Ontario’s incoming premier Kathleen Wynne owes her election victory to a rival who played queenmaker and to her game-changing speech at this weekend’s Liberal leadership convention.
Ms. Wynne started out on Saturday in a tight, two-way race to succeed Premier Dalton McGuinty, and ultimately won the support of all but one of her second-tier rivals. But the pivotal moment came just before 5 p.m. when Charles Sousa crossed the convention floor to Ms. Wynne’s side, all but guaranteeing she would overtake Sandra Pupatello on the third and final ballot.
Mr. Sousa’s right-of-centre leanings made him a more natural ally of Ms. Pupatello, a former MPP who had said repeatedly during the leadership campaign that she was all about jobs and the economy.
But what persuaded him to back Ms. Wynne instead is the fact that she has a seat in the legislature and is pledging to recall it on Feb. 19. Ms. Pupatello said the legislature would remain prorogued until she had a seat, and there was no guarantee she could win in a by-election.
“Sandra’s great,” Mr. Sousa told reporters on Sunday. “But there was the drawback that we would have to go to a by-election and that we would still be talking politics and I want to be talking about governing.”
Liberal sources said Ms. Wynne made no promises to her rivals in return for their backing. But they say Mr. Sousa is hoping his 20 years experience at one of Canada’s Big Six banks will land him the plum job of finance minister.
Mr. Sousa said his interest in the economy complements the left-of-centre Ms. Wynne’s “social conscience.”
He acknowledged that he was the wild card who kept his rivals guessing about whether he would back Ms. Wynne or Ms. Pupatello.
Mr. Sousa spent much of the day Saturday holed up in a makeshift office in a washroom at Maple Leaf Gardens, where he met with Eric Hoskins, before Dr. Hoskins moved to Ms. Wynne after the first ballot. He then met separately with Ms. Pupatello, Ms. Wynne and Gerard Kennedy.
“They all wanted to know where I would go, and I made no commitment to anybody,” he said.
The day began with Ms. Wynne trailing Ms. Pupatello in delegate support, but in a dramatic showdown, she quickly turned the tables.
The normally cerebral Ms. Wynne delivered a passionate speech on Saturday morning, telling the more than 2,000 delegates that she does not believe people in Ontario judge their leaders on the basis of race, colour or sexual orientation.
Dr. Hoskins said Ms. Wynne, who is openly gay, “spoke from the heart” and persuaded some delegates to vote for her on the second ballot.
Her speech electrified the audience, with one of Mr. Kennedy’s supporters calling it “momentum changing.”
For Ms. Wynne, the momentum continued after the first ballot, when she finished just two votes behind Ms. Pupatello.
Dr. Hoskins, who finished in last place, moved to support Ms. Wynne. But he kept everyone guessing by walking halfway across the floor before turning around and pointing at Ms. Wynne, up in her booth.
“The pointing was spontaneous,” Dr. Hoskins told reporters. “I noticed that I was sort of drifting up to centre ice. I wanted to put people out of their misery.”
But just Minutes later, Harinder Takhar took everyone by surprise by suddenly crossing over to Ms. Pupatello after it was too late to remove his name from the second ballot. Ms. Pupatello denied to reporters that she offered anything to Mr. Takhar in return, but His support helped widen the gap between the leading contenders on the second ballot. Ms. Pupatello won the support of 39.3 per cent of delegates, giving her a three-point lead over Ms. Wynne.
Mr. Kennedy, who finished a distant third on the second ballot, said he realized his path to victory was in “jeopardy.” The plan was for him and Mr. Sousa to walk over to Ms. Wynne together. But Mr. Kennedy was still huddling with his delegates when Mr. Sousa and his entourage crossed the convention floor to Ms. Wynne. “Where’s Gerard,” Mr. Sousa kept saying. Fifteen minutes later, Mr. Kennedy joined Mr. Sousa, Dr. Hoskins and Glen Murray, who had dropped out of the race 2 1/2 weeks earlier, on Ms. Wynne’s balcony.