The race to succeed Premier Dalton McGuinty as Ontario Liberal leader is shaping up as a historic showdown between powerful women.
With Finance Minister Dwight Duncan’s decision not to run for the Jan. 25-27 leadership, the leading contenders to replace McGuinty are now former minister Sandra Pupatello and Municipal Affairs Minister Kathleen Wynne.
Duncan, 53, endorsed Pupatello, his long-time friend and fellow Windsor native, when he announced Wednesday he would not seek re-election in Windsor—Tecumseh in a vote expected next spring.
His move — eight days after McGuinty’s surprise resignation — radically alters altered Ontario’s political landscape and the race for the Liberal crown.
“I’m obviously interested because I’m getting that fire in my belly all over again. I can’t deny that,” said Pupatello, 50, who left politics before the Oct. 6, 2011 provincial election.
“But I have some serious logistical issues that I have to work out,” said the former Windsor West MPP, now director of business development and global markets for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, referring to the fact her husband works in Newfoundland.
“It’s a much bigger leap for me to get back in than it is for those that are already at Queen’s Park,” she said, adding it could be talented field with candidates like Wynne, 59, and Health Minister Deb Matthews, 58.
Duncan admitted Pupatello won’t get a free pass on some of the Liberal government’s recent troubles, such as the controversial scrapping of gas-fired power plants in Oakville and Mississauga.