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Local Liberals praise Wynne's election 0

By Sean Chase, Daily Observer

SUBMITTED PHOTO   Inside Maple Leaf Gardens, Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke riding delegates Maggie Conway (left), Barry Robinson, Meredith Caplan Jamieson (along with her daughter) and Derek Nighbor cheer on their candidate, Kathleen Wynne, who will become Ontario's next premier.

SUBMITTED PHOTO Inside Maple Leaf Gardens, Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke riding delegates Maggie Conway (left), Barry Robinson, Meredith Caplan Jamieson (along with her daughter) and Derek Nighbor cheer on their candidate, Kathleen Wynne, who will become Ontario's next premier.

Area Liberals are praising the selection of Kathleen Wynne as the province's first woman premier.

However, Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP John Yakabuski said Sunday Dalton McGuinty's successor is a member of the same government that has created the current financial mess the province is in.

While he extended congratulations to Wynne, Yakabuski called on the premier-designate to answer lingering questions surrounding eHealth, Ornge Air Ambulance and the relocation of power plants in southern Ontario.

"She needs to be ready to answer the questions that Dalton McGuinty didn't," said the MPP. "Ontario's debt has continued to grow and there needs to be real action. She may not be ready to take the measures necessary to get this province back on track."

Securing a third ballot victory with 1,150 votes to former MPP Sandra Pupatello’s 866, Wynne inherits a deadlocked minority government, a prorogued legislature and an $11.9-billion deficit.

One of the thousands of delegates attending the convention at the former Maple Leafs Gardens in Toronto was Whitewater Region Deputy Mayor Izett McBride, who cast his ballot for Wynne, whp secured 70 per cent of the delegates from Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke. Pupatello grabbed four delegate spots, while Gerard Kennedy, the former Parkdale-High Park MP and MPP, secured one delegate.

During the voting for the second and third ballots, McBride was buoyed by the movement of four defeated candidates to Wynne's camp which eventually put her over the top. With the new leader and premier now selected, McBride said the party will unify.

"There's a real strong feeling of positive unity," he said noting that Wynne will be conciliatory towards the opposition parties in Queen's Park. "She says outright it will be her job to work the Conservatives and the New Democrats so that people are forced into a premature election."

Former Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke NDP candidate Brian Dougherty said he expects Wynne was the best choice adding his leader, Andrea Horbath, is willing to work with the incoming premier.

"I hope she understands you have to make a minority government work and you can't run things the way Dalton did," said Dougherty noting the problems that plagued the Liberals under McGuinty will continue to haunt Wynne. "Kathleen Wynne would have to make a huge change to make people forget all the things that Dalton McGuinty did. It appeared he didn't want to deal with anything. He prorogued the legislature and walked away after dropping the bomb on the teachers."

The dormant legislature could be recalled as early as Feb. 19. Yakabuski said the committees should be reinstated so that there can be public consultation when the Liberals bring down the throne speech and provincial budget expected in the spring. He hopes Wynne will be serious about tackling Ontario's debt and deficit.

"If the government is not ready to face these problems and tackle these challenges, it's going to be harder for us to support any agenda she brings forward," said Yakabuski. "We want to see what the McGuinty/Wynne government brings forward. We cannot continue to go deeper into debt without suffering some severe consequences."

In the riding, the Liberals and the NDP have yet to nominate candidates in the event the government falls over the budget or any other non-confidence vote in the legislature. McBride anticipates the riding association is working towards election readiness.

"There's nobody standing in the wings," he said. "To be candid, John Yakabuski has been a good representative of the riding. But there's a lot of people who are Liberal-minded as opposed to the traditional Conservative. I think there's new excitement throughout the territory because of this leadership campaign."

Dougherty, who was the NDP candidate in the 2011 election, said he is ready to seek his party's nomination.

"Hopefully the three leaders can make things work so we don't go to an election too soon," he said.

Sean Chase is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist

sean.chase@sunmedia.ca

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