Five things we learned from Kathleen Wynne’s Metro Morning interview about her grim electoral prospects

Five things we learned from Kathleen Wynne’s Metro Morning interview about her grim electoral prospects

Premier Kathleen Wynne on the day of her pre-election concession speech. Photo from Kathleen Wynne/Facebook

On Saturday, premier Kathleen Wynne made an extremely odd announcement. Speaking to reporters from a playground beside a school in North York, Wynne admitted that she will not be premier after this week’s election, because her Liberal party is lagging far behind its two main competitors: Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives and Andrea Horwath’s NDP.

Politicians usually wait until after votes are cast to concede a race, but Wynne had some very particular strategic reasons for doing what she did, when she did it. Earlier today, she explained some of her thinking to Metro Morning’s Matt Galloway. Here’s what we learned.

The second debate may have been the last straw

Wynne told Galloway that she didn’t decide to concede the premiership until after the second televised leaders’ debate, on May 28. It was Wynne’s final chance to confront the other party leaders directly. Her performance was well received by pundits, but it failed to have much of an effect on the pre-election polls. “I think I did pretty well in the debate,” she said. “I felt good about it. But once the debate was over, we didn’t see the numbers move. We didn’t see any change. And so that meant that I needed to be honest with people that we’re not going to be the government, I’m not going to be the premier, and to really think about their local candidates.”

She says she has no regrets

One of the big mysteries of this election cycle is the fact that Kathleen Wynne is still leading the Liberal party at all, despite longstanding evidence of her unpopularity with voters. When Galloway asked why she didn’t step down before the election, she said, essentially, that she didn’t think she needed to. “You can’t know in a particular moment what you can’t know,” Wynne said. “At that time I talked to my colleagues, I talked to advisors, I weighed the options, and I believed that the plan we were bringing forward would be what people were looking for and would be enough for us to form government again.”

Her concession speech was all about saving Liberal seats

Midway through the interview, Wynne offered a glimpse of her strategic thinking. Her admission that she won’t be premier after the election, she told Galloway, may help win over voters who were hesitant to support the Liberal party because of their distaste for Wynne herself. Now, it’s possible for candidates to sell voting for the Liberal party as a way of preventing either the Progressive Conservatives or the NDP from winning a majority. “There’s a lot of anxiety about what Doug Ford would do in terms of cutting and slashing, [and] there’s a lot of anxiety about what the NDP would do in terms of an ideological, really rigid position that they would take on issues like back-to-work legislation,” Wynne said. “The solution to that is to have more Liberals at Queen’s Park and continue to allow us to bring that practical voice to the government.”

She says she wasn’t forced out

Wynne maintains that the decision to admit defeat was hers alone. “It was my decision, because I had to stand at the microphone and say it,” she said. “If I was standing in the way of someone in a riding in Ontario voting for a Liberal or not voting for a Liberal, I really needed to clear that up.”

She’s not giving up on her riding

Although she has conceded the premiership, Wynne isn’t conceding her seat in the provincial legislature, as MPP for Don Valley West. “This is the community that I love, that I’ve represented for many years, and I want to continue to represent them.”