Less than 48 hours after winning the leadership of Ontario’s Liberal Party, Kathleen Wynne was at Queen’s Park meeting with departing Premier Dalton McGuinty and scheduling talks with opposition leaders as she seeks to chart a course forward for the minority government.
Ms. Wynne walked up to Mr. McGuinty’s office around 11:20 a.m. He opened the door and the pair kissed on both cheeks.
“Hey, it’s you! I thought you’d never show up,” Mr. McGuinty joked. “Want to see your new office?”
They emerged after 50 minutes, and Mr. McGuinty said “I’m proud of my leader,” as Ms. Wynne departed.
The next step is for her to visit Lieutenant-Governor David Onley, where he will ask her to become premier, a formality called “kissing hands.” It is not clear when that meeting will take place or when she will be sworn in.
Ms. Wynne has already spoken with both opposition leaders by telephone – Progressive Conservative Tim Hudak on Saturday night, shortly after her victory and New Democrat Andrea Horwath Monday afternoon – and has indicated she is willing to talk further.
The Tories, however, promptly launched an attack ad, blaming her personally for the province’s unemployment rate.
“As McGuinty’s right hand, Kathleen Wynne has an expensive record of failure,” an announcer intones over a background of sombre piano music in the 30-second spot. “She gave big raises to government workers.”
Asked how he could work with Ms. Wynne while his party was blasting her in an attack ad, Mr. Hudak replied: “I remain optimistic that she will change course.”
“We often don’t see eye-to-eye, but I have a lot of respect for her. We get along on a personal level,” he said.
Ms. Horwath, meanwhile, opened the day by calling on Ms. Wynne to set up a public inquiry to probe the Liberal Party’s cancellation of two gas plants before the last provincial election. Cancelling the plants, in the Toronto suburbs of Mississauga and Oakville, cost large sums of money and was seen as a political move calculated to hold on to seats in the vote-rich 905.
In a letter to Ms. Wynne, Ms. Horwath said a public inquiry should probe what role cabinet or the premier’s office had in cancelling the plants and whether any information on the process had been hidden. Such an inquiry could be politically damaging to the Liberals, as it would keep the issue in the public eye for months while hearings unfolded. If she does not, Ms. Horwath indicated her MPPs would continue to raise the issue in the legislature.
But Ms. Horwath sounded more colleagial than Mr. Hudak, however, indicating that, even without an inquiry, she was still willing to make an arrangement with the government.
“I’ve said since day one, I’m ready to make that minority [government] work for them,” she said, adding later: “I’m not drawing a line in the sand, I’m not saying ‘you have to do it my way,’ but this is an option.”