Straight Talk
CHRISTINA BLIZZARD - As premier, Wynne won't be in the driver's seat -- literally

Incoming Premier Kathleen Wynne speaks with media before her first caucus meeting at Queens Park in Toronto

Credits: Dave ThomasToronto Sun/QMI Agency

CHRISTINA BLIZZARD | QMI AGENCY

It was like a speed-dating interview.

Print media from different news organizations lined up outside a Queen's Park boardroom, waiting their turn for a sit down for a quick-fire 15 minute Q and A with incoming premier Kathleen Wynne. (She's not the premier designate until she sees Lt.-Gov. David Onley sometime next week.)

QMI Agency reporter Jonathan Jenkins and I take our turn with stacatto, scattergun questions, trying desperately to squeeze as much material as we can into the short time allotted us.

Wynne's stunning, come-from-behind win on Saturday night has suddenly changed her life.

What's the biggest surprise, I ask?

As a cabinet minister, she's used to having a limo and driver.

As premier, security requires she be driven everywhere.

"I think the biggest surprise was that I won't be driving at all," she said.

"I've been driving since I was 19 years old."

And she's been busy. Very busy. Wednesday she had a quick meet-and-greet - and a high-five - with Alberta Premier Alison Redford. Tuesday night she got together with teacher union leaders.

I pointed out that caving in to demands of the unions would be unpopular with voters.

While the powerful teacher unions were negotiating lucrative deals, hard-pressed taxpayers were seeing their pay and benefits cut.

Most of them applauded measures to hold the line on teacher pay hikes and to end the practice of banking sick time.

Having gone through this excruciating process with the teachers, with kids being denied extracurriculars and with all the upheaval in the schools, if Wynne now folds to union demands, she'll face an angry electorate.

"I'm assuming by 'caving in,' you mean finding more money and putting more money into the contract," she told me.

"I've been very clear that's not what I'm going to do," she said.

"It's not going to be possible to put more money into the contract. We have to have that wage constraint," she said.

She almost bristled when I asked her if she would distance herself from Premier Dalton McGuinty and his policies.

"I have no intention of disowning my record as a member of the McGuinty government," she said.

"We've made huge advances."

Fair enough. No point in running from the obvious. And smart political parties make the new premier defend the record of the old one. It didn't happen with Mike Harris. As a result, the Liberals were able to trample over everything he did with impunity, often unfairly twisting and contorting Harris' record and accusing him of things he didn't do.

Sometimes they even took credit for the good things Harris did.

On the other hand, Wynne surely doesn't want to be too close to issues such as the massive doubling of the debt and the cancellation of the power plants.

She has Ornge to account for and who knows what other boondoggles are yet to be uncovered?

One way to put some air between her and McGuinty is to have a changing of the guard in cabinet.
I asked her if we'll see some new faces.

"Absolutely," she said. "I'm going to be working with my colleagues putting together a competent and excellent group of people."

Some ministries are graveyards for politicians.

Education is one - witness what happened with Laurel Broten.

And who would want energy?

The hapless Chris Bentley found himself the fall guy for the gas plant cancellations in the last government. He was so badly burned, he's not even running in the next election.

What poor sucker wants to take it on - with the likely outcome that they'll end up getting fried by the same contempt motion he was facing.

Tough choices for a new leader.

And I wonder where McGuinty is now.

Somewhere warm, I suspect. Holding a drink with a little pink parasol in it.
Everyone in the pool.

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