Straight Talk
CHRISTINA BLIZZARD - BLIZZARD: Don't underestimate new Premier Kathleen Wynne

Kathleen Wynne is named the new Premier of the Ontario.

Credits: Jack Boland / Toronto Sun / QMI Agency

CHRISTINA BLIZZARD | QMI AGENCY

TORONTO - Call her a giant-killer.

Call her a dragon-slayer.

Call you what you want.

Today she’s Premier giant-killer. Premier dragon-slayer — the fearless foot soldier who takes on the heavy artillery — and wins.

She was the person who defeated John Tory in her Don Valley West riding in the 2007 election.

He was expected to trounce her.

He didn’t. She fought — and won.

Same thing happened Saturday at Maple Leaf Gardens.

Sandra Pupatello was supposed to win.

The long-time McGuinty loyalist was the party’s anointed candidate.

McGuinty’s powerful inner circle was backing Pupatello.

The Windsor native was a major player in McGuinty’s cabinet and in opposition served as attack dog.

After the second ballot, it became clear she couldn’t grow her support.

She was no one’s second choice.

First off the ballot was Dr. Eric Hoskins.

He moved to support Wynne, and started the momentum rolling her way.

Then Harinder Takhar moved to Pupatello — although he didn’t drop out early enough to get his name off the second ballot.

The real drama came after that second ballot.

Mississauga MPP Charles Sousa came last, and delegates from both the Pupatello and the Wynne camps started chanting his name.

Gerard Kennedy and his people disappeared from his box.

Then Sousa crossed centre ice to Wynne’s box and was greeted like a rock star.

Kennedy followed — and it became clear there was no way Pupatello could hold on to the lead she’d held through two ballots.

Wynne’s triumph is a rebuke of the McGuinty government — and signals a move to the left.

Wynne’s already expressed concern over the hardline her government took with teachers on Bill 115.

PC Leader Tim Hudak is no doubt delighted.

Wynne is more likely to pull support from the NDP and Andrea Horwath.

She’s not just the province’s first woman premier — she’s the first openly gay one.

It’s not her sexual orientation that will hurt her in the polls so much as her image as a downtown Toronto-centric leader who’s likely to cosy up to public sector unions.

In an attempt to woo rural Ontario back to the Liberal fold, Wynne has said she’ll take on the role of agriculture minister.

Really? Does rural Ontario want an agriculture minister from Don Valley West?

Which brings us to Wynne’s new cabinet.

She owes several people big time. Toronto Centre MPP Glen Murray dropped out of the race early and threw his support to her. Now she owes Hoskins and Sousa too.

She’ll have to find space in her cabinet for them, as well as her key supporters, including Health Minister Deb Matthews.

Hoskins proved an impressive candidate in the leadership campaign. The Liberals could use a change at the helm in Health. It’s not unreasonable to expect Wynne will give Hoskins that coveted portfolio and move Matthews into another front-line role.

The big question is who will get Finance — Murray or Sousa?

Wynne wants to bring the legislature back as soon as possible — likely after Family Day, Feb. 19.

At the end, Pupatello rose to the occasion and gave a remarkably gracious concession speech. She showed warmth and respect for Wynne.

“I loved every minute of it,” she told the new party leader. “We had the guys on the run.”

For her part, Wynne also showed she wants to pull her party together, telling her MPPs to be ready for a caucus meeting on Tuesday.

“I want to get this Toronto thing out of the way,” she told cheering delegates from across the province. “I’m going to be a premier for the whole province.”

Brave words, but she has a tough task ahead.

Then again, she’s not just the province’s first openly gay woman premier.

She’s one tough, smart politician who’s been underestimated all her career.

Now it’s time to take her seriously.

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