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Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth, left, has come out in support of Kathleen Wynne’s bid for the Ontario Liberal leadership.SEAN KILPATRICK, FRED LUM

A Conservative senator has thrown her support behind Ontario Liberal leadership hopeful Kathleen Wynne, calling her a tough politician who is the best candidate to deal with the province's soaring debt load.

Elections Ontario records show that Senator Nancy Ruth gave Ms. Wynne's campaign a $10,000 donation in November, 2012, less than two weeks after the Toronto MPP announced she was joining her party's leadership race. The senator made the donation through her personal holding corporation, 443472 Ontario Ltd.

Senators earn an annual base salary of $132,300.

Reached by phone on Wednesday, Nancy Ruth said she decided to support Ms. Wynne almost immediately after she heard that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty would step down.

"She's the person I want as premier of my province," she said of Ms. Wynne. "This woman is tough, consistent, thorough, rigorous, thoughtful, [and] disciplined."

Nancy Ruth, who does not use a surname, said she believes Ms. Wynne is a conciliator who would be in a good position to deal with the province's debt if she becomes premier.

Ms. Wynne was minister of aboriginal affairs as well as municipal affairs and housing before she resigned in early November to run for her party's leadership. She has also served as minister of education and minister of transportation.

She was first elected in 2003 as the MPP for the Toronto riding of Don Valley West, and is believed to be the first openly lesbian politician at Queen's Park.

Nancy Ruth, who is also openly gay, said Ms. Wynne's sexual orientation played no role in her decision to support her, adding, "This is not the basis on which you pick leadership."

She said she has supported candidates from a variety of political parties at different times and believes the last time she donated money to a Liberal leadership candidate was in 1992, when she supported Lyn McLeod. Ms. McLeod won that race and served as the provincial Liberal Party leader until 1996.

"For me, it's about good people – the best people," Nancy Ruth said.

Ms. Wynne said she believes the senator is backing her in part because of an interest in seeing strong women take on leadership roles. "She's been a huge booster of women in leadership positions, and leadership writ large, not just political leadership," she said.

Other Liberal leadership candidates include Glen Murray, Eric Hoskins, Charles Sousa, Sandra Pupatello, Harinder Takhar and Gerard Kennedy. All seven are former cabinet ministers in the McGuinty government.

Nancy Ruth said she sees no incongruity in a Conservative senator supporting a Liberal candidate in Ontario. "Whoever is going to win this race in this province is going to be premier," she said. "I want a say in that."

The Liberal Party will choose its next leader at a convention in Toronto later this month.

- With a report from Chris Hannay