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Now’s the time for Sandals to make her mark

After a hard-fought campaign, Liz Sandals ended up Thursday night where she has been every election night starting in 2003 – with over 40 per cent of the vote in Guelph and everyone else eating her dust. Now comes the hard part for her leader, Premier Kathleen Wynne, who has to find a way to fulfil the Liberal pledge to eliminate the deficit in three years while moving ahead with an ambitious agenda.
But for Sandals, it could be the best part of her political career.
There is no reason to think Sandals, an early supporter of Wynne’s bid to replace Dalton McGuinty, won’t continue as education minister in the new government. She was touted as a strong candidate for that post for years under McGuinty, but it took Wynne’s ascent to the Liberal leadership last year to make it happen.
Sandals has spent over a year as education minister, but in a minority government whose post-election survival was in much doubt. Now the doubt has been erased, and it seems likely Sandals will have a chance to really make her mark on one of the government’s most crucial ministries.
MPPs are being called back to Queen’s Park on July 2 to deal with the budget whose defeat triggered the June 12 election. But another date also looms – the expiry of contracts for teachers and other education workers at the end of August. So if Sandals does remain Ontario’s education ministry, she would have her hands full right away.
However, she would also potentially have a chance to put her stamp on a portfolio that has been somewhat of a revolving door for many years. There were four education ministers under the Tories from 1995 to 2003, and five under the Liberals from 2003 to 2013 before Sandals – including, notably, Wynne herself from 2006-10.
Sandals, 66, was a respected school trustee for 15 years before becoming an MPP. She seems well positioned now to really make her mark in Ontario’s top education job.

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