Kathleen Wynne To Become Ontario's First Woman Premier (LIVE UPDATES, PHOTOS, VIDEO)

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TORONTO - Ontario will get its first female premier after provincial Liberals chose a diplomat over a warrior to lead the embattled party into an uncertain future.

Former education minister Kathleen Wynne won the party's leadership race Saturday with 1,150 delegate votes, with longtime Liberal Sandra Pupatello finishing second with 866.

"This was the easy part," Wynne told the crowd of cheering delegates at the former Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto after she was declared winner.

"Now we have the challenges ahead of us and we're going to need all of us working together."

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Wynne will also make history as Canada's first openly gay premier, a subject she confronted head-on in a dynamic speech that wowed delegates Saturday morning.

Ontario is ready for a gay woman as premier, Wynne told the crowd earlier in the day.

"The province has changed, our party has changed. I do not believe that the people of Ontario... hold that prejudice in their hearts," said Wynne, who is married to Jane Rownthwaite.

Wynne delegate Alex Wilkinson, 24, said it's a significant milestone for the province and the country, which will have its sixth female premier when Wynne is sworn in.

"We can do it. You can be from Toronto, you can be a woman, you can be gay. You can do that and be premier at the same time."

Wynne has vowed to recall the prorogued legislature by Feb. 19 and said she would immediately try to meet with the opposition party leaders in an effort to make the minority government work.

"We're going to need all the ideas that came out of this campaign, we're going to need to put them together," she told the crowd.

"We're going to need to weave together a platform because we're going to have to have it ready at any moment to go into a campaign. But we're also going to need all those ideas to continue to govern."

Pupatello, a Windsor native who served as economic development minister before leaving the government in 2011, appealed to the party faithful to come together in her concession speech.

"Tonight we made history: our final ballot had two women on the ballot," she said to deafening applause. "Two strong women on the ballot."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper congratulated Wynne on her win, and thanked Premier Dalton McGuinty — who embraced Wynne onstage — for his service as premier.

"I look forward to working with Ms. Wynne on addressing issues that matter to Ontarians, and in particular the creation of jobs and economic growth," he said in a statement.

There were early signs that Wynne had momentum in the race, nearly tying Pupatello after the first ballot with just two votes between them.

Pupatello got a major boost from Harinder Takhar — widely seen as a stalking horse for the former MPP — and widened her lead after the second ballot.

But Wynne cleaned up as Eric Hoskins, Charles Sousa and finally third-place finisher Gerard Kennedy threw their support behind her, pushing her to the top.

Sousa's support surprised some observers, who believed the former banker and immigration minister would head to Pupatello's more right-leaning camp.

Sources say Mississauga's 91-year-old mayor Hazel McCallion helped convince Sousa — who holds a seat in the city west of Toronto — to cross the floor to Wynne. But Sousa said it was really about getting the legislature back.

Some speculated that Pupatello's desire to call a byelection to get a seat before bringing back the legislature may have turned the tide in Wynne's favour.

But her no-nonsense, professorial style — almost identical to McGuinty's — may have also been a factor.

McGuinty's "never too high, never too low" mantra carried the Liberals through nine years of ups and downs, and Wynne may have tapped into a vein of Liberals who want to stick with the moderate, centrist style that's allowed them to ward off the Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats.

Wynne insists she's different from McGuinty and the right leader for the times.

But as she takes the reins of power, Wynne will also have to deal with the baggage McGuinty left behind.

He's alienated a powerful ally the Liberals had courted for years — Ontario's public school teachers — by forcing a pay freeze to reduce the province's $12-billion deficit. Public sector unions, who protested by the thousands outside the convention hall, have vowed to use their organizational might to defeat the Liberals in the next election.

McGuinty also left behind a trail of controversies, from the political decisions to cancel two gas plants in Liberal ridings — at a cost to taxpayers of at least $230 million — to a criminal probe of the province's Ornge air ambulance service.

Sam Hammond, head of the union representing public school elementary teachers, said he wants to meet with Wynne, who has "a fresh opportunity to work to resolve" the labour strife.

