Why Wynne makes it dif­fi­cult to see her lose

The Sun Times (Owen Sound) - - FORUM - CHRISTIE BLATCHFORD

I

t’s as plain as the nose on your face.

It’s so ob­vi­ous it hardly bears say­ing.

But it’s why the de­ci­sion fac­ing On­tario vot­ers on June 7 is so freak­ing dif­fi­cult — or rather, she’s why.

Kath­leen Wynne is so clearly heads and tails smarter, better in­formed and more ca­pa­ble than Doug Ford that it bor­ders on the ridicu­lous.

The lead­ing can­di­date to take her job has his ap­peal — a cer­tain rough-and-readi­ness — and he’s a better ex­tem­po­ra­ne­ous speaker than is usu­ally cred­ited and is adored by those weary of big gov­ern­ment.

But in most of the ways that should count, he sim­ply shouldn’t even dare to hope to line up to carry Wynne’s brief­case.

An­drea Hor­wath may be some­what more in Wynne’s league (in fair­ness, I’ve not seen her up close) but she comes with the peren­nial bag­gage (knap­sacks, surely) of the New Demo­cratic Party.

There are On­tar­i­ans who can’t bring them­selves to vote NDP or who did that once (for for­mer premier turned-Lib­eral sage Bob Rae) and, as with liver, never quite man­aged to ac­quire the taste.

(Wynne told the Na­tional Post in an in­ter­view Wed­nes­day, “the NDP hasn’t had to be ac­count­able for any­thing they’ve said” since 1995, when Rae was premier.)

As a col­league noted, this after we’d lis­tened to Wynne de­liver a rou­tinely great speech that showed her com­mand of the aero­space file par­tic­u­larly and more gen­er­ally the grownup file, if you were in­ter­view­ing the three can­di­dates for a job, any job, there’s not a per­son around who wouldn’t hire her.

If Dal­ton McGuinty were still lead­ing the Lib­er­als, there’d be no qualms about throw­ing the bums out after al­most 15 years in power.

And yet, and yet, Wynne makes that op­tion painful, be­cause she’s frankly so good.

As Bruce Cal­lan, the op­er­a­tions man­ager at MHI Canada Aero­space and a self-con­fessed Con­ser­va­tive, cheer­fully ac­knowl­edged of Wynne in a quiet mo­ment, “She’s done some good things. She’s been good.”

But he’ll vote for Ford be­cause he’s a Tory and he thinks it’s time for a change.

Wynne ex­pected, even three weeks ago, that hunger for change would be a defin­ing theme of the cam­paign, as it was in the last fed­eral elec­tion.

But, she said, she thinks there’s a grow­ing con­sen­sus that Ford wouldn’t be good for the prov­ince, and as the polls re­flect, that’s meant the New Democrats are get­ting greater con­sid­er­a­tion and thus greater scru­tiny.

She doesn’t dis­pute the two par­ties share much com­mon ground but says the dif­fer­ence be­tween them is the “ide­o­log­i­cal rigid­ity” that has the NDP, for in­stance, promis­ing not to fund for­profit child care.

That would see the end of “thou­sands of spa­ces,” Wynne said, “and why would we not fund that?” Her grand­kids at­tended a small for-profit child care. The ide­ol­ogy that dic­tates a black-and-white view of things isn’t for her; “that’s why I’m a Lib­eral.”

She’s aware of some of the re­views of her — that she’s aloof, or that she’s changed since she first ran (and lost) as a Toronto District School Board trustee, and that in some quar­ters, this has trans­lated to a lack of au­then­tic­ity.

“I have al­ways been taken aback when peo­ple say (that),” she said. “I don’t feel I’ve changed at all. I can’t re­mem­ber a time when I didn’t want to talk to strangers, when I didn’t ask a lot of ques­tions, when I wasn’t cu­ri­ous.”

The no­tion that she’s an insider, with pow­er­ful friends, also grates. “The party didn’t want me to run in the first place,” she said. “I had to fight for the nom­i­na­tion, be­cause I wasn’t one of them…. I’ve al­ways felt that I could con­nect with all sorts of peo­ple.

“And I don’t think be­ing rude or be­ing abra­sive or be­ing di­vi­sive or an­gry has any­thing to do with au­then- tic­ity. It has noth­ing to do with de­cent in­ter­ac­tion, and I’ve had de­cent in­ter­ac­tions with peo­ple all my life.”

She was care­ful to add, “Not so much that there’s a leader in On­tario that has bought into that, but that some­how as a so­ci­ety we don’t seem to be able to cope with it.” It wor­ries her.

And lest any­one for­get, Wynne is so fe­ro­ciously, nat­u­rally com­pet­i­tive that once, when she was skip­ping out­side the fam­ily home with her sis­ters, the third one, the artist, per­haps a bit ex­as­per­ated and weary, “just stopped and said, ‘Kathy, why do you al­ways try so hard?’”

Years later, that sis­ter, who draws comics, in­ter­viewed the oth­ers and made a little book called “Why We’re Not The Premier.”

There she was Wed­nes­day, at the aero­space plant in Mississauga first thing, next at the main store of Para­mount Fine Foods, the Mid­dle East­ern restau­rant chain started by the dim­pled phi­lan­thropist Mo­hamad Fakih, bak­ing pita and then tiny baklava pas­tries.

Th­ese were in­cred­i­bly small and del­i­cate, and had to be folded just so; one of them would be about the size of my thumb­nail.

Wear­ing an apron, hands duly washed, Wynne was ten­ta­tive at first, brow fur­rowed in con­cen­tra­tion.

Within a few min­utes, she had the fold­ing thing mas­tered.

Next thing any­one knew, she was in charge, now show­ing a mem­ber of her en­tourage how to do it, then lin­ing the little suck­ers in neat rows on a tray, ready to be driz­zled with honey and popped in the oven.

She doesn’t like to lose, at any­thing. That’s au­then­tic.

She makes it hard to be a voter.

NATHAN DENETTE / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

On­tario Lib­eral Leader Kath­leen Wynne tries her hand at riv­et­ing dur­ing an elec­tion cam­paign stop Wed­nes­day at the MHI Canada Aero­space plant in Mississauga, Ont.

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