by Allison Buchan-Terrell Monday January 28, 2013

On Saturday, January 26, Kathleen Wynne won the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party and became incoming premier, taking 1,150 votes (more than the 1,009 votes she needed) on the third ballot at the Liberal leadership convention. It was a historic moment, as Wynne will be not only Ontario's first female premier, but also the first openly-gay premier in Canadian history. Below is a sample of what the Queen's Park columnists for the Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Sun, and the National Post made of Wynne's come-from-behind victory. 

Martin Regg Cohn: Wynne’s Triumph Could Be a Game Changer

Premier Dad has been replaced by a 59-year-old grandmother who is a bold risk taker and a smart conciliator. ... She shouldn’t be underestimated. Wynne is no loser. She trounced then PC leader John Tory when he targeted her for defeat in 2007. She overcame the odds to overtake her rivals in the leadership campaign. But more importantly, she has a proven track record of winning over allies across Ontario. ...

Can she win over the province’s voters? That might take a miracle, given the accumulated grievances after a decade of Liberal rule under McGuinty. Will she grow on them? It would be a mistake to underestimate Wynne’s political smarts and emotional appeal. Like the increasingly popular Horwath, she has a high AQ — authenticity quotient — that comes through in person, but also onstage. In almost every public appearance, Wynne flubs something — a spilled glass of water, a mangled line — yet invariably turns it around as evidence of her humanity and humour. ... 

In an era of scripted politicians — McGuinty, Hudak and Horwath being peas in a pod — Wynne is an original.

Read Regg Cohn's full column.

Note that Regg Cohn will be on The Agenda on Monday to give further analysis on Wynne's victory. 

Toronto Star Editorial: A Sobering Reality

Wynne is making history as the first woman, and the first openly gay person, to serve as Ontario’s premier. ...

These are wholly welcome milestones, but the sobering reality for Wynne is that is that she is taking command of a party that has stumbled badly since Ontarians last went to the polls less than 16 months ago. The Liberal government compiled a solid record of achievement in education, health care and the environment in its first eight years, but it’s been downhill since then – with the ORNGE scandal, costly power plant cancellations, and the fumbled education file. The thousands of teachers and other workers rallying against the government outside the convention hall made clear how much Liberals have alienated even traditional allies.

With the leader’s job locked up, Wynne needs to use her energy to reframe the Liberals as a new, invigorated government that has changed the channel from the era of Premier Dalton McGuinty.

Read the full editorial.

Adam Radwanski: Winning Was The Easy Part

Ontario’s next premier has three weeks to hire her new staff, name her new cabinet, write a Speech from the Throne, kick-start an overdue budget process, find common ground with her political opponents – and put together a campaign team for a general election just in case it doesn’t all go as planned. ...

Ms. Wynne appeared to give more thought than her leadership competitors to what would happen following the convention, striking a transition team helmed by former cabinet colleague Monique Smith. Still, the reality is that during a compressed two-month campaign, almost all of her focus was on the finish line rather than what would happen after she crossed it.

She showed during the campaign that she’s highly adaptable, going from a tentative performance in the first leadership debate to a terrifically confident pitch to delegates at the convention. But as she conceded during her victory speech, winning was the easy part.

Read Radwanski's full column.

Globe and Mail Editorial: The Deficit is Job One

Ms. Wynne’s Liberals would be wise to produce an economic statement, or perhaps a new budget, sooner rather than later. There are plenty of other issues that she will want to take on, but they all pale next to the need to restrain and reduce spending.

Last week, the province’s 2012-13 deficit projection was adjusted to $11.98 billion, down from $14.4 billion last fall. The improvement was due to higher than expected corporate tax revenues and one-time savings from the elimination of banked sick days for teachers. The rating agencies are no doubt watching Ontario with interest. Wrong signals from Ms. Wynne – or worse, no clear signals at all – would threaten to provoke a selloff of provincial debt, further downgrades and higher interest payments. Were that to happen, the new premier would have to say goodbye to enhanced teacher benefits, social spending, and any other sugarplums that may be dancing in her head.

Read the full Globe and Mail editorial.

Christina Blizzard: "Premier Dragon-Slayer"

Today she’s Premier giant-killer. Premier dragon-slayer — the fearless foot soldier who takes on the heavy artillery — and wins. She was the person who defeated John Tory in her Don Valley West riding in the 2007 election. He was expected to trounce her. He didn’t. She fought — and won. Same thing happened Saturday at Maple Leaf Gardens. ... She’s one tough, smart politician who’s been underestimated all her career. Now it’s time to take her seriously.

Read Blizzard's full column.

Andrew Coyne: A Path Chosen 

Whoever had won would have had to carry the baggage of Dalton McGuinty, whose final, cynical act in a career marked by such dodges was to prorogue the legislature indefinitely rather than account for the election-eve cancellation of two gas-fired electricity plants at a cost of who knows how many millions to the taxpayers.

By choosing Wynne, the party has committed itself to a particular path out of this dilemma. Much as she emphasized her centrist credentials in the race, there isn’t much doubt that Wynne appeals more to the left than the right side of the spectrum. That’s probably just as well: McGuinty’s belated attempt to tack right, after so many years of giddy expansionism, was probably doomed. With the provincial Tories laying claim to the fiscal conservative mantle in such unambiguous terms, the Liberals risked a replay of Lyn McLeod’s disastrous attempt to cast herself as a milder version of Mike Harris.

Wynne will presumably instead attempt to steal votes from the NDP. If anyone can, she might: She proved herself an effective campaigner in the course of the leadership race, revealing a likeability to add to her acknowledged intellect and competence. But she will not find it as easy as all that. There is first the matter of avoiding defeat in the legislature, which Wynne has pledged to recall Feb. 19, notably over the coming budget. The Tories will be in no mood to co-operate, and the NDP, sensing the Liberals’ need for an agreement, will no doubt drive a hard bargain.

Read Coyne's full column.

Gord Henderson: Pupatello Loses; So Does Windsor

For Sandra Pupatello it was merely the end of a dream. For Windsor it’s the beginning of a nightmare, a long, chilly spell as designated outcast in the political wilderness of this province, far from the levers of power that brought this community countless rewards. ...

With Pupatello bounced back to Bay Street by the Toronto Liberal cabal, and with Finance Minister Dwight Duncan set to leave for a private sector post, Windsor will be without a cabinet voice in either Toronto or in the nation’s capital for the first time in a decade. With only a lowly rookie Liberal backbencher in Teresa Piruzza to speak for this area, Windsor will be an afterthought. It will be back of the bus time for our issues.

Read Henderson's full column.

Chris Vander Doelen: Leaving Politics Cost Pupatello

Sandra Pupatello’s decision to give up her seat in the Legislature two years ago cost her the leadership of the Liberal party Saturday and the premiership of Ontario with it.

Had Pupatello still had a seat at Queen’s Park and been able to govern immediately rather than wait for a byelection, MPP Charles Sousa says he would have supported her during the crucial deciding moments of the convention that instead chose Kathleen Wynne to be Ontario’s first female premier-elect. ...

Read more of Vander Doelen's column.

Here is what you, our dear viewers, had to say about Wynne's victory on Saturday.

For more of The Agenda's coverage of Ontario politics, visit our Ontario politics feature page