Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne watched the election coverage Monday night at the home of her provincial party president, Vince Borg. Her two senior advisers, Andrew Bevan and Tom Teahen, were there, too, and when the television networks declared a Liberal win, she immediately jumped on the phone to call Justin Trudeau, the Liberal Leader, congratulating him.
She didn't even wait the extra few minutes it took for the networks to figure out it was a majority government.
For Ms. Wynne, Monday night's result was as much a victory for her and her agenda as it was for Mr. Trudeau and his federal Liberals.
Ms. Wynne went all out in supporting Mr. Trudeau during the campaign – beyond what a premier usually does – appearing with the Liberal Leader at rallies and with some of his other candidates, arguing that Ontario needed a strong, collaborative federal partner and the Liberals were it.
Her relationship with outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper was dysfunctional. The two met only a few times since she became premier in early 2013. Their last meeting in January, 2015, was the stuff of news stories because it had taken a year for Mr. Harper to agree to sit down with her. It was cordial, but just before he called the election in August he refused measures to help her administer her retirement security piece, bragging he was "delighted" to do so.
Never before have the provincial and federal platforms been so closely aligned – they are almost interchangeable, notes a senior Wynne official, on a number of issues, including values, family, the environment, retirement security and infrastructure.
"Our historical investment in infrastructure, $130-billion plus over 10 years, matches exactly what they put forward in 10 years …" notes a senior Wynne aide. Mr. Trudeau has promised to spend $125-billion over 10 years. He will run three "modest" deficits.
Not in recent history, either, have the senior teams around a federal prime minister and a provincial premier been so closely connected, both professionally and personally.
A senior Wynne aide described the team from Ontario helping out Mr. Trudeau as "massive." His expectation is that many Queen's Park Liberal staffers will end up in Ottawa on the Hill. "We're happy about that," he says. "They're going to need good staff and we have good staff. We've been thinking of that possibility for a year."
And so with Mr. Harper gone, Ms. Wynne's job has just got a lot easier – or has it?
"If anything, Justin Trudeau's election could be the worst thing for Kathleen Wynne," says Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown.
Mr. Brown says Ms. Wynne no longer can blame the federal government for initiatives being blocked or not going through. He points to the potentially lucrative Ring of Fire mineral deposits in northwestern Ontario. Ms. Wynne has blamed the Conservative government for not supporting its development.
He points, too, to health care and complaints by his party that the Wynne government's health-care budget increased by $598-million while the Canada Health Transfer payment increased by $652-million – a cut, his party says, of $54-million. The PC Leader says it's "always blame Harper, blame the federal government.
"I'm pushing on the government to act," he says. "No more excuses. No more delay games and I hope that the cuts to health care will stop now and I hope that the Ring of Fire development will happen immediately."
In fact, the Premier is the Minister for Intergovernmental Affairs – well-positioned, given her personal friendship with Mr. Trudeau.
"She doesn't approach this as a 'now pay up, you owe me,'" says a senior Liberal insider, who knows both Ms. Wynne and Mr. Trudeau. "I just think the total convergence of agendas, values, policies and world view … that is positive."
On the crucial pension issue, too, the senior aide says Ms. Wynne will not abandon the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan even if Mr. Trudeau enhances the Canada Pension Plan, as she has also pushed for.
"We are going to keep on moving ahead for sure," he said. The provincial government is too far down the road; it is to be launched in 2017. The CPP changes would have a much longer phase-in period.
Rather, the Wynne government will enter into an agreement with the new Liberal federal government to collect premiums and potentially distribute benefits using the CPP infrastructure.
The Harper Conservatives had refused to help the Wynne government on this.
So this change will make things more efficient and less costly for the Ontario government, which had been looking at a private agency to administer all of this, according to the senior aide.