"The sooner we can meet with the premier, the sooner we can work together to try and bring peace and stability back to our schools," he said in a statement.

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kathleen wynne dalton mcguinty

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Kathleen Wynne in Ontario, Pauline Marois in Quebec, Christy Clark in B.C., Alison Redford in Alberta. There is also Kathy Dunderdale in Newfoundland and Labrador and Eva Aariak in Nunavut

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On the third ballot
1. Kathleen Wynne - 57.04 per cent

2. Sandra Pupatello - 42.96 per cent

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@ scott_stinson : The thronged masses await. #olpldr http://t.co/XjScLd6K

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The results of the final ballot, and a winner, are coming soon.

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@ Kris680News : All that's left of the protest at Church & Carlton, demo held outside the Liberal leadership convention #olpldr http://t.co/7p2Ks08h

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@ robferguson1 : The @Kathleen_Wynne #olpldr campaign is handing out smoked meat sandwiches from@Caplansky. Wish I hadn't eaten already! #onpoli

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@ genevievetomney : We're being told that both @Kathleen_Wynne and @SandraPupatello will appear onstage together as Yasir Naqvi reads results-Stay tuned #olpldr

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@ suntooz : New premier will be "incoming premier." Once she and @Dalton_McGuinty meet with LG, she's the premier-designate #onpoli #olpldr

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@ DanielKitts : Kennedy tells Steve Paikin that despite being through this before he is immensely disappointed to lose. #onpoli #OLPldr

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As we wait for the results of the third and final ballot, did you know that teens as young as 14 years old voted today at the convention?

(h/t to CBC News)

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Story here http://huff.to/XCR8LC

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Many are saying Kathleen Wynne's convention speech has won her the job of premier. You can watch it, and read responses, here http://huff.to/XDqO44

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@ so_bell : Flood was quickly cleared up - cheer from the delegates as they resume entering the ballot box area. #olpldr

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@ CBCQueensPark : Unless there's a concession, we'll be here a while. Huge voting lineup snakes past CBC TV. #olpldr http://t.co/KyIz4lFM

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@ SusanDelacourt : Richard Nixon's plumbers never retired, apparently. #Olpldr delayed because of flooding problem.

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That according to a police estimate reported by CBC News. You can read about the protest and see photos here.

http://huff.to/V9rT67

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@ lrobertsglobal : Likely looking at next lib cabinet led by Kathleen Wynne. Awaiting 3rd ballot results liberal convention #onpoli http://t.co/ApTmeFvM

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Sandra Pupatello will now have a tough time winning the leadership.

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Who he's throwing his support behind remains a mystery. Looks like he'll play kingmaker (or queen maker in this case) once again.

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Big blow for Pupatello

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@ Justin_Ling : Oh, apparently Sousa and Kennedy are moving together. So this is about to be decided. Weee! #olpldr

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1. Sandra Pupatello - 39.41 per cent
2. Kathleen Wynne - 36.18 per cent
3. Gerard Kennedy - 13.75 per cent
4. Charles Sousa - 9.79 per cent

5. Harinder Takhar - 0.87 per cent

Takhar, who has already pledged his support to Pupatello, is automatically eliminated. Look to see what Sousa and Kennedy will do now.

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The results of the second ballot are now way overdue. Luckily, it seems we'll be getting answers shortly.

@ spaikin : The floor awaits the 2nd ballot results which are allegedly less than 10 mins away. #onpoli #olpldr http://t.co/fsnF2bw9

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What the street outside the convention usually looks like and what it looked like during a protest held by Ontario teachers and unions on Saturday.

liberal leadership convention protest

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@ CBCQueensPark : @GKennedyOLP source tells me he needs to grow by gainin at least 75 @harindertakhar delegates. If he doesn't, it's over for him. #olpldr

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Rick Mercer is among the many observers cracking jokes http://huff.to/XIa3FL

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@ devyn_noonan : Wait, did Sousa actually go to Pupatello? #olpldr #onpoli

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@ OPSEUSisters : 'Make the BOSSES take the LOSSES!' Another awesome sign at the #J26rally today! #olpldr http://t.co/V54n61Sh

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