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ontario liberal party leadership candidates

Leadership contests are not just about winning. Often, candidates will run for the chance to raise their own profile within their Party, to secure a promotion and bigger role in the new administration, or to advance the ideas for issues important to them.

Where are they now that it's all over?

Following the recent Liberal Leadership in Ontario, it is a chance to examine how each of the candidates fared.

Eric Hoskins:
As Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment, Hoskins receives one of the glamour jobs of Cabinet as a reward for endorsing Wynne. The addition of the 'Employment' mandate also means he will have the chance to work on the issue of youth employment that was central to his policy offering during the race.

Hoskins' economic portfolio will also allow him to travel internationally as 'Salesman in Chief' for the Province. It will balance out his experience in non-economic roles both in and out of Government. All in all, this will allow him to round out his profile and make him a better candidate for 'next time'.

While less important than Sousa's or Murray's reward, it may, over time, prove that the biggest winner was Hoskins whose new role may allow him to be best positioned to run again when Premier Wynne retires.

Gerrard Kennedy:
Kennedy's return to seek the leadership of his party seems to have been a short-lived stint. Since the Convention, he has retreated to his private life and – unlike Sandra Pupatello – it does not seem as if much effort was made to ensure he run for a seat immediately or that a place for him of prominence be found in the new Government.

Glen Murray:
The first candidate to endorse Ms. Wynne, Murray has been a long-time champion of urban issues and during his campaign, presented a sweeping agenda for a new approach to infrastructure that included connections – road and rail – between urban centres to address congestion. Murray proposed to create a new 'Super Ministry' that would oversee this portfolio and, it would appear that he got his wish. He is now the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure.

This 'reward' however is more of a challenge than a gift. Murray's entire thinking about transportation issues – and especially how to pay for them – is very different from the more conventional approach of Premier Wynne. Alone amongst the former candidates, Murray rejected the use of new taxes or tolls and proposed instead an approach that would see greater private sector financing of new transit and transportation.

Premier Wynne has made it clear that paying for the $40–$100 billion in transportation needed in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area would require the very tolls and dedicated charges that Murray, as a candidate, opposed. If he can advance his approach and deliver, he can be a hero – but resisting the pressure of a Premier to pursue solutions she has proposed may ultimately make for an uncomfortable Minister.

Sandra Pupatello:
This recent race was different than many, in that the second-place finisher was not a member of the Legislature. There has been much speculation that Pupatello was offered the Finance portfolio in exchange for a committment to run in the vacant seat of fellow Windsorite Dwight Duncan. Her refusal to run – and thus her exclusion from the new Cabinet – may be telling. By not joining the new team, Ms. Pupatello retains the ability to run again should the Wynne leadership prove short-lived.

Charles Sousa:
Sousa is arguably the second biggest winner after Kathleen Wynne. Placing strong enough at the Convention to ensure that his support mattered, this MPP from Mississauga is now the Province's Minister of Finance. Arguably the second most important role in any level of Government, the Minister of Finance runs a powerful Ministry that is in many ways a parallel Government. Unlike other Ministries that focus on specific policy areas and 'files', Finance is a central ministry, meaning its purview and influence cuts across the entire scope of Government.

Although it has been denied by the new Wynne team, it is probably true that the new Premier's first choice for this role was Sandra Pupatello who came second in the Leadership. There is a long history of candidates who place second securing this portfolio both in Canada and abroad. Sousa's challenge will be to carve out enough autonomy to allow himself to develop a profile and meaningful role apart from the inevitable influence of the Premier and her Office.

Harinder Takhar:
Although he returned to his old role as Minister of Government Services, Takhar was also a winner. He was named Chair of the Management Board which is the position where decisions about spending and long-term planning are made. Normally this is a role taken by the Minister of Finance. So in very real terms, the powers of the Minister of Finance have been divided.

Takhar, unlike Sousa, has sat on this decision-making body and his expertise and experience may in time see him – not Sousa – really perform the most critical day-to-day tasks of a Finance Minister.

Kathleen Wynne:
New Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party and Premier of Ontario. Congratulations again to Kathleen Wynne! There's a big road ahead for Ontario.

Leonard Spencer
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