Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Party elites, not grassroots members, chose Wynne for Ontario Liberal Leader...

The recent Ontario Liberal leadership convention in Toronto was enjoyable to attend. It gave me the opportunity to re-connect with dozens of Liberals I've known over the years. It also provided great drama as it produced a new leader and premier for Ontario, Kathleen Wynne.

This story today by Ontario Newswatch's Susanna Kelley fleshes out some of the shenanigans carried out by party elites in and around the various candidates to determine the outcome. It appears from the article that last-place finisher Eric Hoskins may have been promised the Health ministry in exchange for his support for Wynne after the second ballot. That move shocked rival candidate Sandra Pupatello and her supporters who had expected Hoskins to come to her, based on a meeting she had with Hoskins and his wife earlier that week.

As a Pupatello supporter, I volunteered my Saturday morning at the convention to don a Pupatello t-shirt, hat and sign to help support her during her convention speech along with dozens of others. Pupatello aides gave us instructions that morning to take an extra Pupatello sign to hand to Hoskins supporters when they entered the convention floor after us. We were told also to take a Hoskins sign back in a show of solidarity between the candidates. It was clear that they all believed Hoskins was coming over to Pupatello.

That's why this story by Kelley rings true to me. Hoskins' move to Wynne signalled that Wynne's campaign was seizing momentum, particularly after the closeness of the two leading candidates on the first ballot (599 for Pupatello and 597 for Wynne.)

Other elites like Hazel McCallion and Greg Sorbara also played major roles in helping to determine the outcome. The article alludes to McCallion's wish for $1.5 billion in provincial money for Mississauga's new LRT. Her sudden support for Wynne at the convention just days after pledging neutrality is interesting. It seems her support for Wynne had a lot to do with Charles Sousa's decision to also support Wynne at the convention, a move which shocked supporters of Sandra Pupatello who had thought Sousa's centre-right/business-friendly mentality would make Pupatello a more natural fit.

Now that she's won, I support Kathleen Wynne 100 percent. I hope for the best for her government and I'll be praying she gets re-elected. It's one thing to earn a victory based on hard work and merit. It's quite another when backroom deals are struck to help determine an outcome. The pressure cooker of a convention in which hundreds of delegates are easily swayed by the moves of their candidates remains the easiest way for party elites to determine the leadership outcome. If the result is left up to thousands of members scattered throughout the province who rely solely on their own judgment rather than those of the elites, the final results can be quite different. If those members' votes have already been cast in a preferential balloting system (like the federal NDP undertook last year), the power of the elites to determine the outcome between ballots is completely undermined.

I fully expect the powers-that-be in the Ontario Liberal Party who once again used the archaic convention system to get their way to fight tooth-and-nail to keep that convention system for future leaderships. The big question will be if Wynne, who was once shunned by those party elites and generally is known for her love of fair process, but also benefited from the current system to win power, agrees to keep the status quo for choosing leaders in the Ontario Liberal Party for next time.


Rotterdam said...

Welcome to the Ontario Liberal Party. Deals are cut by the elites to choose a leader and pull a power plant.

janfromthebruce said...

I agree with Rotterdam. As a non liberal supporter, I feel disgusted that "pork" was being traded on that convention floor. And that "pork" are Ontarians tax dollars, not the liberal party's money.

That kind of wheeling and dealing is what was attempted in KitWat but the outcome was a bust - almost 1 million bucks later (buying off a PC and giving her a high paying job in govt), cost of 2 byelections, and throwing education into turmoil by throwing teachers and public school boards under the proverbial bus.
Disgusting and arrogant comes to mind.