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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Ontario’s Grits choose McGuinty’s replacement Jan 25

The Ontario Liberal party will select a new leader at a delegated convention this weekend in Toronto. There are six candidates to replace the retiring Dalton McGuinty: former Windsor-West MPP Sandra Pupatello, former education minister Kathleen Wynne, former MPP and MP Gerard Kennedy, former government services minister Harinder Takhar, former labour minister Charles Sousa and former children’s services minister Eric Hoskins. NB: Candidates had to resign cabinet portfolios before registering for the race.

Front-runner Pupatello, who quit politics in 2011, would get my vote, if I had one. She’s has 27.4 percent of the delegates committed to vote for her on the first ballot and, I believe, can count on most of Harinder Takhar’s 13.3 per cent to move to her side when he inevitably pulls out.

Takhar’s campaign has been mortally wounded by a recent news story regarding his family’s business interests, which has reminded delegates of his conflict of interest scandal of 2006. Who needs a new premier already tainted by scandal?

Hard on Pupatello’s heels is Kathleen Wynne, who represents Toronto Don Valley-West. Wynne has 25.2 per cent of delegates committed on the first ballot. She can almost certainly count on Kennedy’s 14 per cent should the former federal MP not make a strong showing in the early ballots.

Kennedy’s only hope for success lies in making a run up the middle, if and when the two front runners stall. I doubt, however, that he has the popular support among party faithful to pull this off.

Gerard Kennedy’s candidature smacks of opportunism and there’s a whiff of political-looser about the man: he lost the 1996 leadership race to McGuinty, lost a 2006 bid for the federal Liberal leadership and, more recently, lost his seat in the last federal election. I assume these guys will be looking for a winner to take on Tim Hudak and Andrea Horwath as early as this spring, some believe.

I don’t see either Charles Sousa or Eric Hoskins making it beyond the second ballot, if that far. They are probably only running to increase their profile within the party and to secure a plum spot at the new cabinet table.

Pupatello is the most fiscally conservative of the lot. She’s plain spoken and shows pluck, though, she could turn out to be a pushover when it comes to organized labour’s interests. And that worries me…a lot!

Kathleen Wynne, on the other hand, is so left-of-centre one wonders why she didn’t contest the last NDP leadership. With the province’s finances and economy in such disarray, we can’t afford her. After all, she more than most seemed to stand shoulder to shoulder with McGuinty as they spent the province into have-not territory without a backward glance. Remember readers, she was one of the big guns at the table when the Grits cancelled those two electricity plants—$1-billion or more of wasted tax dollars.

To this conservative, Sandra Pupatello seems the lesser of the evils.

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