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J.J. McCullough

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Media Bites: Wynne Is a Relative Term

Posted: 01/28/2013 12:55 pm

There were angry people outside the arena as the Ontario Liberal Party elected a new boss on Saturday. They filled the streets and created some awesome photos, but as far as protesters go, didn't have much to say. Far from a spontaneous uprising of outraged citizens, most of these walking signposts were members of union rent-a-crowds specifically bussed in for the afternoon -- the latest show of muscle in the ongoing drama between the McGuinty administration and various wings of the Ontario Teachers' Federation.

The absence of any legitimate grassroots outrage was a shame, because what transpired within the Mattamy Athletic Centre this weekend was absolutely worth protesting. Whatever we may think of the Liberals' new leader and her glamorous status as Ontario's first lesbian premier, the fact remains that Canadians have once again witnessed the extraordinarily undemocratic spectacle of a tiny group of partisans installing a ruler over them -- perhaps the single most authoritarian dysfunction of the Canadian parliamentary system.

Kathleen Wynne was "elected" premier (if you can call it that) on her party's second convention ballot with just over 1,100 votes. These votes, in turn, were cast by just over 2,000 Liberal "delegates" and assorted ex-officio hacks, an extraordinarily thin slice of a province of 13 million. Forget the 1 per cent -- Ontario literally outsourced the task of choosing its leader to the 0.01 per cent.

Not that this is some sort of unique Ontario dysfunction. The current premier of Alberta was originally installed by the votes of only 37,104 partisan insiders;  the premier of British Columbia by 28,411. Heck, the 26th prime minister of Canada was awarded his job by a measly 3,242.

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  • Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, right, congratulates incoming premier Kathleen Wynne at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Saturday, January 26, 2013.

  • Kathleen Wynne reacts after becoming the new leader of the Ontario Liberal party at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Saturday, January 26, 2013. The 59-year-old Toronto politician will be the province's first female and openly gay premier.

  • Sandra Pupatello, right, congratulates Kathleen Wynne after Wynne becomes the new leader of the Ontario Liberal party at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Saturday, January 26, 2013.

  • Kathleen Wynne, left, and her spouse Jane Rounthwaite stand together on stage at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Saturday, January 26, 2013.

  • Ontario Liberal Party leadership candidate Kathleen Wynne celebrates with fellow candidates Eric Hoskins (left), Gerard Kennedy (right) and Charles Sousa after they gave her their support at the convention in Toronto on Saturday January 26, 2013.

  • Ontario Liberal Party leadership candidate Kathleen Wynne reacts to the results of the second ballot at the convention in Toronto on Saturday January 26, 2013.

  • Sandra Pupatello, right, talks on her phone next to Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, left, at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Saturday, January 26, 2013.

  • Before and After

    What the street outside the convention usually looks like and what it looked like during a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/01/26/ontario-liberal-convention-protest_n_2556296.html?utm_hp_ref=canada-politics">protest held by Ontario teachers and unions</a> on Saturday afternoon.

  • An Ontario Liberal Party delegate is heckled as protesters gather outside Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens on Saturday, January 26, 2013 while the party gathers to vote for a new provincial Leader and in turn a new premier of Ontario.

  • Supporters of Sandra Pupatello look on as Kathleen Wynne gains momentum at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Saturday, January 26, 2013.

  • A look at the size of the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/01/26/ontario-liberal-convention-protest_n_2556296.html?utm_hp_ref=canada-politics">protest outside the Ontario Liberal Convention</a> in Toronto on Jan. 26, 2013.

  • Sandra Pupatello, left, gets endorsed by Harinder Takhar, right, at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Saturday, January 26, 2013.

  • Ontario Liberal Party leadership candidate Sandra Putatello celebrates with former prime minister John Turner at the convention in Toronto on Saturday January 26, 2013.

  • Ontario Liberal Party leadership candidate Kathleen Wynne speaks at the convention in Toronto on Saturday January 26, 2013.

  • Ontario Liberal Party leadership candidate Kathleen Wynne waves with fellow candidate Eric Hoskins (right) and his wife Samantha Nutt (front left) after he arrived to give her his support after the first ballot at the convention in Toronto on Saturday January 26, 2013.

  • Ontario Liberal Party leadership candidate Sandra Putatello celebrates with fellow candidate Harinder Takhar after he gave her his support at the convention in Toronto on Saturday January 26, 2013.

  • Ontario Liberal Party leadership candidate Sandra Putatello speaks at the convention in Toronto on Saturday January 26, 2013.

  • Kathleen Wynne dances on stage at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Saturday, January 26, 2013.

  • Ontario Liberal Party leadership convention delegates are greeted by hundreds of protesters as they arrive at convention in Toronto on Saturday January 26, 2013.

  • Gerard Kennedy waves on stage at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Saturday, January 26, 2013.

