I supported Gerard Kennedy in the 1996 OLP race.
I supported Sheila Copps in the 2003 federal race (one of the few, I know.) I also supported Stephane Dion in 2006 (and have been eating humble pie ever since.)
So I've backed people who either won the leadership but failed to win the election. Or people who failed to win the leadership at all.
Dalton McGuinty's longevity has proven me quite wrong. His government has changed Ontario for the better having improved public education and public health care greatly over his 9 years in office. His final year was plagued with scandals and a fight with teachers that have left Ontario Liberal popularity in trouble.
The question is now: who can fix things? Who can do the best job as a leader and a premier? For me, that person is Sandra Pupatello.
As a downtown gay Torontonian, I might have in years past put my support behind a candidate like Kathleen Wynne. This article spends far too much time worrying about the delegates' opinions of her sexual orientation. For me, I think the fact that Wynne's a lesbian would ultimately be a plus with voters. It would be historic. I have no doubt that Wynne would do well in the job.
Just not as well as Sandra, whose political instincts are far more refined and battle-ready. In a minority government with hostile opposition parties, we need a carrot and a stick approach to making things work for Ontarians. It won't be enough to have great conciliation skills if the opposition isn't interested in helping you with your agenda. No the stick - ie. the political threat of defeat - is far more effective at brokering a deal.
For the opposition, the first instinct will always be to embarrass the government and defeat it. If they smell blood, they'll go for the jugular. All the Harvard dispute resolution training won't matter much if they think you're vulnerable. And for me, Wynne is very vulnerable. Not because she's a lesbian. But because she's been at the cabinet table for the last year in which so many disasters have occurred for the government.
For me, Pupatello's absence from the scene the last 1.5 years is one of her greatest trump cards in this leadership. That plus her considerable experience, personality and communication abilities make her the best candidate at this time. She's extraordinary.
Is Ontario ready for a woman premier? Yes. Are they ready for an Italian-Canadian premier? Yes. Are they ready for a lesbian premier? Yes. Are they ready for a downtown Torontonian progressive at a time when most are worried about the economy and the deficit? Probably not.
Are they ready for Sandra Pupatello? I have great faith that they are.