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Monday, November 12, 2012

Will a gay man lead the Liberal party in Ontario?

When Dalton McGuinty retired as Premier and resigned as leader of the Liberal party, it threw open the door for many contenders. Among them, and one of the first to declare, is Glen Murray. Murray was mayor of Winnipeg, Manitoba from 1998 to 2004; he was also the first openly gay mayor of a major city in North America. He moved from Manitoba to Ontario and was elected to the Legislative Assembly in 2010. His seat in Toronto Centre was previously held by George Smitherman who is also gay. In 2011, he was appointed Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities in the McGuinty government.

So far, he hasn't had any fellow cabinet ministers express support for his bid. It's early days in the campaign since the leader will be chosen in late January 2013. Other high profile candidates will likely outshine him, particularly Sandra Puppatello who, although not currently a member of the House, is considered a front runner.

Murray's sexuality is a non-issue in the leadership contest and likely would be in any election. Having said that, of course there are always bigots who will try to make it so, but that would likely have little effect

Whoever becomes leader of the Liberals will, by default, become Premier of Ontario. Ontario, like all of Canada, is a parliamentary democracy. The party with the greatest number elected forms the government. The leader doesn't necessarily campaign for the position of Premier, but to gain the largest number of seats. Of course, the leader sets the tone for the party, for the government and its policies, and has the most influence. He becomes the public face.

There is no requirement for the sitting government to resign and call an election. As a matter of fact, should Sandra Puppatello win, a by-election would have to be held in order for her to win election and take a seat in the Legislature. The Legislature is currently prorogued, likely until the new Premier takes office and requests the Lieutenant Governor to summon parliamentarians to continue the session.

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