Friday, January 25, 2013

By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday, January 25, 2013

Province’s political fate is in the hands of Grit delegates

Ontario’s political fate is now in the hands of some 2,300 Liberal delegates as they gather this weekend at Maple Leaf Gardens to elect Premier Dalton McGuinty’s successor.

Campaigns were escalating the war of words Thursday in what increasingly appears to be a two-woman race between Windsor West MPP Sandra Pupatello and Don Valley West MPP Kathleen Wynne.

Wynne, who trails slightly, was underscoring that she would recall the legislature Feb. 19, while Pupatello doesn’t yet have a seat.

Voting on the first ballot begins Friday when registration opens at 9 a.m. and continues until 11 p.m.

The delegates will gather along with the candidates and the media in the upper level hockey arena in the newly renovated Mattamy Athletic Centre at the old Maple Leaf Gardens. Once voting is open, they will head downstairs to the gymnasium to cast paper ballots that will be counted by hand.

Early results will not be announced until 12:30 p.m. Saturday. That’s because the Liberals want Friday night reserved for a 90-minute tribute to McGuinty, party leader since 1996 and premier for more than nine years. On Thursday, in a shot at Pupatello — who does not yet have a seat but would run in Finance Minister Dwight Duncan’s Windsor-Tecumseh riding in a byelection expected Feb. 28 — Wynne’s campaign co-chair said the new premier must hit the ground running in a minority legislature.

“Kathleen Wynne is ready to govern from day one with no extension of prorogation, no distractions, and no delays,” said John Wilkinson, a former cabinet minister, who will likely be Wynne’s chief of staff if she is premier