PROFILE: Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne

Kathleen Wynne has been a community activist, a school trustee, a cabinet minister and now, Ontario's premier. But her rise to power was never a given.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne speaks at the hearings into the gas plant cancellations at Queen's Park in Toronto, Tuesday, December 3, 2013. T (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

Kathleen Wynne has been a community activist, a school trustee, a cabinet minister and now, Ontario's premier. But her rise to power was never a given.

Wynne lost her first election in 1994, for school trustee in York South-Weston ward. It was six years later and four wards over that she won her first election, as public school trustee in York West in 2000.

Only three years later, Wynne won her current seat in Don Valley West against PC cabinet minister David Turnbull. "When I ran in 2003, I was told that the people of North Toronto and Thorncliffe Park weren’t ready to elect a gay woman. Well, apparently they were," she would later say of the election.

She held the seat even as she was challenged by then-PC leader John Tory in 2007.

Her potential to become premier came into focus as she launched her bid to replace Dalton McGuinty as leader. Wynne entered the race as a strong contender, but it was Sandra Pupatello, a former MPP from Windsor, who was seen as the more electable candidate, the one who gave the Liberals the best chance to regain their majority lost in 2011.

An issue during that Liberal leadership race that went largely unspoken was the fact that Wynne is gay, leaving some Liberals to wonder how that will play with voters in rural Ontario.

Vital signs

Born: May 21, 1953 in Richmond Hill, Ont.

Education:  Bachelor of Arts degree in English and history at Queen's University and a Master of Arts degree in linguistics from the University of Toronto, Master of Education degree in adult education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (University of Toronto)

Political life: First elected in 2003, served in cabinet of premier Dalton McGuinty. Won leadership of party in 2013.

Personal: Married to Jane Rounthwaite. She has three children from her previous marriage, and now has three grandchildren.

"I do not believe that the people of Ontario judge their leaders on race, sexual orientation, colour or religion. I don't believe they hold that prejudice in their hearts. They judge us on our merits … our ideas," she said.

Her biggest hurdles thus far have not been her sexual orientation or even her policies, but scandals left over from her predecessor. Namely: gas plants that were canceled in the heat of an election at a cost of $1.1 billion.

Wynne disputed charges that she was at least partly to blame for driving up the cost of cancelling gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga. But Wynne's signature appears on a cabinet document negotiating a settlement with TransCanada, the developer of the cancelled Oakville plant.

Wynne says she was advised that a lawsuit could have been an even more expensive option than negotiating a new deal with TransCanada, so the government wanted to avoid going to court.

But Wynne firmly denies responsibility for the actual canceling of the plants, telling a justice committee she wasn't directly involved in the Liberals' decisions to scrap the gas plants prior to the 2011 elections, even though she acted as the party's campaign co-chair.

The scandal reaches further than that, however. Opposition parties accuse the governing Liberals including Wynne of obfuscating the cost of the cancellations. There are accusations of deleted emails and uncooperative Liberal staff in the search for accountability in the scandal.

The police launched a criminal investigation, after Tories made complaints about the deleted emails.

She again apologized for the expensive decisions to cancel the gas plants, and said she had made changes to make sure it won't happen again.

Wynne is a mother of three and a grandmother. She is 60 years old.