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John Wilkinson, who was narrowly defeated in the last Ontario election after serving two terms as the MPP for Perth-Wellington, is among the most prominent rural Liberals in the province.

J.J. Thompson/The Globe and Mail

Kathleen Wynne has scored a major endorsement heading into a pivotal weekend in the Ontario Liberal leadership campaign.

Sources told The Globe and Mail that Ms. Wynne will announce on Thursday morning that John Wilkinson will serve as her campaign co-chair, despite the former minister having been seen as leaning toward Sandra Pupatello, the other perceived frontrunner in the race to replace Premier Dalton McGuinty.

Mr. Wilkinson, who was narrowly defeated in the last provincial election after serving two terms as the MPP for Perth-Wellington, is among the most prominent rural Liberals in the province and had himself considered a leadership run. He is the brother of Peter Wilkinson, a former chief of staff to Mr. McGuinty.

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His change of heart wi ll add to Ms. Wynne's momentum just days before delegate selection meetings for the Liberals' convention later this month. While perceived to have the strongest on-the-ground organization, Ms. Wynne has been pushing back against concerns that her appeal is too limited outside Toronto.

Speculation was rampant on Wednesday night that Mr. Wilkinson's endorsement would be coupled with leadership candidate Glen Murray dropping out of the race to also back Ms. Wynne, but neither Mr. Murray's campaign nor Ms. Wynne's would confirm the rumour.

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