The Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.
Will Northern Liberal MPPs who backed the runner-up candidate in Saturday’s leadership convention pay a heavy price? Not necessarily, says one veteran political observer and former MPP.
Thunder Bay Coun. Iain Angus said Sunday that Natural Resources Minister Michael Gravelle of Thunder Bay and Northern Development and Mines Minister Rick Bartolucci of Sudbury may very well retain cabinet posts under new party leader and soon-to-be premier Kathleen Wynne.
“First off, (Wynne) is going to need some representation from Northern Ontario, and she’s also going to need some people with experience,” said Angus, who was an NDP MPP for two years in the mid-1970s. Gravelle and Bartolucci fit the bill on both counts, said Angus. “The question is, what ministry will they end up with?
“The thing about a cabinet shuffle is that it can take a very long time (for new ministers) to get up to speed,” he said.
Gravelle and Bartolucci, along with MPP Bill Mauro (Thunder Bay-Atikokan) and Sault Ste. Marie MPP David Orazietti all backed runner-up Sandra Pupatello, the former Windsor MPP who was seen to have the backing of the Liberal party establishment.
In politics, memories can be long. Angus noted the long-held belief that Gravelle would have been in the cabinet a lot sooner had he backed out-going premier Dalton McGuinty for leader instead of current Finance Minister Dwight Duncan.
Many Northerners found out just how fickle Queen’s Park can be when Timiskaming Liberal MPP David Ramsay was inexplicably dumped as Natural Resources minister in 2007.
For his part, Gravelle took the high road in a statement Sunday: “I am looking forward to working closely with . . . Wynne and I am pleased to say that we have both a close personal and professional relationship; I will be honoured to serve (Wynne) in whatever capacity she asks me to take on.”
Wynne campaign team spokesman Brian Clow said Sunday that while Wynne is aware of whom supported whom, “she has a great relationship” with the four Northern Grits who didn’t endorse her in the leadership campaign.
Interestingly, former long-time Algoma-Manitoulin LIberal MPP Mike Brown, who lost his seat in the 2011 provincial election, did back Wynne — while praising her ability to pilot a snowmobile.
As further proof of Wynne’s commitment to the North, Clow noted that her transition team is being led by former North Bay-area Liberal MPP Monique Smith.
A Northern Ontario committee of cabinet is to be struck in 30 days, Clow added, although details have to be finalized.
Angus said Wynne, who served as Municipal Affairs minister among other portfolios, made a good impression among Northern municipal politicians.
“We were impressed that she actually seemed to listen,” he said. “She didn’t always agree with us, but she heard us out and got back to us.” Clow said he expects Wynne to be sworn in as premier “in the next 10 days or so.” Wynne has committed to resuming the legislature by Feb. 19.