February 8, 2013

Women rule across Canada

Last week, the woman who could quite reasonably be described as the most powerful on the planet (and your former senator) took her leave from government — for now.

Across the great lake that the state of New York and province of Ontario share, a woman in a comparable position in the Canadian scheme of things was taking center stage.

Kathleen Wynne would probably never put herself in the same league as Hillary Clinton in terms of political or life experience. Yet when she is sworn in Monday as premier of Canada’s most populous and prosperous province, Wynne will be making what some might call a Clintonesque statement for women in Canada.

Wynne, who turns 60 in May, will not only be the first female premier of Ontario’s 13 million souls, she will be the first one who is openly gay. She won the race to replace premier Dalton McGuinty as leader of the Ontario Liberal party by a comfortable margin, beating another super-achiever woman.

Pundits say Wynne will probably face a general election in the spring. As she said in her victory speech, winning the leadership was “the easy part.”

The Liberals have been in power for nine years and won a minority government in the fall of 2011. In that vote, the Liberals lost ground in some of their traditional, non-urban territory. Whether Wynne, an unabashed Torontonian — the big city that the rest of the province allegedly loathes — can regain that turf may well be the key to the next vote, not her gender or sexual preference.

So it may be the T-word not the L-word that is Wynne’s biggest challenge.

Wynne, who came out when she was 37, dumping her husband with whom she had three children, is legally remarried with Jane Rounthwaite, a consultant for not-for-profit organizations. Her elected career started with the Toronto School Board, then Wynne became involved in the municipal scene. She first ran for the Ontario legislature in 2003, defeating a popular cabinet minister on the Liberals rise to power.

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