Before diving into the politics of Kathleen Wynne's unprecedented victory in the Ontario Liberal Leadership Convention Saturday, can we take a moment to acknowledge this game changer? Ontarians now have their first female Premier, and more than that, Canada has it's first ever LGBT Premier. When she's sworn in, Wynne will be the sixth female Premier current serving in Canada, which means that 3 out of 5 provinces are governed by women. And in Ontario's soon to be re-opened Legislature, 2 out of 3 of the parties with seats there will be fronted by a woman.
Honestly, if you can't leave aside partisanship and politics for a moment to take a step back and truly appreciate the historic relevance of these benchmarks, then I'm afraid there's no hope for you. You're clearly too big an ideologue and I pity you because you may hate the brand, you may hate the policy, but you can't not admit, that the Ontario of this Monday morning truly awakened in the 21st century.
But this blog is called Politico, and deal with the politics we shall.
First, to all my Conservative friends who were already planning their victory parties, not so fast. The continuing key to Liberal strength is urban centres, and if you don't think Canada's first lesbian Premier isn't going to play well in those places, then you may not be as finely tuned to the pulse as you think you are. If anything, Wynne is a threat to the NDP and Andrea Horwath, or vice versa. If Wynne comes out of the gate strong to mend fences with typical Liberal constituencies that have felt betrayed by the recent actions of the McGuinty government, the Grits may not be as vulnerable as previously believed.
The one now caught in the sticky-wicket may be NDP leader Horwath. A poll released over the weekend showed Horwath in a strong, first place position in opinion polls amongst Ontarians with 34 per cent. Tim Hudak and the Progressive Conservatives were second with 31 and a the Liberals behind in third. Sandra Pupatello, Wynne's nearest competition and once the presumptive Premier-Designate, struck out with those polled at 26 per cent, while Gerrard Kennedy did the best against Hudak and Horwath with 31 per cent, still a third place finish, but a little more of a horse race.
So why might things be tough for Horwath? She sits on the top perch, but a lot of that popularity is based on her attempts to reach out and work across the floor with the Liberals as McGuinty defiantly ruled like a man with a majority. With a new leader in place, one who also might be willing to work across party lines, it would be hypocritical now for Horwath to take her outstretched hand away. Plus, Wynne bends more to the progressive side of left than McGuinty, which automatically should make co-operation easier, especially if Wynne makes those overtures to labour. Which leaves...
Tim Hudak. Out in the cold. Again. Theoretically, Bill 115 should have been in the Tories wheel house, but Hudak can't be seen working across party lines. On the flip side, Hudak's had difficulty connecting his own policy ideas to the public, which is a continuation of the PC leader's ongoing troubles in trying to make a case for himself and his party with the electorate, and indeed Hudak still stings from the loss in 2011, a race which he led handily early on and has yet to been able to recapture despite two by-elections and widespread disdain for the Liberals. At present Hudak has not much to gain, but not much to lose by pulling the plug on the Legislature.
So I think it's safe to say that there's not much chance of an election this coming spring unless things go from bad to worse for the new Liberal government under Wynne. At least the Premier-Designate has breathing room for the time being, with the real test of a new era, and a new era of civility, coming when the Legislature opens on February 19. Sure, there's still anger about proroguing, teachers contracts, power plants and all the other issues that, admittedly, made McGuinty think he was forced to shutter Queen's Park in the first place, but nationwide protests didn't affect Stephen Harper's fortune at the ballot box when he prorogued Parliament. Mostly, people want their government to get down to business and get that business done. Perhaps if Liberals make it that far, they'll live to Wynne again. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)