Incoming premier vows to work with opposition
TORONTO—Working with the opposition parties, repairing relations with teachers, and dealing with the Liberal government’s past mistakes are some of the top priorities for the woman who will become Ontario’s first female premier.
Kathleen Wynne, 59, won the Liberal leadership Saturday while thousands of union activists and teachers angry over having contracts imposed on them protested outside the party’s convention at the old Maple Leaf Gardens.
“I’m not going to rip up those contracts, but I’ve also been very clear that we have to engage in a conversation about extra-curriculars,” she told reporters yesterday.
Wynne, who also will be Canada’s first openly-gay premier, said she hopes her historic victory will give a message of hope to young gay people, but added she’s not a gay activist and that’s not why she entered politics.
Wynne said she wants to try to keep the minority government alive by working with the Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats rather than have a general election, and had a “very good” initial conversation with Opposition leader Tim Hudak late Saturday night.
“Tim and I have always had a pretty collegial interaction with each other,” she noted.
“I’m sure that will get more formal, but it was a good opening conversation and I’m going to take that at face value.
“I will sit down with him and hope that we can find a way to have a conversation on the things that we can agree on,” Wynne added.
The Conservatives opposed every initiative by the minority Liberal government except for Bill 115, which imposed contracts on teachers, and indicated yesterday they’re not going to change tactics—launching attack ads calling Wynne “another Liberal Ontario can’t afford.”
The Tories said Wynne doesn’t seem concerned about Ontario’s huge deficit and jobs shortage, and warned she won’t be able to escape the problems that plagued the government since it was reduced to a minority in October, 2011.
“I think the past is not going to go away,” said PC critic Vic Fedelli.
“The auditor general will be bringing the gas plants scandal, the Mississauga portion of it, to the legislature very soon, and the criminal investigation into Ornge is being done by the OPP, and that will come to the legislature,” he noted.
The New Democrats also warned Wynne would have to deal with the problems McGuinty left behind.
“They have a nine-year record that’s hard to run away from,” said NDP House leader Gilles Bisson.
“How is everything that people felt about the Liberal party different this morning than it was last night when Mr. McGuinty was still their premier?”
Ontarians don’t want a general election, they want their politicians to work together on issues, countered Wynne.
“The rancour and the viciousness of the legislature can’t continue,” she stressed.
“We absolutely have to continue to work out our disagreements.
“What I’m hoping is that, if we can build a relationship among the three party leaders and among the three caucuses, we’ll be able to have that debate without the poison of that real viciousness,” she added.
Wynne, who will hold her first caucus meeting tomorrow, said she hasn’t had time to start talking to people about building her cabinet, nor arrange a time for the transition in power.
But she will recall the prorogued legislature by Feb. 19.