TORONTO – Delegates to Ontario’s Liberal leadership convention in Toronto have given the province its first woman and openly gay premier – all in one bold stroke.
Kathleen Wynne came from behind to take the leadership of the governing party from front-runner Sandra Pupatello after three rounds of balloting, Saturday.
The results of the third ballot were:
Kathleen Wynne – 1,150
Sandra Pupatello – 866
Wynne was trailing Pupatello in the first two rounds of balloting, but the endorsements by candidates Charles Sousa and Gerard Kennedy, who dropped out after Round 2, undoubtedly helped propel her to final victory.
Wynne, 59, was first elected to the Ontario Legislature in 2003
In 2007, she defeated Ontario Progressive Conservative leader John Tory to earn a second term.
She was re-elected in 2011 by a wide margin.
In cabinet, Wynne has served as minister of education, minister of transportation, minister of municipal affairs and housing and minister of aboriginal affairs.
Wynne has three children. She lives with her partner, Jane.
In her address to the convention prior to Saturday’s voting, Wynne renewed her commitment to reconvene the Legislature on Feb. 19.
Premier Dalton McGuinty adjourned the Legislature last fall when he announced his decision to step down after a leadership convention.
Speaking to delegates, Wynne said: “The past three months have been about ideas, renewal, and excitement.
“Now, as a party, we will take that vision, that momentum, and transform it into a brighter future. The best way to do that is to keep governing, because Ontarians don’t want an election. They expect us to lead.”
Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak released a statement shortly after Wynne’s victory, offering his congratulations.
“On behalf of my colleagues in the Ontario PC Caucus, I want to extend my sincere congratulations to Kathleen Wynne who will become our 25th Premier, following her election today to the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party,” Hudak said.
“Come Monday, I will be in my office and looking forward to a meeting with Premier Wynne.
Hudak, MPP for Niagara West-Glanbrook, continued: “More importantly, I will be hoping to see that the Premier understands what must be done on creating jobs and reducing spending, and has a clear plan to do it. A good first step to demonstrating a willingness to take action would be to recall the Legislature immediately.”
Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath also offered her congratulations.
“On behalf of Ontario New Democrats, I would like to congratulate Kathleen Wynne on winning the Liberal leadership race and thank all of the candidates for their time and effort,” Horwath said in a statement.
“Public life, and politics especially, can be difficult work and people who engage in it deserve our thanks.
Added Horwath: “Now, more than ever it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work on the challenges facing Ontario families. I urge the incoming Premier to recall the Legislature without delay so that MPPs of all stripes can do the job Ontarians elected us to do. We need to take a constructive approach to create and protect good-paying jobs, improve healthcare and education, and take a balanced approach to balancing the books.”
Speaking with Bullet News by telephone moments after Wynne’s victory, Niagara Falls MPP Kim Craitor said he hopes to meet with her as soon as possible to talk about the priorities in his riding.
Craitor said he wants to extract a commitment from the woman who will become the next premier for support for the Fort Erie Race Track and the plan to build a new hospital for south Niagara.
Craitor also said he wants Wynne to say ‘no’ to a proposed Toronto casino.
Craitor had publicly supported Gerard Kennedy, who placed third in the leadership contest.
One of his reasons for supporting Kennedy was that candidates commitment to renewing the party and giving more power to MPPs to represent their constituents.
During the interview, Craitor recalled McGuinty’s words when he stepped down, saying it’s time to renew the Liberal party.
In Craitor’s view, a big part of that renewal means it’s time for new blood at the cabinet table.
“I don’t want to see the same faces sitting in the front row at Queen’s Park,” Craitor said.
Joyce Morocco, a Niagara Falls councillor and former federal Liberal candidate, said she supported Pupatello but thinks Wynne will make a good premier.
“I thought Sandra had more experience, and she was always very helpful when we talked to her about Niagara issues,” Morocco said Saturday on her way home from Toronto. “But (Wynne) had a great team and ran a great campaign. It was so exciting to watch – it was history in the making.
“As a woman, it was gratifying to see these two women in front the whole day. The men – none of them ever led at all. So now we have our first female premier. That’s something we should all be proud of.”
Morocco said she hopes an election will be months off, but said chatter around the convention floor at Maple Leaf Gardens was of an early vote. Morocco said that may just have been the excitement of the day talking.
“I hope the momentum keeps growing and continues, but I do think the party has a few things to work on before an election. I don’t think the public really wants one right now.”
Second ballot results were as follows:
Sandra Pupatello: 817
Kathleen Wynne: 750
Gerard Kennedy: 285
Charles Sousa: 203
Harinder Takhar: 18