Political history was made in Toronto last night when Kathleen Wynne became the first female and openly gay leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario. When Lynne assumes the office of Premier of Ontario early next week, she will join five other female premiers in Canada
Wynne, an openly gay woman, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Queens University, a Master of Arts from the University of Toronto, a Master of Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies and Education and has completed a one week course in mediation at Harvard University. She is the mother of three children, formerly married to Phil Cowperthwaite.
She came out as being gay at age 37 and lives with her partner Jane Rounthwaite. On her way to becoming Ontario's first gay premier, she gave a remarkable speech at the convention on Saturday morning, the words of which will be remembered long after they were spoken.
Kathleen Wynne said: I want to put something on the table: Is Ontario ready for a gay premier? You’ve heard that question. You’ve all heard that question, but let’s say what that actually means: Can a gay woman win? That’s what it means.
Not surprisingly, I have an answer to that question. When I ran in 2003, I was told that the people of North Toronto and the people of Thorncliffe Park weren’t ready for a gay woman. Well, apparently they were.
You know, there was a time, not that long ago, when most of us in this leadership race would not have been deemed suitable. We would have been deemed unsuitable. A Portuguese-Canadian, an Indo-Canadian, an Italian-Canadian, female, gay, Catholic. Most of us could not have hoped to stand on this stage. But the province has changed. Our party has changed.
Wynne has represented the Toronto riding of Don Valley West since 2003 and has held portfolios in transportation, education and aboriginal affairs in outgoing Premier Dalton McGuinty's cabinet. Wynn first took a run at political office in 1994, in attempt to become a school trustee, but was defeated. In her second attempt in 2000, she was elected public school trustee
in Toronto's Ward 8.
During the campaign she was labelled an "extremist lesbian" in literature distributed by the "Concerned Citizens of North York and North Toronto". This was a ratepayer group that also supported Karen Stintz in her campaign against local councillor Anne Johnston. She strongly opposed cuts to public education mandated by the Conservative government.
In 2001, she helped pass a measure encouraging public schools to purchase teaching materials reflecting the presence of gay and lesbian parents in modern society. In December 2001, Wynne ran for chair of the school board but was defeated by Donna Cansfield in a 12-10 vote.
After the final tally, which resulted in 56% of delegates for Ms. Wynne and 44% for Ms. Pupatello, was in just before 8:30 p.m. EST, Wynne said:
“Believe it or not, this was the easy part. We are going to need all of you working together. We have to be ready at any moment to into a campaign."
Wynne also made reference to her being from Toronto, but assured the public that she would be the premier of all 137 Ontario ridings.
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper
in a short congratulatory statement thanked outgoing Premier Dalton McGuinty for his service and congratulated Wynne.
“I look forward to working with Ms. Wynne on addressing issues that matter to Ontarians, and in particular the creation of jobs and economic growth,”
Alison Redford, Alberta's premier, congratulated Wynn and hoped to be able to work with her on a national energy strategy in pursuit of prospering economies in Canada, Ontario and Alberta.
Wynne, who said that she would be at Queen's Park on Tuesday, has vowed to reconvene the Ontario parliament on February 19.