Ontario Liberal leadership: Behind the scenes with Kathleen Wynne – by Jennifer Wells (Toronto Star – January 26, 2013)

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From the vantage point of the midsection of the 14-metre megabus plastered with Kathleen Wynne’s grinning visage, the candidate’s feet, encased in over-the-knee black leather boots, can be seen dangling across the arm rest. This signals that the Liberal party leadership hopeful is in rare repose, supine across two seats as the “Win-with-Wynne” campaign bus whistle stops through London-Strathroy, or possibly Wingham-Neustadt, or could this be Peterborough-Cobourg?

The truth of the matter is Wynne doesn’t commonly “do” repose. For 2 1/2 days last weekend she unfailingly kept an upbeat So-This-is-What-the-Inside-of-a-Tim-Hortons-Looks-Like! demeanour as she greeted delegates, anti-wind-turbine activists, riding officials (and the occasional baby), racing toward what one can only hope will be the last delegated leadership convention in the province’s history.

Only once did Wynne publicly kvetch as she headed out for her essential mind-clearing half-hour run Sunday morning to find herself stuck in deep snow and an oncoming whiteout. “I couldn’t move!” she bleated, before reboarding the bubble bus.

(At the age of 18 and in high school, Wynne ran the 440 in 63.3 seconds, a record, she cheekily notes, that still stands. The conversion to metric was made the following year. Wynne still runs daily and appears to have the body fat of a whippet.)

The bus is a campaign ecosystem. At the back we have MPP Glen Murray, who exited the race early and threw his support behind Wynne. Toward the front we have Jane Rounthwaite, Wynne’s spouse, who has put her consulting business on hold for the duration of the campaign. For a short while we have John Wilkinson, former cabinet minister and campaign co-chair. And scattered throughout we have paid campaign staff and a feverish collection of brainy 20-something volunteers pondering law studies offers from Cardiff and Cambridge, or running the social media side of the campaign (“political candy,” Murray calls it), or becoming suddenly seized with brilliant ideas.

This would explain the snowbound adventure in which the highly skilled driver of the megabus found himself unexpectedly having to execute a dead-of-night three-point turn on a country lawn as the bus made a pilgrimage to the homestead of long ago Liberal premier Harry Nixon. “They’ll think an alien has landed,” said Wynne, bemused, as she eyed the rutted landscape left by the bus tires.

This is behind-the-scenes Wynne at a moment when the pre-convention delegate numbers have her running a tight second to Sandra Pupatello, though, as Dalton McGuinty’s victory in 1996 shows, with a delegated convention one just never knows. (McGuinty was third on the first ballot, and it took five ballots to beat back front-runner Gerard Kennedy.)

The Wynne metrics: committed delegates going into the first ballot — 468, to Pupatello’s 509. Committed ex-officio delegates: 88 for Wynne versus 106 for Pupatello as of Friday. (There are 453 ex officios who are entitled to vote, including MPPs, past presidents of the Liberal party and executive members of the Ontario Women’s Liberal Commission.) The number of Wynne donors exceeds 1,100, with an average donation of $514, exemplifying the fact her team has broad support with a low dollar average, a Wynne trademark.

Wynne also holds a seat — Don Valley West — a point that undermines the “I will hit the ground running” sound bite adopted by Pupatello, who has been out of politics for more than a year. Wynne has persistently said that job one, should she win, is to get the legislature back to work Feb. 19. Her message to delegates: vote for me and you’re voting for a premier. Her oft-repeated sound bite: “No one wants an election.”

Through the course of the weekend Wynne — mother of three now grown children, multi-linguist (German, Dutch, French, English), holder of two master’s degrees, Harvard-trained in mediation — settled into a series of conversations that broadly spanned the economy, education, adversity, skills set, the forces that framed her, the Ring of Fire etcetera.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/news/insight/article/1320255–ontario-liberal-leadership-behind-the-scenes-with-kathleen-wynne