As Kathleen Wynne became the first female premier-designate in Ontario’s history on Saturday, Brant politicians and candidates of all political stripes pushed for a swift return of MPPs to work at Queen’s Park.
Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and Brant MPP Dave Levac said he believes Wynne is prepared to serve the province as premier and leader of the Ontario Liberal Party. Levac congratulated Wynne and all Liberal leadership candidates on a “great campaign.”
“I believe Kathleen is up to the challenge,” Levac said during an interview on Sunday. “She has signalled a co-operative nature that could help the legislature get down to business.”
A long-time Liberal cabinet minister and MPP representing the Toronto riding of Don Valley West, Wynne defeated fellow leadership contender Sandra Pupatello, a former Windsor West MPP, on the third ballot at the Liberal Party’s weekend leadership convention in Toronto.
Wynne won 1,150 delegate votes compared to Pupatello’s 866.
In a media release issued on Sunday, Wynne said the Liberal leadership race was about “ideas, renewal and excitement” and noted that Ontario residents “don’t want an election.”
“Now, as a party, we will take that vision, that momentum and transform it into a brighter future,” Wynne said. “The best way to build on our tremendous success is to keep governing because Ontarians don’t want an election. They expect us to lead.”
Wynne said the legislature will resume sitting on Feb. 19.
The expected return of MPPs to the legislature comes after a nearly four-month prorogation that began when outgoing premier Dalton McGuinty announced his intention to resign on Oct. 15 last year.
Levac said Wynne has the personal characteristics and political experience needed to be an effective premier.
“I believe she is a good listener, is intelligent and has the ability to do the job,” Levac said. “The historic nature of her win cannot ever be taken away. Now, it is up to her. Any experience in cabinet is a bonus and she has served as minister of education, aboriginal affairs and municipal affairs and housing.”
Wynne is also capable of helping trim Ontario’s deficit, Levac said.
“Kathleen constantly questioned (Liberal finance minister Dwight Duncan) and urged him to learn more about the direction and practices of the party regarding economic decisions,” Levac said. “I believe she will focus on tackling the deficit and the debt.”
Brant Ontario Progressive Conservative candidate Phil Gillies said it is high time for MPPs to get back to work.
“The legislature has not been sitting since mid-October and we need to get the people’s representatives back to work,” Gillies said.
Gillies congratulated Wynne, but noted that she is part of the legacy of the McGuinty government.
“(Wynne) was at the cabinet table for years of the McGuinty government,” Gillies said. “She carries some responsibility for the McGuinty legacy – a legacy of debt and waste. She was part of the decision-making that led to the problems Ontario is having now.”
In a media release issued on Sunday, Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath congratulated Wynne on her victory, but urged the premier-designate to recall MPPs to Queen’s Park as early as possible.
“Now, more than ever, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work on the challenges facing Ontario families,” Horwath said. “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.”
- With files from the Toronto Star