By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Richmond Hill native Kathleen Wynne is reaching out to Ontario’s rural hinterlands from her Toronto-centric base as she attempts to win the Liberal leadership race.
Speaking to about 50 people at the Dundas Town Hall on Friday (Jan. 18), Wynne kicked off a three-day, 20-community bus trip to various places beyond the reach of Toronto’s 905 area codes to underscore her popularity among Ontario’s rural communities.
“To say that you can’t be premier because you come from a particular city is to ignore the fact we all have stories,” said Wynne, who has lived inToronto and the Netherlands and is the Liberal MPP for Don Valley West.
“The job of the premier is to understand the whole province,” she said. “Every candidate comes from some place.”
Wynne is a close second behind former Liberal MPP Sandra Pupatello following the Jan. 12-13 delegate vote. The candidates are jockeying for the leadership finish scheduled for Jan. 25-26 inToronto. The delegates are required to support their preferred candidate on the first ballot only. After that, they are free to vote for whomever they wish.
Pupatello, who does not have a seat in the legislature, has been saying she would be tougher in a fight against the NDP and the Progressive Conservatives. In last week’s vote, Pupatello won the most delegates from the Niagara to Burlington area, while Wynne took Hamilton. Mississauga-Erindale MPP Harinder Takhar placed a close third.
Wynne points out she won the majority of the rural delegates across Ontario, a recognition of her wide appeal. In addition, she has promised to take over the agricultural portfolio and create a super ministry to assist Ontario’s rural communities.
“That was Ted (McMeekin’s) idea,” she said.
McMeekin, Ontario’s agricultural minister, has thrown his support behind the former Education and Municipal Affairs minister. Other Hamilton support for Wynne is coming from Javid Mirza Hamilton Mountain, Barbara Miller Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale, Donna Tiqui-Shebib of Hamilton Centre, Vito Sgro of Hamilton East-Stoney Creek, Former Liberal MPP Judy Marsales, Herman Turkstra, and Hamilton Police Services Board chair Nancy DiGregorio. Accompanying Wynne to Dundas was Liberal MPP Glen Murray, who dropped out of the race, and backed the former school board trustee’s leadership bid.
Wynne told the crowd she will work with both opposition parties, and if selected as leader, will return the legislature back to work on Feb. 19. If Pupatello wins, she needs to have a by-election to get re-elected to the legislature, which could further prorogue the legislature.
“I have a seat,” she said. “I’m able to bring people together. I will reach out to Tim (Hudak, leader of the Tories) and Andrea (Horwath, leader of the NDP).”
And while Pupatello is discussing possible cabinet posts with her colleagues, Wynne said she is keeping the “lines of communications open” with her opponents rather than making any promises.
“I want to build my cabinet in one process,” she said. “I don’t want to build it on the campaign trail. I want to build my cabinet with integrity.”
Wynne’s bus campaign will drive through such rural areas as Waterloo, Stratford, Sarnia, Collingwood, Barrie, Orillia, and Kawartha.
Also in the race are Gerard Kennedy, Charles Sousa, and Eric Hoskins.