Kennedy for Ontario

Get your GK tambourines out of the closet! It’s time to get the band back together.

After some bleating about how no one wanted the “poisoned chalice”, an impressive field of six candidates has declared for the OLP leadership race: Glen Murray, Sandra Pupatello, Eric Hoskins, Kathleen Wynne, Charles Sousa, and Gerard Kennedy. All have Cabinet experience, and all are ready to step into the Premier’s chair. I have nothing negative to say about any of the six and will gladly campaign for whichever one of them scrambles across the finish line first in this race. While that’s obviously my Liberal bias speaking, this is one of the few leadership races I’ve been involved in where I can genuinely say there isn’t a candidate I dislike. I’m crossing my fingers that Rocco Rossi declares soon, so that I at least have someone to poke fun at.

Despite the strength of the field, one name rises to the top for me, and I’m proud to throw my support behind Gerard Kennedy.

Long-time readers of this blog will recall that I backed Kennedy when he ran for federal Liberal leader in 2006. That was very much a decision made with my heart. His background with the food bank showed me he was in politics to make a difference. He spoke of renewal and offered a fresh face for a tired party. He was energetic and charismatic – almost Kennedy-esque some might say. It was hard not to get swept up in the excitement of it all.

While the above still stands, my decision this time is grounded in reason rather than passion. Simply puy, the Ontario Liberal Party is most likely to win the next election with Gerard Kennedy at the helm.

Like all governments who have spent a decade in power, this one has collected its fair share of scrapes and bruises. Voters want change, and if they don’t see change from the OLP itself, they won’t hesitate to look elsewhere for it. Kennedy was not at the Cabinet table when eHealth, ORNGE, or the Power Plant controversies erupted, leaving him the best positioned candidate to give this government the reboot it needs.

Not only is Kennedy untainted by these scandals, but he represents the “Camelot” period of the McGuinty era, when the economy was good, the wrongs of the Harris era were being corrected, and it never rained until after sundown. Kennedy was the Education Minister who cut class sizes, improved test scores, and brought about labour peace. This, combined with his food bank and anti-poverty background, is the kind of message that will strongly appeal to disgruntled Liberals who have drifted towards Andrea Horwath in recent years. Politics is all about weaving a narrative voters can latch onto, and I think there’s a compelling story to be told around Gerard Kennedy.

Moreover, there is some quantitative data to support the “electability” argument. While it’s true these hypothetical polls are based heavily on name recognition, it doesn’t hurt to have a candidate with positive name recognition when there will be little time to define the next leader before a likely spring election.

I will add a pinch of idealism to this largely pragmatic endorsement, since Kennedy himself would be the first to argue there’s no point to power without purpose. Gerard Kennedy is one of the most principled politicians I have ever met (perhaps even to a fault at times), not afraid to speak out against the more unseemly aspects of the political process. In Ottawa, he relied on substantive research rather than empty rhetoric to show stimulus money was being funneled disproportionately towards Conservative ridings. His critique of McGuinty’s prorogation, and his promise to recall the legislature as soon as possible once he’s elected might leave some potential delegates feeling uneasy but it’s the right thing to do. It’s consistent with his criticism of Stephen Harper, and consistency is a trait sorely lacking in most politicians. At a time when the electorate has grown increasingly cynical towards the political process, Kennedy is a breath of fresh air.

While policies will be announced in due course, Kennedy’s values have long been on display for all to see: he has worked to help the less fortunate, he has fought to improve the quality of education, he has talked about the need to help immigrants succeed. He’s from a small town, and spoke at his launch about his desire to expand the Liberal base into rural Ontario.

Most importantly, he has been about grassroots involvement in the political process his entire career – long before “renewal” became a cheap buzzword. Now that the Ontario Liberal Party truly needs to renew itself, Gerard Kennedy is the ideal candidate for the job.

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2013 OLP Leadership Race, Featured Posts, Ontario Politics

About CalgaryGrit

A former Calgary Liberal, now living in Toronto. My writings on politics can be found at and online at the National Post.

