Why the Ontario Liberals have chosen Kathleen Wynne as leader and premier?
I don’t believe it’s ideological or based on policies. I don’t believe it’s a question of about creating a niche electorally or any complicated scheme related to gender, sexual orientation or policy. A senior minister and Don Valley West MPP named Kevin Wynne who was first elected in 2003 would have been in the same position then Mrs. Wynne in a leadership contest.
The main reason is about realpolitik. Between choosing a bad situation and a worse situation in the short term. All other candidates except Pupatello or Wynne lacked experience or (like Gerard Kennedy) did not have a seat in the Assembly.
The Ontario Liberals are in a bad situation. Pupatello winning would have made the situation worse even if Wynne right now have a very difficult road ahead of her.
As compared to Pupatello, Wynne had the avantage of having her own seat in the Legislative Assembly, which Pupatello had not since she resigned from her Windsor seat in 2011. Both Windsor seats are marginal seats between the Liberals and the NDP.
So, if Pupatello would have won, a by-election would be needed and this considering that the prorogation of the Assembly would have continued until mid-march at the earliest. Not passing a budget in winter or early spring in Canadian politics is considered a taboo and this would have been political suicide.
Even if a safe Liberal seat would have been given to Pupatello, there is a high chance that she would not have been elected (like John Tory losing election in a safe riding in Central Ontario) whatever in Windsor or in a safe Liberal seat like St. Paul’s or Ottawa-Vanier.
And then, with a situation like that, the Liberals are assured to be in the wilderness for many many years if not forever. They could well be in the coming months, but electing Pupatello would have been a massive liability for the whole future of the party.
Anyway, winning the Liberal leadership was the easy part for Kathleen Wynne. Basically for now on, she will have to choose between unpopularity or a downgrade. And history told us (like John Turner in 1984 and Kim Campbell in 1993), that it’s sometimes really difficult not being associated with a very impopular leader who was there before you for many years. Don’t be surprised if Wynne makes McGuinty last year looks like a joyride and this perhaps, could well bring the Liberals to their lowest level in popular vote in the last few decades in Queen’s Park.