Kathleen Wynne declared Ontario Liberal leader, province's next premier

Kathleen Wynne is congratulated by outgoing Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty REUTERS/Mark Blinch
Kathleen Wynne has been declared the winner of the Ontario Liberal leadership convention Saturday evening and will now become Ontario’s first female premier.

Wynne rallied support from party faithfuls 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.

"This is going to be a great government and we are going to build on the legacy of Dalton. We are going to build on the work that Dalton McGuinty has done over the last nine years," Wynne said after being declared the next party leader.

'This was the easy part'

Wynne was always at or near the front of the pack during the leadership race. Early numbers placed her among the leaders 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.

Leadership candidate Kathleen Wynne (centre R) celebrates. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

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.

Kathleen Wynne was declared Ontario Liberal Party leader after beating Pupatello 1150 delegate votes to 866 votes on the final, third, ballot. She will 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.”

Wynne speaks to Ontario Liberals

[ 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.

[ More Political Points: Wynne may not be premier for too long ]

By winning 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.

Now, she leads the province.

“Believe it or not, this was the easy part,” said Wynne. “Now we have the challenge ahead of us.”

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