Ontario Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne says becoming the first openly gay premier in Canada is “historic” and “exciting.”
But she says she doesn’t want it to overshadow her role in governing the country’s most populous province.
She says she feels a special responsibility to young gay people who are looking for the possibility that there might be a more accepting world somewhere.
She says it’s important to her that she may be helping people to be less frightened.
But Wynne says she’s not a gay activist and she doesn’t plan to spend the next few months talking about it.
She says for her, the real historic thing is that she’ll become the sixth woman premier in Canada once she’s sworn in.
“We’ve wondered about why we haven’t had a higher percentage of women in legislatures and in Parliament,” Wynne said Sunday. “Well, maybe now we’re reaching a critical mass.”
Wynne, who is married to Jane Rounthwaite and has three children and two grandchildren, has said homophobia always comes up in her campaigns and did in this one too, with a Toronto newspaper editorial asking if Ontario is ready for an openly gay premier.
The question is posed to her as an electability issue, but she says that underestimates Ontarians to assume that sexual orientation is going to determine how they vote.
And Ontario is ready for a gay premier, she said in a rousing speech Saturday to Liberal delegates assembled at the leadership convention.
“The province has changed, our party has changed. I do not believe that the people of Ontario… hold that prejudice in their hearts,” she told the crowd.
But the former mediator made it clear after her leadership victory that what she wanted most was to be a consensus builder who could lead the embattled Ontario Liberals successfully in a minority government.
She pulled ahead of rival Sandra Pupatello after three ballots, winning 1,150 votes at the delegated convention — a result she said would allow her to build on what outgoing Premier Dalton McGuinty has done over the last nine years.
Wynne, 59, was first elected to the legislature in the Liberal sweep of 2003, serving as minister of education, as well as aboriginal affairs, municipal affairs and transportation. Before entering politics, she was a conflict mediation professional running her own company.
Her no-nonsense, professorial style often mirrors McGuinty’s, but she believes she’s different than the outgoing premier and is the right leader for the times.
“Dalton and I have different personalities, different approaches, but I have seen the value of his integrated personality,” Wynne said in a recent interview.
“He really is able to be the same person no matter who he’s talking to, and it’s the value of that that I’ve really witnessed over the last nine years, but I think we’re different people, and right now calls for a different kind of politician than 2002-03.”
Wynne has said she would recall the house by Feb. 19, and would not call an election this year or design a budget that would trigger the government’s defeat.