Liberal Party leadership candidate.
Leadership candidate Kathleen Wynne speaks to Michael Donohue of Douglas, as Lake Dore resident Tom Adamchick, president of the local federal Liberty Party Riding Association, looks on during Saturday’s gathering in Cobden.
Steve Newman, Renfrew Mercury
Attendance was strong at local leadership election meetings last weekend, as the six candidates for Ontario Liberal Party leader looked to garner support.
The combined results showed front-runners Kathleen Wynne and Sandra Pupatello still in that position. One of Wynne’s most successful ridings was Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, which she visited Saturday night at Cobden’s West Way Bar & Grill.
There she met with Liberal party supporters, including some local voting delegates.
The Don Valley West MPP also had an opportunity to meet with local teachers, following the recent and controversial implementation of Bill 115 to impose contracts on teachers across the province who did not have agreements in place.
In Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke last Saturday, 88 card-carrying Liberals were eligible to vote, of which 40 did. Seventy per cent, or 28 votes, went to Wynne and another 25 per cent (or 10 votes) to Pupatello. Single votes went to former MPP and MP Gerard Kennedy, who finished second to Dalton McGuinty in a bid for the Liberal Party leadership, and St. Paul’s MPP Eric Hoskins. Following a coin toss in Kennedy’s favour, Wynne has 11 local voting delegates, Pupatello four and Kennedy one.
The other candidates for premier are Mississauga South MPP Charles Sousa and Mississauga Erindale MPP Harinder Takhar.
Local delegates at the leadership convention Jan. 25 to 27 in Toronto will include Derek Nighbor, who lost a close Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke election to Conservative John Yakabuski in 2003. The other ‘Wynne’ delegates are Lucille and Patrick Nighbor, Meredith Caplan Jamieson, Barry Robinson, Izett McBride, Gail Richardson, Maggie Conway, Louise Edmonds, Kevin Dunbar and Rebecca Jean Dunbar.
A total of 1,837 Liberal Party members cast ballots last weekend, including Derek Nighbor, who grew up in Pembroke and now works in Toronto for Food and Consumer Products of Canada.
“I’m supporting Kathleen because she’s a proven leader,” said Nighbor. “She’s compassionate, she’s thoughtful, she knows her issues. Talking to people here in the riding, it’s clear, as minister of municipal affairs and housing, transportation, aboriginal affairs and transportation, she’s always been up on the issues.
“She’s always been approachable, accountable and responsible. At this stage, the Ontario Liberal Party needs a little bit of renewal, we need some ideas, and I think Kathleen is going to be a big part of bringing that to bear.”
As many Liberal Party supporters know, the 59-year-old Wynne is married to Jane Routhwaite. Wynne also has three children and two grandchildren.
Lake Dore resident Tom Adamchick, who’s president of the local federal Liberal Party Riding Association, said he likes Wynne’s candidacy for premier largely because many of her cabinet portfolios have involved issues that resonate in Renfrew County.
Another delegate is Eganville resident Meredith Caplan Jamieson whose family has been closely tied to the world of politics. Her brother (David) is a former member of Premier McGuinty’s cabinet, while her mother (Elinor) was a provincial or federal member of Parliament from 1985 to 2004. Until last May both Meredith and husband Rob Jamieson were members of the Liberal Party’s federal executive.
After getting to know Wynne over the last several years, Meredith says the Don Valley MPP is a real consensus-builder who brings people to the table.
“She’s a politician for all people —urban, rural, minority, majority. She has an amazing way of connecting with people,” said Jamieson.
Another delegate, Gail Richardson of Whitewater Region, is also supporting Wynne.
She cites Wynne’s political record and ability to communicate in a direct, precise, approachable and friendly fashion as strengths.
“Add to that the wisdom she has shown in all her portfolios,” said Richardson. “To me it was a no-brainer (to support her). It was obvious for me.”
The first candidate in the leadership race was Glen Murray, who was in Cobden last Saturday. He withdrew from the race to back Wynne. Murray, who has been a good friend and colleague of Wynne’s for years, said, “She was doing better than I was, and realized I could give her a boost and help her by throwing my support and my supporters behind her.”
Heading into the later stages of the leadership campaign, Murray said Wynne is conciliatory, thoughtful and full of integrity.
“I think she brings some remarkable skills to the premier’s office.”
Before a gathering of a few dozen at the West Way Bar & Grill, Derek Nighbor introduced Wynne while mentioning that being in Cobden demonstrated her commitment to rural and eastern Ontario. He also referred to her as accountable, compassionate “and tough as nails when she needs to be.”
“I know we’ve got momentum, and there’s lots that can happen on the convention floor, but the first step was to get delegates from each of the ridings, and you guys have done just a fabulous job, and I’m very, very grateful,” said Wynne.
“I’m grateful because I want to go on to represent you … We can go a couple of ways. We can be more divided and continue on a path of rural versus urban, and buy into that kind of divisiveness.
“We all want great education. We all want great health care. We all need to invest in infrastructure, so business will come to Ontario, so that business comes to all parts of the province. And we’re only going to do that if we work together.”
Wynne also spoke out about the importance of needing the Liberals to continue to govern. She said she’s ready for an election, if it happens, but it’s more important to continue to govern and get things done.
Alluding to the teachers sitting in the same room, she added, “We have some bridges to build.”
Meanwhile, she says the focus of the Liberal Party needs to include balancing the budget and fiscal responsibility, and that “social justice is as much a part of our DNA as it has always been.”
As a candidate for premiere, she said she has the government experience, disposition and skills to bring people together.
“I’m looking forward to being the first female premier of the Province of Ontario,” she said to applause. She said she believes Ontarians don’t vote based on gender, sexual orientation, race, or rural or urban status, but that they vote for competency and skill.
“And that’s how I want to be chosen,” said Wynne.