By Amber Daugherty
Time is already ticking for Kathleen Wynne, Ontario’s new premier-designate. With Saturday’s celebration behind her, Wynne has already rolled up her sleeves as she begins working to accomplish everything needed in the next three weeks.
Boxes to be checked off her to-do list before ending the prorogation of Parliament on Feb. 19 include choosing a chief of staff, writing a speech from the throne, choosing her cabinet, narrowing her focus and attempting to mend frosty relationships with teachers and public sector workers
And the Don Valley West MPP has to do all of this with the entire province watching her, some of whom weren’t expecting her to win.
“The result just flabbergasted me,” Nelson Wiseman, an associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto, told Humber News on Monday. “I did not expect her to win. I thought Sandra Pupatello had it in the bag.”
On Saturday night after it was announced Wynne would be the next premier, she said she would need the help of other candidates to achieve the party’s goals.
“We’re going to need all the ideas that came out of this campaign,” she said. “We’re going to need to put them together. We’re going to need to weave together a platform because we’re going to have to be ready at any moment to go into a campaign.”
Wynne won with 1150 votes to Pupatello’s 866. Wynne’s success is big news for many reasons. She’s Ontario’s first female premier and Canada’s first openly gay politician.
“We get to a point where we say it’s about time,” Jane Arscott, co-editor of the upcoming book Stalled: The Representation of Women in Canadian Governments, told Humber News about seeing two women – Pupatello and Wynne – lead the top of the pack at the convention.
Arscott said though it’s hard to say exactly what differences a woman brings to the job than a man would, there are some noticeable ones in Alberta where she lives.
“Here we have both a woman premier and a woman leader of the opposition and we do find the discussion is more policy-based; it’s less personal,” she said.
If a gay woman can make it, maybe an aboriginal person can make it.”
The issue of being gay, however, is something that’s drawing more attention. But Wynne said Sunday during a media scrum that she’s not going to discuss it to any great extent.
“I’m not a gay activist,” she said. “I’m not going to spend the next months talking about this.”
Either way, Arscott said, it might end up helping the party.
“It’s probably a plus because if a gay woman can make it, maybe an aboriginal person can make it, or a person whose English is inflected by their country of origin or some other language that is their maternal language,” she said.
What Wynne definitely will be speaking about are the big issues right now – Ontario’s $11.9-billion deficit, the debate between teachers and the province over the controversial Bill 115, and answering questions about the cancellation of two major gas plants that McGuinty faced fire over before his resignation.
One of the other major challenges for Wynne is convincing PC leader Tim Hudak, or NDP leader Andrea Horvath to work with her.
“I think the biggest challenge at one level, is making sure she can get one of the other opposition parties to support her on the throne speech and on the budget,” Robert Drummond, professor of political science at York University, told Humber News. “That will require some negotiation with either or both of them.”
The conservative party has already made it quite clear they’re not going to make that easy. The first attack ads aimed at Wynne came out on the radio a day after the convention ended, saying she’s a Liberal “Ontario can’t afford.”
Wynne has so far responded by saying she won’t react negatively to the ad, and that she has work to do.
During Saturday’s speech, she made it clear she has goals ahead.
“It’s about taking the momentum that we have built up and forging that bright future,” she said. “It’s about getting back to the legislature, getting to work, working with the opposition and demonstrating to the people of Ontario that we can govern in a minority parliament.”