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Kathleen Wynne wins Ontario Liberal leadership and makes history

January 27, 2013


For Kathleen Wynne, nothing in the months ahead will come as easily as her convincing and ground-breaking victory as leader of the Ontario Liberal party. So bask for a day or two in well-deserved triumph, because a long, hard road awaits.

Wynne is making history as the first woman, and the first openly gay person, to serve as Ontario’s premier. Indeed, both Wynne and her closest rival Sandra Pupatello led the campaign from the start, leaving their male competitors to play bit parts in the leadership drama. “We had the guys on the run,” as Pupatello joked.

In this, Ontario is just playing catch-up. Wynne joins five other women serving as premiers from Nunavut to Newfoundland, governing more than 80 per cent of Canadians. It’s a remarkable and long overdue makeover in national politics.

These are wholly welcome milestones, but the sobering reality for Wynne is that is that she is taking command of a party that has stumbled badly since Ontarians last went to the polls less than 16 months ago. The Liberal government compiled a solid record of achievement in education, health care and the environment in its first eight years, but it’s been downhill since then – with the ORNGE scandal, costly power plant cancellations, and the fumbled education file. The thousands of teachers and other workers rallying against the government outside the convention hall made clear how much Liberals have alienated even traditional allies.

With the leader’s job locked up, Wynne needs to use her energy to reframe the Liberals as a new, invigorated government that has changed the channel from the era of Premier Dalton McGuinty. She could start by moving aside some of the old stalwarts from the McGuinty cabinet, unlocking the fresh talent and ideas on the Liberal back benches. Promoting promising up and comers, such as MPPs Soo Wong, Yasir Naqvi and Bas Balkissoon, would be an important step towards showing voters that the Liberals are listening to Ontarians’ demands for change. Read full article>>