Pupatello: She’s not McGuinty lite.

Babel-on-the-Bay has often referred to the McGuinty Liberals as Whigs. That was what liberals were called until the middle of the 19th Century. It was only when compared to the regime of Michael Harris’ Conservatives in Ontario that you could consider McGuinty’s Liberal government to be progressive.

But where would a government run by Sandra Pupatello fit? The former MPP from Windsor brings some good news with her to next weekend’s convention. And as the front runner in the first ballot, we have no choice but to pay attention. She not only leads in committed delegate support for that ballot but she has been the logical choice of the largest block of ex officio voters from the beginning of the race.

The good news for Ontario is that she says she would put jobs and the economy of the province in the forefront. That would certainly have better public support than continuing a foolish attack on the deficit. How her campaign chairperson, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, feels about this recanting of his financial direction is not told.

The bad news for Ontario is that Sandra Pupatello is clearly the favourite daughter of the Liberal Party’s right wing. She seems to be more of a Clear Grit–they were from South Western Ontario back in the mid 19th Century that joined George Brown’s Toronto Reformers and founded the Liberal Party. Her acceptance of anything smacking of reform might be a murky subject.

Yet she has to accept the fact that she cannot stay on the same track as the McGuinty government has been headed. She has to be fully aware that the only thing that kept the Liberals in power in the last election was the weakness of the opposition. Conservative leader Tiny Tim Hudak is a sad caricature of his mentor Mike Harris. Andrea Horwath of the NDP let opportunity pass her by. Sandra Pupatello has more spunk and drive than the two of them combined.

Her only problem is that she would be inheriting a seriously weakened led-from-the-top party that has ignored its roots for too long. Without major reforms in party structure, policy development and riding support, she has nothing worthwhile to lead. It is a party that will be unable to win those marginal seats that are essential to a majority.

Sandra Pupatello is certainly not McGuinty lite but she has to be her own person if she wants to be Premier—for long. We will find out on the coming weekend, where she thinks she is going.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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