Ontario MPP Kathleen Wynne last night upended former Ontario MPP Sandra Pupatello to become the next leader of the Ontario Liberal Party — and, accordingly, soon to become the next premier of the most populous Canadian province.
Pupatello, who was a slight favorite headed into the party convention, led on the first two ballots before Wynne clinched the leadership on the third and final ballot, with the support of the race’s original frontrunner, Gerard Kennedy, and another candidate, Charles Sousa.
That support was enough to turn the tide and it gave the leadership to Wynne on a vote of 1,150 to 866.
It also means that Wynne will become Ontario’s next premier — incumbent Dalton McGuinty is stepping down after nearly a decade as premier and after leading the Ontario Liberals to three consecutive electoral victories, albeit with a minority government in his third term. McGuinty has served as the leader of the Ontario Liberals since 1996.
Wynne defeated David Turnbull, then an incumbent Progressive Conservative minister of enterprise, in the 2003 provincial election in a municipal Toronto riding to enter the Ontario legislature a decade ago. She served as minister of education (just as Kennedy and Pupatello once did, ironically) from 2006 to 2010 before becoming minister of transportation and then minister of municipal affairs and housing and aboriginal affairs.
Wynne directly addressed the question of whether a lesbian could proceed to win an election province-wide following her win:
I want to put something on the table: Is Ontario ready for a gay premier? You’ve heard that question. You’ve all heard that question, but let’s say what that actually means: Can a gay woman win? That’s what it means….
You know, there was a time, not that long ago, when most of us in this leadership race would not have been deemed suitable. We would have been deemed unsuitable. A Portuguese-Canadian, an Indo-Canadian, an Italian-Canadian, female, gay, Catholic. Most of us could not have hoped to stand on this stage. But the province has changed. Our party has changed.
It’s a strong statement, and with Wynne’s elevation, Canada joins the vanguard of countries in the world where gay men and women have reached the pinnacle of political power. By contrast, even in relatively liberal California, the most populous U.S. state, it seems unlikely to think that voters would elect a gay governor less than a decade after former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger referred to lawmakers as ‘girly men’.
Wynne, who has three children with her former husband, came out at age 37, and has been with her current partner Jane Rounthwaite, since 1990.
So Wynne’s Saturday evening victory should be recognized for its historic importance.
But back in the world of day-to-day Ontario politics, the reality is that Wynne has a difficult task ahead of her in rejuvenating the Ontario Liberals after a decade in government if she doesn’t want to wind up as the Kim Campbell of Ontario politics.‡ Continue reading Wynne set to become highest-ranking LGBT official in Canadian history