“A Gay Premier!” in Ontario

When the parents of Maclean’s contributor Adam Goldenberg texted him “A gay premier!” they were not only referring to the sexual orientation of the premier-designate of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne, but were also, inadvertently, pointing towards still persistent and symptomatic aversion to the non-straight personalities at the top public-affairs slots.

It needs to be mentioned that the homosexual conduct was deemed responsible for the travails and subsequent untimely death of the brilliant British mathematician Alan Turing. The harassment, which he suffered over his sexuality and which is generally credited as the cause of his death, was unleashed upon him during the so-called post-war & liberal 1950s. The point is that harassment over somebody’s sexuality is hopefully now an anachronism, yet the related repression does not belong to the distant past, and that its residue still lingers in the popular prejudices.

The fact that Kathleen Wynne would be the sixth actual female premier of the Canadian provinces is in itself worthy of celebrations, especially given the history of political enlightenment and participation of women in Canada; yet Adam Goldenberg, who received the brief text message from his parents, is jubilant for an altogether unprecedented reason. For him Wynne will be the first openly gay person ever to take the helm of a government anywhere in the Americas, the Commonwealth, or the English-speaking world.

Once at Queen’s Park, Kathleen Wynne would have to foster political consensus, for she would still be leading a minority government. As the Globe & Mail has noted, she would have to back up her fresh authentic style with a genuinely renewed offering for Ontarians.

It is my feeling that all political stakeholders in Ontario, including the political parties and general voters, are wary of another early elections. This particularly chary political mood in Ontario could, in the short-run, provide sustenance to Wynne’s premiership. Still, she cannot claim any reprieve from confronting the onerous Ontarian challenges.

Andrea Horwath, the provincial parliamentary head of the New Democratic Party (NDP) is adamant in demanding a public inquiry into the politically motivated scrapping of gas-fired power plants in Mississauga and Oakville that has costed the Ontarian taxpayers at least $230 million. Wynne has to mend the Liberal Party’s relationship with the provincial public school teachers. Ontario’s provincial government is in a heated labour dispute with the public school teachers since last fall, and it has alienated them when it introduced Bill 115, which froze wages, limited teachers’ right to strike and, at the end of December 2012, imposed contracts. It is her responsibility to restore the confidence of Ontario’s teachers. Then, Wynne is not expected to shirk from the provincial welfare reforms. For this purpose, she has the required research & analysis available in various timely reports & studies. Wynne cannot feign ignorance to the fact of frozen social assistance rates since the middle of 1990s; the cost of living, on the other side, has soared unabated. Would she send a powerful message that she is a woman of action and a leader with heart? Following the future proceedings at the Queen’s Park would yield some clues.

Adam Goldenberg’s article in Maclean’s is here.