Politics
Ontario Grits prepare to pick a premier

Leadership hopefuls Gerard Kennedy, Harinder Takhar, Eric Hoskins, Charles Sousa, Glen Murray, Sandra Pupatello and Kathleen Wynne at the debate for the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party held at the Ajax Convention Centre in Ajax, ON on Sunday Jan. 6, 2013.

Credits: ERNEST DOROSZUK/QMI AGENCY

JOHNATHON JENKINS | QMI AGENCY

TORONTO -- Dalton McGuinty revealed a side of himself rarely seen before in a farewell video marking the end of his nine years as premier.

The video includes clips of a bare-chested, teenaged McGuinty tossing bales of hay, along with other outtakes from his days growing up the eldest of 10 kids.

"My dad would always remind us -- none of us is as strong as all of us working together," McGuinty says in the video.

"People sometimes ask about the legacy I would leave as premier, but what I'm grateful for is the way I've been inspired by Ontarians, their hard work and compassion."

Liberals gather this weekend to celebrate McGuinty -- the most successful Ontario Grit since Sir Oliver Mowat -- and to pick his replacement during a convention in Maple Leaf Gardens.

Friday night will be set aside as a tribute to the outgoing premier, before the 2,300 delegates begin voting for his successor Saturday.

"I feel good, I feel ready," frontrunner Sandra Pupatello said Thursday as she headed into her convention headquarters next door to the Gardens.

Pupatello has locked up 504 first ballot votes from elected delegates and another 106 from ex-officios, giving her a slight lead over Kathleen Wynne.

Gerard Kennedy is third, followed by Harinder Takhar, Charles Sousa and Eric Hoskins.

Pupatello picked up another significant vote when Oakville MPP Kevin Flynn endorsed her. Flynn had originally backed Glen Murray in the race but hasn't followed the former Winnipeg mayor into the Wynne column.

Wynne's team, meanwhile, played up their candidate's ability to recall the prorogued legislature immediately, unlike Pupatello, who gave up her seat at Queen's Park when she left cabinet in 2011.

The Pupatello-Wynne showdown could easily be disrupted though -- delegated conventions are notoriously hard on front-runners and McGuinty himself was an unheralded backbencher who stormed up from third spot to surprise the heavily favoured Kennedy in the 1996 convention.

Adding spice to the Liberal lovefest will be the presence on Friday of a few thousand protesters from the Ontario Federation of Labour, who have targeted the government over its wage-freezing austerity plan that imposed a two-year contract on the province's two largest teacher unions.

Ontario Public Service Employees Union president Warren (Smokey) Thomas is planning on greeting delegates first thing in the morning.

"Ontario needs a premier who values our democratic rights and will stand up for the best interests of the people of this province," Thomas said in a statement.

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