Yahoo! Exclusive: Ontario Liberal MPP Kathleen Wynne relishes role as insider in leadership race

Ontario MPP Kathleen Wynne was among the first to announce her candidacy to replace Dalton McGuinty as leader of the Ontario Liberal Party and premier of Ontario. The nine-year veteran of Queen's Park spoke with Yahoo! Canada News this week about McGuinty's prorogation of legislature, the next provincial election and Trudeaumania 2.0.

Here are some excerpts from her interview with Yahoo! Canada News:

Y! Canada: You were among the first to join the leadership race but now it's getting to be a crowded bus. How do you plan to separate yourself from Glen (Murray), Sandra (Pupatello) as well as Charles Souza and Gerrard Kennedy, all of whom you've been closely aligned with in the past?

Wynne: I have a great deal of respect for all of them. That is the thing about leadership races. It is a competition among friends. It is a great opportunity to exchange ideas. It is a process of renewal that will allow us to synthesize a whole bunch of new thoughts and come up with a solid vision for a liberal, progressive Ontario moving forward.

Y! Canada: But you still have to differentiate yourself, or stand out in some way. And there is a chance, with this being a minority government, that this race will be quickly followed by a provincial election.

Wynne: That is why this discussion is so important. We are not only creating a vision, we are also creating a platform potentially going into an election. That is very much a part of this dynamic.

As for the differentiation, we are all different people with different styles. I think what I bring to the table is the ability to bring people to the table and to, in a very straight-forward way, deal with complex problems. I am not afraid to talk about the complexity of issues. I am not interested in boiling down complex issues to simplistic sound bites.

Y! Canada: Speaking of boiling down complex issues, how do you view the McGuinty Liberal government's track record going into this race, and what role will it play in the debate?

Wynne: I think we have done a very good job on the big issues we came into government to resolve. The rebuilding of the education system, the rebuilding and improvement of the health care system. We have great outcomes — 81 per cent of kids are graduating from high school and there was 68 per cent graduating when we came into office. That is a huge increase.

… I think we got those things very right and we need to build on those foundations. Obviously there is part of that legacy that we are going to need to deal with if we look at some of the relationships, particularly with teachers and labour. One of the first things the new premier is going to need to do is bring people into the office around a table and say, "how are we going to repair this relationship?" We can't continue to improve the education system unless we have a good working relationship with the sector.

Y! Canada: While the Liberals are selecting a new leader the two opposition parties are hammering at you, free will. One of the main issues is the proroguing of the legislature. What is your position on McGuinty's decision to do that and when would you get Queen's Park back in action?

Wynne: We were in a situation where the legislature wasn't functioning and the premier did what he needed to do. I really agree with Glen Murray, who said February 19 is the date as scheduled that we should bring the legislature back. I have been very clear that bringing the legislature back as soon as possible is what needs to happen. No one is really comfortable with the House not sitting, so I think the new premier needs to act as quickly as possible to get the legislature open.

Y! Canada: One of the latest to join the race is Gerrard Kennedy, a former Ontario MPP but more recently a federal MP. He has positioned himself an "outsider" with no connection to the sins of the past. Does this make you an insider, and do you consider that a bad thing?

Wynne: I have stuck with the government. I have been a minister since 2003, I have held a number of portfolios and I have a good working knowledge of how this government operates. Mr. Gerrard is a friend, he is a colleague. I have worked very closely with him and his voice enriches the debate. But I think there are benefits of having been part of the discussion for the past nine years.

Y! Canada: On another note, what is your take on the federal Liberal leadership race? Have you been swept up in Justin Trudeau-mania?

Wynne: Have I been swept up in Trudeau-mania 2? I think he's a great young man. I haven't turned my thoughts to endorsing in the federal race. Justin's voice is a really healthy breath of fresh air. He's younger than I am but he is not a child. He has got a fair bit of experience and I think we should pay attention to his ideas.