Ontario Liberals pick openly gay woman as their leader and next premier

Associated Press

TORONTO - People across Ontario are waking up today to a new chapter in the history books.

The province's governing Liberals have picked an openly gay woman as their new leader and the province's next premier.

Kathleen Wynne ran slightly behind Sandra Pupatello throughout the three-month leadership race, and even after the first two ballots at the leadership convention.

But three of her rivals decided to throw their support to Wynne, putting her over the top on the third-ballot showdown with Pupatello.

Wynne promised to recall the Ontario legislature Feb. 19, admitting people don't like the fact the house has been idle since Premier Dalton McGuinty made his resignation announcement in October.

She says she wants to keep the minority government alive and will reach out to the opposition leaders, but told delegates to prepare for an election.

The Liberals have a fresh start and will need all the ideas that came out of the leadership race to continue to govern, she told the party faithful.

"The coming months are about a continuation of this renewal," she said Saturday night.

"It's about getting back to the legislature, getting to work, working with the opposition and demonstrating to the people of Ontario that we can govern in a minority government. That is what we're going to do."

One union is reaching out to her to end the labour strife over the government's decision to impose new contracts on teachers.

The move, which froze the wages of most teachers, was aimed at reducing Ontario's $12-billion deficit, but teachers say the legislation the Liberals used to do it was undemocratic.

Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, said he'd like to meet with Wynne as soon as possible to find a way to bring stability back to schools.

Wynne said during the campaign that she wouldn't get rid of the two-year contracts, but would work with the unions on the next set of negotiations in 2014.

Wynne, who hasn't been sworn in yet, is expected to hold a news conference Sunday morning.

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