Ontario premier-designate vows to find 'common ground'

Kathleen Wynne said she is ready to govern, in her first news conference as newly elected Ontario Liberal Party leader and premier-designate.

Ontario Progressive Conservative Party launches attack ad against Wynne

Kathleen Wynne press conference

9 years ago
New Ontario Premier-designate Kathleen Wynne speaks to the media after her party convention victory in downtown Toronto 23:43

Kathleen Wynne said she is ready to govern in a minority legislature, in her first news conference as newly elected Ontario Liberal Party leader and premier-designate on Sunday morning.

Wynne pledged to get to work right away by holding a first caucus meeting next Tuesday, forming a cabinet and recalling the legislature by Feb. 19.

The new Ontario Liberal leader said she was prepared to work with the opposition parties to find common ground.

"The rancour and the viciousness of the legislature can't continue," said Wynne, adding that her party has to work out the disagreements and build a relationship among the three parties.  

But just as Wynne was fielding questions from reporters, the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party released its first attack ad against Wynne in a YouTube video, calling her a "McGuinty Liberal Ontario can't afford."

Wynne "has an expensive record of failure," the attack ad said, citing "big raises to government workers, lost jobs, and reckless overspending."

The PC party intends to run the attack ad on the radio.

"Well, that's their choice … to decide to go negative before we've even begun the next conversation," Wynne told the National.  "And it's unfortunate, but that doesn't take me off track."

She said she wants to have a conversation with the Conservatives about how to work in a minority government with them, since she says Ontarians don't want a general election.

At the Sunday news conference, Wynne said "I'm not afraid of debate but what we know is that Ontarians do not want an election."

"They do expect us to lead," she said.

Wynne said the issues that confront Ontarians cut across party lines.

Challenges ahead

The new premier-designate has her work cut out for her as she'll have to recall the legislature after her predecessor prorogued last October.

And with an $11.9-billion deficit on her hands, Wynne will have to balance the books while looking for ways to repair relations with public-service sector workers who have had contracts imposed on them.

For instance, teachers have said they won't return to supervising after-school activities unless the provincial government reopens their contracts.

While finding labour peace was "very high" on her priority list, Wynne also made it clear she will not cave into demands.

"I've been very clear with them that I'm not going to rip up those contracts. But I've also been very clear that we have to engage in a conversation about extracurriculars," Wynne told reporters.

Wynne said social assistance reform and transforming the health-care system were also some of the challenges she would start tackling "within hours."

Despite all the problems she has inherited, Wynne refused to concede the Ontario Liberal brand was hurt and in need of repair.

"We are going to be very clear with the people of Ontario that we understand where there were missteps and where we need to go forward," she said.

Politicians react

Wynne said Tim Hudak, the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, was the first politician to give her a call after her win.

"I just had a conversation with Tim Hudak and it was great of him to reach out," Wynne told CBC News's Susana Mas on Saturday night.

Wynne also said she looked forward to reaching out to Andrea Horwath, leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party.

Wynne's historic win makes her Ontario's first female and openly gay premier — and the sixth female premier currently in office in Canada.

"That's huge," Wynne said during Sunday's press conference.

Quebec's Premier Pauline Marois had also reached out to her, Wynne said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a press release after her win on Saturday, saying he looked forward to working with her "on addressing issues that matter to Ontarians, and in particular the creation of jobs and economic growth." 

Wynne defeats Pupatello in 3rd ballot

Wynne defeated Sandra Pupatello on a third ballot, at the Ontario Liberal Party convention in Toronto on Saturday.

Wynne picked up the support of Eric Hoskins after the first round. She remained in second place after the second round of voting, but won a surprise endorsement from Charles Sousa, who many had expected would go to Pupatello. Gerard Kennedy then threw his support behind Wynne.

Liberal MPP Charles Sousa looks on as Wynne addresses media in her first news conference as premier-designate. (John Rieti/CBC)

"That was a critical moment when [Sousa] moved across the floor to us," Wynne told CBC News on Saturday after her win. Sousa and Kennedy were critical, she said, and would determine the winner.

Wynne said when she saw Sousa moving, but didn't know at first where he was going.

"When he started to move to us we thought, 'OK, this is fantastic momentum. We really are on our way,'" she said.

When Wynne was asked if she made any promises to Sousa in return for his support, she told CBC News that's not how she is going to build a cabinet.

"I'm going to have conversations with our colleagues going forward and we're going to put together a great team," Wynne said.

Wynne said she was surprised Kennedy came over as early as he did.

"I'm very happy that he found his way over to us," Wynne said.

Wynne secured the win on the third ballot by capturing 1,150 votes to Pupatello's 866.