candidates and she picked up the support of exiting Glen Murray at what seemed to be a pivotal moment.

The balance tilted further in her favour when Dr. Eric Hoskins, the first candidate removed from the ballot, threw his support in her direction. By the time the first round of voting was counted on Saturday, Wynne had caught up and sat in a virtual tie for lead, with just two votes separating her from Pupatello.

[ Related: Sousa, Kennedy drop out, throw support behind Kathleen Wynne ]

Still, Pupatello picked up an early endorsement from resigning candidate Harinder Takhar. She extended her lead in the second round of voting. But the surge was short lived.

Remaining candidates Charles Sousa and Gerard Kennedy pulled out of the contest and endorsed Wynne. A final woman-against-woman vote was held, but the writing was already on the wall.

The ballots have not yet been counted, but Kathleen Wynne appears set to become the next leader of the Ontario Liberal Party. She would be sworn in as premier at a later date.

“Ms. Wynne has the best chance of being able to renew the party the way it has to be done,” Kennedy told Yahoo! Canada News. “I am hopeful she will make the changes that will get Ontarians interested, and eventually really enthusiastic about a new Liberal approach.

“She is a premier people will relate to in the sense of someone who pays very close attention to people. She respects and loves working with people, and she is going to be able to put together a different kind of agenda.”

[ Related: Ontario Liberal leadership candidates make pitch to be premier ]

Wynne, a former public school trustee, first joined provincial politics in 2003 when she successfully beat Conservative David Turnbull in Toronto’s Don Valley West riding. She was in her fourth term when legislature was prorogued in October and McGuinty announced his retirement.

Wynne famously staved off a targeted political attack in 2007, when PC leader John Tory, then without a seat, challenged her in a byelection and lost. Handily. She has held several high-ranking cabinet positions, including minister of education and minister of transportation. She has long been among the party’s inner core, and now she is at its centre.

If she holds on to win the Ontario Liberal leadership, not only does she become the province’s first female premier, she becomes Canada’s first openly gay premier. Wynne downplayed that point throughout the leadership race, saying she hoped to be selected based on her merits.

“When I ran in 2003, I was told that the people of North Toronto and the people of Thorncliffe Park weren’t ready for a gay woman. Well, apparently they were,” Wynne said during in opening convention speech.

“[T]his province has changed. Our party has changed. I don’t believe the people of Ontario judge their leaders on the basis of race, colour or sexual orientation. I don’t believe they hold that prejudice in their hearts.”

The mother of three is highly-educated and holds Master's degrees in linguistics and adult education. She and her partner Jane Rounthwaite are long-time residents of Toronto and passionate Ontarians.

She is now a single ballot-count away from leading the province.

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