  • Harinder Takhar waves on stage at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Saturday, January 26, 2013.

  • Charles Sousa waves to supporters while on stage at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Saturday, January 26, 2013.

  • Eric Hoskins waves to supporters on stage at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Saturday, January 26, 2013.

  • Outgoing Premier Dalton McGuinty waves from the stage with his family after speaking at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Friday, January 25, 2013.

  • Outgoing Premier Dalton McGuinty speaks at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Friday, January 25, 2013.

  • Outgoing Premier Dalton McGuinty speaks at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Friday, January 25, 2013.

  • Premier Dalton McGuinty and his wife Terri McGuinty take their seats at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Friday, January 25, 2013.

  • Interim federal Liberal Leader Bob Rae greets Premier Dalton McGuinty at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Friday, January 25, 2013.

  • Ontario Liberal Party leadership candidate Sandra Pupatello departs after voting at the convention in Toronto on Friday January 25, 2013.

  • Ontario Liberal Party leadership candidate Kathleen Wynne talks with a delegate as she registers to vote at the leadership convention in Toronto on Friday, January 25, 2013.

  • Ontario Liberal Party leadership candidate Gerard Kennedy talks on his phone at the leadership convention in Toronto on Friday, January 25, 2013.

  • A cameraman is silhouetted against a projection screen at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Friday, January 25, 2013.

  • Ontario Liberal Party leadership candidate Charles Sousa and his wife Zenaida arrive to vote at the leadership convention in Toronto on Friday, January 25, 2013.

  • Ontario Liberal Party leadership candidate supporters hang banners at the site of the convention in Toronto on Thursday January 24, 2013.


Since ours is a country with no term limits, it's pretty much taken for granted that a premier has a right to abandon his job whenever pressures get too intense, and his party an equal right to install whomever they want in his place. Unlike Americans, Canadians have similarly been taught to believe that political parties are private property -- literal corporations, in fact -- that have a right to keep a tightly curated membership enforced through draconian tactics of expulsion and censorship. While Americans are given nomination elections open to any voter who merely self-identifies as a Republican or Democrat, Canadians learn that the practice of picking party leaders is not really the business of anyone but a couple thousand obsessive party nerds willing to pay for the privilege.

Once safely installed, our unelected leaders can rule for years exercising the full powers of their office, merrily passing laws, appointing bureaucrats, or proroguing the legislature as if they had any sort of public mandate to do so. Premier Wynne speaks with great excitement about all the cool stuff she's gonna get cracking on following her inauguration, presumably in the style of B.C.'s Christy Clark, who's been running her province for almost two years without facing voters.

And why not! Since a premier decides the date of her own election, there's tremendous incentive for an incumbent installed through backdoor party appointment to run the clock as long as she's legally able; What a great electoral advantage to already be premier before asking voters to vet you for the gig! Though I've expressed worry that Ms. Wynne's homosexuality may be a bigger electoral liability than is currently considered tasteful to contemplate, it's just as possible her flamboyant incumbency will be enough to cancel it out.

I'm not alone in finding all this controversial, but it really says something about Canada's waning democratic passion that many of our most robustly "reformist" commentators confront the crisis of undemocratically selected rulers with demands that the system get even less democratic. Vaguely aware that there's something untoward about living under premiers chosen by tiny cliques of partisan groupies who care more about political strategy than provincial interest, it's becoming increasingly common for analysts to draw the dense conclusion that these leaders are simply being picked by the wrong tiny elite.

It's from this logic we get the small-minded perestroika, pushed by academics like Christopher Moore and Peter Loewen and columnists like Andrew Coyne and Paul Wells, that what we really should be doing is "let the caucus choose." If we don't like the party bosses being chosen by a roomful of, in Dr. Lowen's words, "people of whom you have never heard," the logical alternative is to go back to the 19th century, and let our premiers be picked by the couple dozen men and women who make up their party's parliamentary delegation -- of whom, of course, we have all heard.

A major problem with Canada's broken democratic system is that too many powerful voices care more about that second word than the first. They fuss endlessly about ancient British precedents for coalition governments and the powers of the governor general, dredge up wacky Commonwealth case studies about goofy things that "can," theoretically, happen in the Westminster system when the moon is in the seventh house, but rarely ask the one question that matters most in a democracy: is the preference of the public -- the folks who pay the taxes and bear the real-world burden of government policy -- reflected by any of this?

It's lovely that Ontario has a gay, lady premier, but her status is ultimately cheapened by the fact that almost no one she now rules wanted or requested to be governed by her.

Far more historic would be a premier who finds that troubling.

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So long and thanks for reading! If want to keep up to date on where Kathleen Wynne goes from here, follow HuffPost Canada on Twitter and like HuffPost Canada Politics on Facebook.

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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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