Reactions have been mixed to the arrival of Ontario’s first female – and first openly gay – premier.
“Does this really matter?...People are saying (that) the real question is, should we even be asking this question? Have we moved beyond that?” said Maureen Bostock, a local farmer who is also active with the Lanark County LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgenedered) committee. “People are comparing it to the U.S. electing a black president. People said it would never be done. I think it will be fabulous. It will have a great impact.”
Last November, Bostock spoke to county high school students at the Could This Be Love? conference in Perth about gay people fighting for their rights. For young people who are grappling with their own sexual identity, Kathleen Wynne’s rise to lead the Ontario Liberal Party, and taking the premier’s chair, will prove important to gay teenagers especially.
“Young people will see that and go, ‘Oh my God,’” said Bostock, herself a lesbian. “If they are not prejudice to her,” the less likely they are to be to other gay people.
Wynne becomes the sixth female premier in the country, following female premiers in British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nunavut.
“I feel pretty good about that,” said Bostock. “The concept of a (glass) ceiling is being seriously challenged.”
Bostock is also a farmer and she noted that gay people in public life do not always come from urban areas. Liberal MP Scott Brison, for example, who is openly gay, represents a rural riding in Nova Scotia.
A well-known local politician who has seen Wynne at work up close is not impressed with what he sees, and is hard-pressed to be excited about the two firsts chalked up by her.
“Big deal,” said Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington MPP Randy Hillier of Wynne being the first gay and female premier. “What do you think about being the first blonde premier? I judge people on their substance and character.”
Wynne was first elected to the Ontario Legislature in 2003, and Hillier was elected in 2007.
“I’ve seen Kathleen Wynne in the house,” he said of their time sitting across from each other in Queen’s Park. “And I say (with her as leader), ‘Good luck Liberal party.’ The picture she illustrated during the campaign is not what I saw in the last five years. I have not found her to be conciliatory or poised in the least. Anybody who is not fully 100 per cent on side will know it in short order."
Hillier was also coy as to whether there will be a spring election.
"If you had asked me that back in October, I would have said yes," said Hillier. "But many things have happened since Oct. 15."
While Ontario New Democratic Party leader Andrea Horwath has ruled out a formal coalition with the Liberals, she has met with Wynne about the conditions of her support - as did Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak.
Hillier surmised that Wynne and Horwath would "use taxpayer wealth to achieve their political power," and accomodate each other in order for the Liberals to survive another day.