By Lucas Grindley
Originally published on Advocate.com January 27 2013 11:32 AM ET
Ontario made history on Saturday by selecting Kathleen Wynne as premier after she delivered an inspiring defense of whether a gay woman is electable in Canada.
Wynne is the first woman to lead Ontario and the first openly gay person to lead any province in Canada. After three ballots, Wynne won by a vote of 1,150 to 866, according to the Globe and Mail.
Wynne's speech before the 2013 Ontario Liberal leadership convention in Toronto addressed the notion that an openly gay person could not win her party's leadership post. She did it by addressing concerns that, if a general election is triggered by the opposition, an openly gay premier would be a losing proposition for voters.
"I want to put something on the table," she said during a speech Saturday while seeking the leadership post. "Is Ontario ready for a gay premier? You've heard that question. You've all heard that question. But let's say what it actually means: can a gay woman win? That's what it means. Not surprisingly, I have an answer to that question. When I ran in 2003, I was told that the people of North Toronto and the people of Thorncliffe Park weren't ready for a gay woman. Well apparently they were."
The audience was enthusiastically with her throughout the speech but broke into some of its loudest cheers in response. Still, Wynne wasn't finished, then striking a chord of nationalistic optimism.
"You know, there was a time not that long ago when most of us in this leadership race, we would not have been deemed suitable. We would have been deemed unsuitable," she said, then pointing out her challengers are Portuguese-Canadian, Indo-Canadian, Catholic and female. "Most of us could not have hoped to stand on this stage. But the province has changed. Our party has changed. I do not believe the people of Ontario judge their leaders on the basis of race, sexual orientation, color or religion. I don’t believe they hold that prejudice in their hearts."
From the sound of it, the audience of liberals agreed wholeheartedly.
"They judge us on our merits, on our abilities, on our expertise, on our ideas," she said, "because that is the way everyone deserves to be judged, that is how we want our children, our grandchildren, our nieces our nephews, to be judged. All of us want to be judged on those things."
Wynne promised that if a general election is triggered, she would ensure her party is judged on the basis of its merits and successes.
Her speech was seen as helping her reach out to rural parts of Ontario, and it also included her hopes for the province as a grandmother. She has three children, Chris, Jessie and Maggie, and two granddaughters, Olivia and Claire.
"We are a people rooted in diversity," Wynne said, talking about her time as a small business owner who teaches mediation in schools, where she met students who speak multiple languages. "We are all capable of so much," she said, sounding an aspirational note. "I've offered myself to you as leader because of that optimism because of that love and that potential and that possibility."
Just like any straight candidate, Wynne praised her partner, Jane Rounthwaite, and thanked her for support, calling her a key fundraiser and "keeper of the lists." (See a Photo of the Couple)
"There are two kinds of political spouses, there are political spouses who are the support at home and they stand in the background and then there are the spouses who are right there on the front line, and they are both important types," she said. "Jane is on the front line."
Wynne, 59, has a seat in the legislature and is a former education minister, among many other roles in Ontario government.
Watch her convention speech below, via Toronto City News, and then her acceptance speech.