By Doug Hallett
Local MPP Liz Sandals, who is backing Kathleen Wynne at this weekend’s Liberal leadership convention, won’t be getting much help from other Guelph delegates – at least not on the first ballot.
Only three of the 16 delegates elected at a local meeting will be backing Wynne on the first ballot at the convention being held to choose someone to replace Dalton McGuinty as Liberal party leader and Ontario’s premier.
Three other Guelph delegates are committed to vote for the other front-runner in the race, Sandra Pupatello, on the first ballot, Sandals said.
The big winner locally, though, was Mississauga-area MPP Harinder Takhar, who got enough votes at the local Jan. 13 meeting to sew up first-ballot support from eight of Guelph’s 16 elected delegates.
Asked why there isn’t more first-ballot support from Guelph delegates for the candidate she has strongly backed in the leadership race, Sandals pointed to a fourfold increase in membership in Guelph’s provincial Liberal association. Before the Nov. 23 deadline set by the party, local membership rose from 150 people to over 600, she said.
“The vast majority of those new memberships were sold by Mr. Takhar. Hence the result,” she said in an interview.
Asked what connection Takhar has to Guelph, Sandals replied: “My understanding is that it would be through the Sikh temple in Guelph.”
Along with the 16 local delegates elected at the Jan. 13 vote held at the Italian-Canadian Club, Sandals can vote at the leadership convention. It starts Friday in the Toronto venue that was once Maple Leaf Gardens.
Along with the 14 delegates being sent from Guelph to vote for Takhar, Wynne or Pupatello on the first ballot, one local delegate was chosen to vote for Gerard Kennedy on the first ballot and one is an independent. Across Ontario, Sandals said, most people who ran as independents were supporters of Glen Murray, who abandoned his run for the leadership earlier this month and threw his support behind Wynne.
Asked if she’s disappointed that her favourite candidate won’t get more first-round votes from Guelph delegates, she said what really matters is Wynne’s position as a front-runner.
“I am pleased that she has strong provincial support,” Sandals said. “It is really that total that matters, and she is placed very strongly when you look at the provincial total.”
Across the province, Wynne pulled in 25 per cent of the delegates elected in the recent riding meetings, while Pupatello got 27 per cent. These delegates are committed for first-round voting, but can support someone else in the six-candidate field after the first round. Wynne, who’s 59 years old, and Pupatello, who’s 50, have been busy vying for second-round support.
In addition to the locally elected delegates, current and former MPPs and party officials – including Sandals and Guelph provincial Liberal association president Jean Stevens – are also eligible to vote at the convention.
“I think it is going to be a very exciting convention,” Sandals said.