The race to succeed Premier Dalton McGuinty is quickly taking shape as some candidates try to distance themselves from the past, showcase their present success and make the case for why they are best for the future of the party and the province. H+K takes a look at the cast of candidates – in the order they entered the race – and provides some insights on the political stage:

Glen Murray

  • MPP: 2 years (Toronto Centre)
  • Ministerial Portfolios: Research and Innovation; Training, Colleges and Universities
  • Key Endorsements: TBD

Murray has announced a series of policy proposals aimed at highlighting and improving upon popular McGuinty government initiatives. Murray’s proposals include no-money-down university and college tuition, tax cuts such as lowering the small business capital gains tax and replacing current deductions for child care with grants. Murray has so far offered the most specific policies, positioning himself as an ‘ideas’ candidate.

His brand: New ideas, tangible policy initiatives

Kathleen Wynne

  • MPP: 9 years (Don Valley West)
  • Ministerial Portfolios: Education; Transportation; Municipal Affairs and Housing; Aboriginal Affairs
  • Key Endorsements: MPPs David Zimmer, Reza Moridi and Mario Sergio, former minister Monique Smith, ministers John Gerretsen and Linda Jeffrey

Wynne’s campaign will focus on her ability to seek common ground on contentious matters. While issues such as education and cooperation with organized labour will play a prominent role, Wynne will also highlight the need to maintain the government’s current fiscal commitment to balance the books by 2017-18. If Wynne is elected Premier, she will likely attempt to form a more conciliatory relationship with the province’s doctors and teachers. While this was the case for many years, relations have soured due to contract disputes over the past year. This approach could help her as Premier by stemming recent NDP momentum partly gained as a result of the labour turmoil.

Her brand: Consensus building, balancing the needs of labour and business

Sandra Pupatello

  • MPP: 16 years (Windsor West)
  • Ministerial Portfolios: Community and Social Services; Education; Economic Development and Trade; Women’s Issues
  • Key Endorsements: Ministers Dwight Duncan and Bob Chiarelli

Pupatello has positioned herself as the jobs candidate. Her campaign will focus on job creation, economic growth and fiscal responsibility as its central themes throughout the leadership race. One thing which separates Pupatello from the other candidates is that she spent the last year in the private sector. Using this experience, she will position herself as the person who is best to handle business and the economy. If Pupatello wins, she would be Premier without a seat in the legislature. This also occurred after Ernie Eves became PC leader and Premier in 2002. Pupatello will likely run in a Windsor-Tecumseh by-election in place of finance minister Dwight Duncan, who has already stated he will not stand for re-election.

Her brand: Job creation, private sector experience

Charles Sousa

  • MPP: 5 years (Mississauga South)
  • Ministerial Portfolios: Labour; Citizenship and Immigration; Pan and Parapan American Games
  • Key Endorsements: MPP Soo Wong

During Sousa’s official campaign announcement, he highlighted a number of issues which will form the basis of his candidacy for Premier. The main focus will be jobs and the economy, specifically in northern Ontario. Sousa indicated the province needs to explore business opportunities in northern Ontario, engage First Nations groups, develop energy transmission capabilities in the north and build better transportation systems including high speed rail lines linking Hamilton to Toronto and Toronto to Oshawa. The focus on northern issues may position Sousa well to win delegate support from northern ridings during the leadership race, but could be of little benefit in a general election given the low number of ridings in the north.

His brand: Northern outreach, economic development

Gerard Kennedy

  • MPP: 10 years (York South / Parkdale-High Park)
  • Ministerial Portfolios: Education
  • Key Endorsements: Former ministers George Smitherman and Joe Cordiano, former MPP Steve Peters

Kennedy has not served in the legislature since 2006. So far, he is using this to his advantage by distancing himself from a number of controversies which have caused problems for the McGuinty government. While he has yet to outline specific policy proposals on which his campaign will be based, Kennedy indicated he would not have used legislation to solve problems with teachers or other public sector workers. The comment comes months after Premier McGuinty passed a bill imposing new contracts on the province’s teachers.

His brand: Inclusiveness and accountability

Eric Hoskins

  • MPP: 3 years (St. Paul’s)
  • Ministerial Portfolios: Citizenship and Immigration; Children and Youth Services
  • Key Endorsements: TBD

Hoskins announced his candidacy for Premier, stating it is time for a real process of renewal. During his announcement he prominently featured younger supporters. It is clear he is hoping to capture the attention of the party’s youth in a crowded leadership race. His campaign indicated it will focus on fiscal responsibility but has not offered any policy specifics or concrete proposals as of yet.

His brand: Fiscal accountability, youth engagement

Who’s for whom?

  • Endorsements are one of the most important aspects of leadership campaigns.
  • A statement of support from a key minister or prominent Liberal could help sway a number of party members and help a candidate immensely.
  • Over the next few months, expect to see most current Liberal caucus members, as well as key stakeholders from business, industry and labour, declare their support for a particular candidate.
  • Certain McGuinty advisors have already stated they will remain neutral. The Premier is not expected to show support for any candidate.

What’s next?

  • The official deadline for registering new members eligible to vote in the leadership contest is November 23. Until then, all candidates will be focused on selling party memberships in order to build profile and raise money.
  • Following this stage, delegates will be chosen for each riding during selection meetings on January 12-13. These delegates will be the ones who represent their riding and vote during the leadership convention on January 25-27.
  • Grassroots organizing is vitally important. Candidates and their campaign teams will focus on developing relationships with potential delegates to ensure they have enough support to compete for the nomination.
  • Whoever wins the leadership will not only have to face two opposition parties who have had months to prepare, but could also have to face the voters in a potential spring election.

Opportunities to engage

  • With the leadership convention just over two months away, timelines are very short.
  • Candidates are currently in the process of developing policy agendas which they hope will lead them to be the next Premier of Ontario.
  • It will be important to engage with each of the leadership candidates in order to be sure these policy agendas are as informed and responsible as possible.
  • H+K is well positioned with each candidate and can help ensure your voice is heard.
  • A number of key cabinet ministers have now resigned to run for party leader or have indicated they will not stand for re-election. This creates opportunities as new ministers fill the vacant cabinet positions.
  • Clients who have issues affected by these portfolios will need to re-examine and potentially adapt their strategy going forward.