Kathleen Wynne promises to keep a steady hand on the tiller should the Toronto MPP win the race to succeed Dalton McGuinty as premier of Ontario.
Wynne told about 40 local Liberals at the Best Western Brant Park Inn on Friday that she would build on the foundation laid during the last nine years of Liberal rule, while bringing a more “outgoing and gregarious” approach to governance and welcoming voices from throughout the province and across the political spectrum.
“I will have the privilege of building on the fundamentals put in place over the last nine years,” Wynne said. “We’ve done some very good things as government. Yes, there are challenges, and we have to learn from them.”
The ongoing labour dispute with the province’s “disenchanted” public teachers has been marked by what Wynne called an “absence of respectful dialogue.”
She admitted that her government mishandled the timing of the dispute and did not establish a clear bargaining process. But, Wynne added, conflict is not a bad thing if it leads to a successful resolution.
“When the going gets tough, that’s exactly when you have to have those difficult conversations,” she said.
As Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Wynne tried to get native, provincial and federal representative around the same table to discuss land claims and other issues.
“It’s fine to talk about mediation and conciliation, but unless you have everybody talking, it’s hard for that to happen,” she said. “The federal government, I will say, is not always willing to be there.”
Wynne’s approach to negotiations with First Nations groups is to focus on manageable issues rather than have the scope of the conversation broaden beyond what can be coherently addressed, as she said can sometimes happen.
“I think the Idle No More movement is a bit of a warning sign” that better engagement with First Nations is needed, she said.
Wynne has a particular interest in Northern Ontario, and would strike a Northern cabinet and hold a cabinet meeting in the North within 30 days of taking office. Partnerships with Northern native groups will be essential if that region is to develop its natural resources, she said.
Regarding job creation, Wynne said she believes government’s main role is to create favourable conditions for private sector investment. Across the province, investments in co-operative education and skills training will prepare workers for the new economy, she said.
When she chaired the party’s women’s caucus, Wynne led the development of the provincial poverty strategy. She said the current social assistance system is broken and needs to be revamped “rationally” so that services such as Ontario Disability Support Program and Ontario Works are delivered effectively.
Wynne would also resurrect the youth advisory council she created as minister to bring the voice of the province’s young people into the premier’s office.
“I think challenging the status quo is the most important thing young people can do,” she said.