Credits: NORM DEBONO/THE LONDON FREE PRESS/QMI AGENCY
TORONTO — New Democratic Party Leader Andrea Horwath could be facing some high-powered, high-heeled opposition when the province goes to the polls in an election that will likely happen next spring.
Former Liberal cabinet minister Sandra Pupatello, who was known for strutting her stuff in four-inch stilettoes and who was regularly voted sexiest MPP at Queen’s Park is “seriously thinking” about running for the leadership of the Liberal Party.
“I’m thinking about it, for sure. It’s impossible not to with the kinds of calls and e-mails I’m getting,” Pupatello told me in a phone interview Wednesday.
“You can’t take this kind of thing lightly. The people who have called have so much credibility with me that I absolutely promise I’m going to have a serious think about it,” she said.
Pupatello, who’s married to Newfoundland provincial politician Jim Bennett, says he’s enthusiastic about her taking a run at the top job.
“He lined up the whole strategy. He thinks it’s great,” she said.
From a strategic point of view, a high profile woman would help the party’s fortunes in the next general election.
Last election, Horwath was able to make hay out of her softer, gentler approach to politics -- taking votes from the left wing of the Liberal Party.
One NDP ad depicted a pair of orange high heels between two pairs of men’s shoes.
It was a clever way for the NDP to define their leader as a fresh face -- or in this case, fresh feet -- on the political scene.
Pupatello has been out of politics for a year. She left, she said, because she believed, “you have to get up or out.
“The premier was terrific, I’d walk on hot coals for him,” she recalled. But back then, he wasn’t going anywhere, “so it was time for me to go.”
Her husband was briefly leader of the Newfoundland Liberals.
He quit that role and now represents the riding of St. Barbe.
Pupatello was part of the Liberal rat pack that often took on the former Conservative government.
When the Liberals took office in 2003, Premier Dalton McGuinty gave her the social services ministry.
She subsequently held the education and economic trade and development ministries.
Often outspoken, Pupatello was known for her stylish fashion statements.
She’s also known for her outrageous sense of humour.
“It’s not something you’d do for a short time,” she told me. “I’ve got to look ahead to the future and what am I going to see myself doing?
“In several years, there I’ll be in the house, having a hot flash and incinerating the opposition - and that’s actually very appealing to me,” she joked.
Of course, she’s not the only woman likely to throw her footwear in the forum.
Obviously distancing herself from the mainstream of the party, Municipal Affairs Minister Kathleen Wynne acknowledged Wednesday that suspending the legislature was not “our first choice.”
“There’s a discomfort obviously in having the legislature shut down,” she told reporters.
Previously she’s acknowledged that the government’s tough stand on freezing teacher salaries was largely responsible for their inability to break through in the Kitchener-Waterloo byelection last month.
Education Minister Laurel Broten is also widely expected to run for the leadership.
If any one of them won, they’d become the first female premier of the province.
Not that that’s what’s driving Pupatello.
She says job one isn’t winning the leadership -- it’s winning the general election afterwards.
McGuinty has big shoes to fill.
And perhaps even higher heels.