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16 Responses to Kennedy for Ontario

  1. Dan-o

    From out here on the west coast, I’m still a big fan of GK, even tho I supported Bob in ’06. He brings gravitas to the party and could be that refreshing change a government needs. Sad to see WK is spinning up the muck just to support his horse, avoiding a policy-based discussion; but snapping turtles don’t become doves overnight.

  2. Sean

    Speaking as a teacher who will likely vote NDP next election. He’s really the only leader who would cause me to give the Liberals a second look. Otherwise I’m voting NDP.

    • Marc from soccer

      If he doesn’t win it might be a while in the wilderness for the Libs.

  3. Kelly

    A well thought out endorsement and a good get for his campaign. Good luck.

  4. Sean C.

    I must say, that’s a very nice field of contenders.

  5. dstm

    I have always respected your analysis
    Please wait until you see how many of GK’s (former) colleagues support his leadership bid.
    I sense that while he was “in power” and in cabinet most would describe him as an arrogant lone wolf.
    Worse still( according to what I have heard)he exhibited neither leadership nor team building skills.
    This is not what we need as premier.
    As much as I disagree with Kinsella it seems that GK is all (only) hair and teeth

    • Marc from soccer

      You’re absolutely correct but I suspect that will have minimal impact on his ability to win the leadership.

      If anything, it helps him – it’s not like anyone in the current government is particularly popular with the public or holds much credibility. Lack of support from an suite of politicians in an unpopular government will help differentiate himself from the pack.

      The question is, will his rather overt criticism of the party he wants to lead and the government he wants to be the head of play well with the everyday public? rr will they see through it? If he was so against what was going on, as someone of significant provincial profile why didn’t he speak out at the time, or do something sooner?

      • CalgaryGrit

        There’s a lot of desire for an outsider, so I think a lack of caucus support might actually be an asset (though some former colleagues like Smitherman and Cordino are supportive).

        Redford and Clark won with virtually zero caucus support.

        • dstm

          Support from outsiders and not colleagues an asset?
          Redford and Clark? We will have to wait to see how that works out…aside from “winning”.
          What I am suggesting is that a lack of colleague support is telling.
          Telling about a candidates weaknesses related to critical leadership skills by those ( staff and colleagues) who know how G operates.
          Ignore it at your peril.

          • Marc from soccer

            There is a reason that Kennedy represents the “Camelot” aspect of the party – attractive, feel-good, but ultimately mtyhological.

            I think Dan’s post is really accurate. Kennedy is the best bet for leadership of the party. None of the other candidates stand a chance at winning the next election, nor losing the next election but rebuilding the party into a viable government for the one after that.

            And, nowhere does his post really go into saying that Kennedy will do a good job as Premier. It’s about optics, narrative and electability. On that, he’s right.

  6. Jason Holborn

    CG, you could probably talk me into voting for him, should he win.

  7. MKS from durham

    Great blog posting, I agree with virtually avery thing you said, Dan, as well as what Sean said.

    I have been a ABC member and active at times in my own riding for over twenty years, and I see Kennedy as the only real hope for the provincial party in the near future. I intend to run as a delelgate for Kennedy, but I will give serious thought to not sticking with the party, if Pupatella wins.

    Just wondering, will you follow the lead of another prominent Liberal blogger (and leader of the provincial war room!) and declare that only glowing things can be posted of your candidate and negative comments about other candidates, on your website. Will you be making up derogatory names for other candidates (such as ‘Team Hair and Teeth’).

    My guess is that you might have too much class and respect for the free exchange of opinions! Hope so, anyway.

    • Deb

      I don’t really understand the negativity coming from Pupatello’s campaign. The surest way to lose a delegates convention if you’re a frontrunner is to attack the other candidates.

  8. C G

    You will not find a politician with more backbone than GK. The reason that he had his detractors at the provincial level is that he wasn’t always willing to swim with the rest of the fish. We as tax payers should demand that our elected officials do what’s right and not be looking only at what’s good for themselves or their party.
    On another note the reason that GK supported Dion federally is because all the other did not care about renewal and were very much part of the Old Boys Club and that is not what this country needed. We saw what happened with Iggy when he bullied his way in…he was run out by the voters at the next election.
    Vote for all inclusive politics,vote Gerard Kennedy

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