Who's who in the Ontario Liberal Leadership race

What you need to know about the six candidates, and then some

Frank Gunn/CP

After the surprise resignation of Dalton McGuinty in October, the Ontario Liberal Party is finally ready to elect a new leader. While there are currently six candidates vying to be Ontario’s next premier, the odds are it will come down to a two-way race between Toronto’s hyper-progressive Kathleen Wynne and Windsor spitfire Sandra Pupatello. The voting process, however, may render a few surprises. Instead of allowing all party members to vote, the next premier will be selected by 2, 200 chosen delegates and “ex-officios”—former and current Liberal MPPs and MPs. The same process was used in the federal Liberal leadership contest in 2006, which saw Stéphane Dion upset front-runners Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae after Dion received overwhelming support from delegates of defeated candidate Gerard Kennedy. While the process has been criticized for being both time-consuming and elitist, watch for it to inject a little drama into the weekend’s voting.

Candidate: Sandra Pupatello

Age: 50
Hometown: Windsor, Ontario
Percentage of Delegates (as of Jan. 21st, 2013): 27 per cent
Previous position: director of business and global markets PricewaterhouseCoopers (2011- pres), MPP for Windsor-Sandwich (1995-1999) Windsor West (1999-2011)
Portfolios: Minister of Community and Social Services (2003-2006), Minister of Education (April 2006-Sept 2006)
Minister of Economic Development and Trade (2006-2008, 2009-2011)
Minister of International Trade and Development (2008-2009)


  • Bilingual
  • The only candidate from outside the GTA (only two of 24 premiers in Ontario’s history have hailed from the province’s biggest city)
  • Strong economic credentials
  • Specific platforms on social assistance, developing the Ring of Fire mining deposit in Northern Ontario, and improving health care in that region
  • Untainted by McGuinty government scandals like anti-strike legislation, Bill 115, which targeted teachers, or the cancellation of gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga which could leave the province with a $1 billion bill.


  • Does not currently hold a seat in the Ontario legislature, has said she would hold over McGuinty’s unpopular prorogation until she could win a seat in a by-election.
  • Has few nice words for her fellow Liberal candidates. “There is no reason I’d be in this race but for this terrible year,” she told the Toronto Star, suggesting the better candidates who would normally have run to replace McGuinty, like Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, are too connected to the scandals to be considered. “When I stand back and look at the cast of candidates, even I would pick me.”
  • She’s rumoured to have left politics in 2011 because of a falling out with McGuinty’s inner circle.

Candidate: Kathleen Wynne

Age: 59
Hometown: Richmond Hill, Ontario
Registered delegates: 25 per cent
Previous positions: Conflict mediator (1990-2000) School board trustee (2000-2003) MPP Don Valley West (2003-present)
Portfolios: Minister of Aboriginal affairs (2011-2012), Municipal Affairs and housing (2011-2012). Minister of Transportation (2010-2011), Minister of Education (2006-2010)


  • Strong progressive credentials (which could potentially siphon votes from the NDP).
  • Spearheaded all-day kindergarten as education minister.
  • Oversaw Transit City (a comprehensive public transportation plan for Toronto that was later cancelled by Rob Ford) as transportation minister.
  • Effective campaigner. In 2007, she pulled a surprise upset in her riding, Don Valley West, defeating John Tory, who was leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives at the time.
  • Has plans to give cities more autonomy over transportation, green projects
  • Is often described as “easy to like”


  • Thin economic credentials. Often answers questions about the economy in a social justice framework. When asked about the economy in January, she told the Ottawa Citizen that if someone is sitting in traffic for 45 minutes on their way to work, or if climate change affects a farmer’s apple crop “those are economic issues.”
  • Voted for Bill 115, although she later told reporters that she only supported it to maintain her seat in cabinet.
  • A proud Torontonian – not a good thing to be if you want to win a provincial election.
  • Not bilingual

Candidate: Gerard Kennedy

Age: 52
Hometown: The Pas, Manitoba
Percentage of Registered Delegates: 14 per cent
Previous positions: President of the Daily Bread Food Bank (1986-1996), MP for Parkdale-Highpark (2008-2011), MPP for Parkdale-Highpark (1999-2006), MPP for York South (1996-1999)
Portfolios: Minister of Education (2003-2006)


  • By far the greatest name recognition of any of the candidates
  • First candidate to publically come out against Bill 115
  • As Minister of Education, he increased teacher salaries by 10.5 per cent over four years and quelled any labour strife.
  • Bilingual


  • Already launched two failed leadership bids (for Ontario in 1996, where he lost to Dalton McGuinty, and for federal liberal leadership in 2006, where he lost on an early ballot and went on to support Dion)
  • Recently uninvolved in Ontario politics
  • Does not hold a seat in Queen’s Park

Candidate: Harinder Takhar

Age: 61
Hometown: Punjab province, India
Registered Delegates: 13 per cent
Previous positions: Executive at Agra Industries and Gennum Corp, business instructor at Sheridan college MPP for Mississauga Centre (2003-2007) MPP for Mississauga-Erindale (2007-present)
Portfolios: Minister of Transportation (2003-2006), Minister of Small Buisness and Consumer Services (2006-2009), Minister of Government Services (2009-2012)


  • Detailed plan to balance the budget by 2016, including a focus on small business and tax incentives for companies hiring new employees.
  • Detailed plan to address challenges faced by people with developmental disabilities


  • Highly criticized for entering the race just before the deadline, accused of running as a “stealth candidate” while he was still in cabinet.
  • In January, the Toronto Star reported that a factory run by Takhar did not follow provincial safety laws and has twice been reported for dangerous working conditions.

Candidate: Charles Sousa

Age: 54
Hometown: Toronto, Ontario
Registered Delegates: 11 per cent
Previous Positions: various positions with the Royal Bank of Canada, MPP for Mississauga South (2007-present)
Portfolios: Minister of Citizenship and Immigration (2011-2012), Minister of Labour (2010-2011)


  • He ran a well-organized campaign,
  • He’s the most right-of-centre candidate and has a history of working across party lines (campaigned for then, future PC leader John Tory when he ran for mayor in 2004)
  • Sound business credentials


  • Has less experience in provincial politics and a thinner portfolio than his opponents
  • He’s failed to distinguish himself on the campaign trail.

Candidate: Eric Hoskins

Age: 52
Hometown: Simcoe, Ontario
Percentage of Registered Delegates (as of Jan. 21st, 2013): six per cent
Previous positions: President and co-founder (with wife, Samantha Nutt) of War Child Canada. Physician and humanitarian, MPP St. Pauls (2009-pres.)
Portfolios: Minister of Citizenship and Immigration (2010-2011)
Minister of Children and Youth Services in October (2011-2012)


  • Academic and humanitarian credentials (highlights of which include a Rhodes scholarship and being inducted into the Order of Canada).
  • Respected beyond Ontario
  • Popular with younger voters
  • Photogenic


  • Little experience in Ontario politics
  • Vague political platforms

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.