Who’s Running for Premier of Ontario?
A guide to the people running to replace Dalton McGuinty as leader of the Ontario Liberal Party.
The Ontario Liberal Party is in the process of electing a new leader, following Dalton McGuinty’s surprise resignation in October. With the Liberal leadership convention scheduled to begin on January 25, it’s high time to learn a little bit about the people running to be McGuinty’s replacement, and Ontario’s next premier. Below, in no particular order, are the six candidates that remain in the race. Beneath their smiling faces, you’ll find the number of committed delegates each of them captured during last weekend’s delegate elections. (The more committed delegates, the better a candidate’s chances of being elected leader by the party.) Click any candidate’s name for more information about them.
MPP for Don Valley West, Former Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Delegate Count: 463
Former MPP for Windsor West, Director of Business Development and Global Markets at PwC
Delegate Count: 504
MPP for Mississauga-Erindale, Former Minister of Government Services
Delegate Count: 244
MPP for Mississauga South, Former Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
Delegate Count: 198
Former MP for Parkdale-High Park, Former Ontario Minister of Education
Delegate Count: 257
MPP for St. Paul’s, Former Minister of Children and Youth Services
Delegate Count: 104
Wynne’s career in politics started in 1994, when she ran for a spot as a Toronto school board trustee. She was defeated in that race, but ran again post-amalgamation. She won a seat on the TDSB in 2000.
Wynne has lately been Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, as well as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs. Prior to that, she was Minister of Transportation and Minister of Education. Her biggest electoral win came in 2007, when she fended off a challenge from then-Conservative leader John Tory, who ran against her in Don Valley West. Her recent career highlights include helping introduce the Ontario Photo Card and working with the NDP to pass Bill 19, which caps rent increases. She also has the distinction of being the first lesbian elected to the provincial legislature.
On Transit: Wynne was instrumental in saving the Eglinton-Crosstown LRT project, and helped push GO expansion during her time as Transportation Minister. She’s also been outspoken in calling for the federal government to step up with more consistent funding for public transit.
On Municipal Autonomy: Wynne has made giving municipalities more say in the locations of green-energy and gaming projects a key part of her platform, saying the provincial government needs to get “more buy-in” from local communities.
On Labour Relations: Wynne has called the fallout from Bill 115 (which imposed contracts on Ontario’s public-school teachers) as “painful,” and adds that she doesn’t like the idea of legislating contracts.
Pupatello, a former MPP from Windsor, is the only non-GTA candidate in the provincial Liberal leadership race. She joined the Ontario legislature in 1995 and stayed until 2011, when she joined PricewaterhouseCoopers as director of business and global markets. She left that job to run for leadership of the provincial Liberals.
On the Economy: Pupatello calls for a diversification of Ontario’s export markets beyond the United States, focusing in particular on emerging markets. She also wants to remove regulatory barriers to business in the province and combine regional resources, like economic marketing agencies, into one group.
On Transit: She supports the consolidation of transit systems across the GTA and supports the creation of high-speed rail. In particular, she wants to see development along the Windsor-Quebec City corridor. She also promises to push for annual funding for GTA public transit from the federal government.
On Social Policy: New partnerships are needed to meet the demand for affordable housing in Ontario, Pupatello says, and she wants to bring in private-sector partners to work with social-service agencies in creating new supportive living spaces. She also supports reform of the province’s social-assistance system, with an eye toward increasing employment supports.
Originally from India’s Punjab state, Takhar has lived in Canada since 1974 and Mississauga since 1977. He was the last candidate to declare for the leadership race.
Takhar served as the CEO and president of the Chalmers Group of Companies, which he purchased in 1992. Since being elected to the legislature in 2003—as the MPP for the since-dissolved riding of Mississauga-Centre—he served as Minister of Transportation, Minister of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and Minister of Small Business and Consumer Services. His most recent portfolio was government services. He’s best known for being the first Indo-Canadian to receive a provincial cabinet post, and for being formally reprimanded by the integrity commissioner in 2006 for conflict of interest. (He was deemed to have not been hands-off enough with Chalmers—which makes transmission systems and truck suspensions, among other things—while serving as Transportation Minister.)
On Transit: Takhar is a strong advocate of creating a unified, single-fare, cross-GTA transit system.
On Infrastructure: Takhar wants to issue new savings bonds to pay for infrastructure projects.
On Job Creation: Has pushed a tax credit for employers equivalent to 10 per cent of a new hire’s first year salary, up to $5,000. Also wants to create a Small Business Development Corporation, which would oversee everything from microloans, to young entrepreneurs, to helping small business access global markets.
Charles Sousa, born and raised in Toronto, has been the MPP for Mississauga South since 2007. The 54-year-old banker was the minister responsible for both immigration and the 2015 Toronto Pan and Parapan Games until resigning in November to enter the leadership race.
On the Economy: One of Sousa’s campaign promises is to announce sites for three new university campuses in the province within 90 days of becoming premier, with one of them being in Milton. He supports reform of the Condominium Act to ensure that condo managers are licensed, and to give condo owners a more prominent voice on condo boards.
On Transit: Sousa supports high-speed rail, particularly lines connecting Toronto to Hamilton and Oshawa. He also supports the creation of a regional transit authority through consolidation. He thinks Metrolinx, which runs GO Transit, should be responsible for the TTC.
On Power: Sousa was involved in the controversial cancellation of construction on a gas-fired power plant in Mississauga during the 2011 election. His campaign promises include the development of a “thermal strategy” to harness energy from the ground, and the closure of coal plants in the province by 2014.
Gerard Kennedy became head of the Daily Bread Food Bank at 26 and entered politics in his late 30s, when he won his first term as an MPP. He’s served three terms as MPP for Parkdale-High Park and one as an MP, and was Minister of Education in Ontario from 2003 to 2006. Kennedy unsuccessfully ran for the provincial Liberal leadership in 1996 and the federal Liberal leadership in 2006. His current job is running Enterprising for the Public Good, a consulting firm.
On Education: Kennedy told the Toronto Star that job action from the province’s teachers—part of their ongoing dispute with the government over Bill 115—is ill advised. “The strike is not a responsible move to earn public good will,” he said. “It’s not wise and I think they underestimate a public that is feeling a lot of uncertainty.”
On the Economy: Kennedy wants to focus on growing medium-sized businesses by providing incentives to those with a track record of creating sustainable jobs with wage growth in the province. He also wants to put a focus on increasing employment opportunities for young Ontarians, recent graduates, and under-represented groups.
On Leadership: Much of Kennedy’s campaign focuses on the woes of the provincial Liberals. Kennedy promises to strengthen the party and its government with regular accountability sessions and more independence for individual MPPs.
Eric Hoskins is one of the less experienced leadership hopefuls, at least in terms of time spent in government. He was first elected in 2009, and was first appointed to a cabinet position in 2010, when he became Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. That said, he has what may be the most impressive pre-politics resume of all the candidates. An MD by training, Hoskins is the founder of War Child. He spent much of his career working with the UN, treating civilian injuries in war zones. He was the youngest person to win United Nations Association in Canada’s Lester B. Pearson Peace Medal. He has also received the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Cross, and has been named an Officer of the Order of Canada.
On Transit: Hoskins has said that he’s open to congestion charges and road tolls to pay for better public transit.
On Poverty Reduction: He favours a hike in both the minimum wage and Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program payments.
On Education: He wants to create a volunteer program that would allow young people to work off part of their OSAP debt through community service in Ontario or abroad.