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Taking It To The Street

BEFORE THE CONVENTION MADNESS BEGINS, A MOMENT TO SAVOUR A SWEET FIRST FOR ONTARIO

 

By Susanna Kelley

With the Ontario Liberal delegate selection just completed over the weekend, we now have a fairly reliable idea of who the frontrunners actually are in the Ontario Liberal leadership race - for the first ballot at least.

As it stands after the weekend voting, Sandra Pupatello has come out in first place, party members having elected 504 delegates committed to her on the first ballot.

Next up is Kathleen Wynne with 463.

Gerard Kennedy is third at 257. Harinder Takhar is in fourth place with 244 delegates supporting him, Charles Sousa has 198, Eric Hoskins 104 and 67 independent delegates have been elected.

Glen Murray dropped out of the race last week.

The Liberal delegates will elect a new leader at their convention January 25-27th.  More than 1700 come from the16 delegates each riding has elected. Another 600 current and former MPP's and MP's, party officials and other ex officio delegates will make up the total.

Now the frantic wooing of each other's delegates begins, and the desperate pressure on candidates to hold on to those already committed to them. 

Suffice it to say candidates will be on the phones schmoozing them 24/7 for the next two weeks.

But before the pre-convention madness ratchets up even higher to the political hysteria that will take over the conventioneers, everyone interested in politics, no matter what their slant, should take a moment to savour a sweet first the Liberals have already scored for all of us.

The two frontrunners are women.

That is not to say the male candidates are any less qualified.

But it is a healthy sign to see not one, but two females heading up a major political race for a change.

And not in some lackadaisical contest for a prize that no one else wanted, either.

Rather, the competition has been vigorous, with the Liberals attracting seven serious candidates for the top job (now six, after Mr. Murray's exit last week.)

All of the candidates have made it to the second top rung of the political ladder - cabinet minister - at one time or another.

All have put out different and substantial policy commitments during this campaign.

So having women as the two front-runners is a big accomplishment, and we should all stop and smell the roses.

Too often political parties have paid only lip service to electing women - for instance, assigning them to run in unwinnable ridings.

Ontario still has a ways to go to achieve gender equality in the Legislature.

In 2011, 30 MPP's, or 28 per cent of elected members, were women.

Premier McGuinty has tended to promote strong women to his cabinet.

The number of women in his first cabinet was nine, out of a total of 27 cabinet seats.

That eventually hit the high-water mark of 11 in 2010.

By 2011 it had dropped to six, but the size of the cabinet overall had been reduced.

For it was 1921 - 91 years ago - that Agnes MacPhail became the first woman elected to the House of Commons.  Running under the Progressives' banner, she advocated equality for all women.  She served until she was defeated in 1940.

But MacPhail wasn't finished yet, and ran in 1943 under the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation banner for the Ontario Legislature.  She and Rae Lucock, also running that year, became the first female members at Queen's Park.

Among the most memorable of female MPP's was the indomitable PC cabinet minister Dr. Bette Stephenson, a key player in Bill Davis' executive council from 1975 to 1985.  The tough-as-nails Stephenson became the first female Treasurer (now called finance minister) in Ontario history.

There were no complaints about having to deal with an "old boys' club" of PC cabinet colleagues. Dr. Stephenson left many a male colleague shaking in their boots!

Lyn MacLeod became the first female leader of a major Ontario party when she won the Liberal leadership in 1992-1996.

The Ontario NDP has been led by Andrea Horwath, its first female leader, for the last several years, while the party increased the number of women in its caucus.

The New Democrats have led the way in Ontario in electing a higher percentage of women than any other party.

But the Liberal convention January 25-27th will be the first time Ontario has seen two female frontrunners going head to head against each other for the premiership.

Across the country, there are now five female provincial or territorial premiers: PC Alison Redford in Alberta; Liberal Christie Clark in B.C.; PQ Pauline Marois in Quebec; PC Kathy Dunderdale of Newfoundland and Labrador; and Eva Aariak of Nunavut, elected as an independent.

Should either Pupatello or Wynne take the Liberal crown that would make six provinces with female premiers.

Should Wynne be the one to come out on top at the convention, she would not only be Ontario's first female premier, she would be the province's first openly gay one as well.

We won't know who will take the prize for another few weeks.

And it may be that neither woman will win.

After all, Dalton McGuinty came from fourth on the first ballot to win on the fifth vote in 1996.

But already, Ontario politics has broken through another barrier.  

As Martin Luther King once said "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."


You can find Susanna here: @susannakelley

About Susanna Kelley

Susanna Kelley is Editor-in-Chief and Queen’s Park Bureau Chief for Ontario News Watch. A veteran political and investigative reporter, documentary-maker, host and media commentator, Susanna oversees and has final editorial control over all news production at Ontario News Watch. Susanna has reported for the CBC, the Canadian Press and served as Queen’s Park Bureau Chief for TVOntario for 13 years. She has also hosted a number of documentaries for CBC’s The Current, CBC Radio News and TVOntario’s Studio 2. Passionately dedicated to excellence in political journalism, and having covered both Parliament Hill and Queen’s Park, Susanna believes quality political reporting is essential to a healthy democracy. You can find Susanna here: @susannakelley
Posted date : January 14, 2013

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