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U of T alumna to become Ontario's first female premier

Education is the most important service that government delivers," says alumna Kathleen Wynne (photo by Dave Chan)

University of Toronto alumna Kathleen Wynne will become Ontario premier in the next few days, the first woman to hold the highest public office in the province.

Wynne, 59, became Ontario Liberal party leader Saturday night at a convention at Maple Leaf Gardens, defeating five challengers. She will become the first openly gay premier in Ontario when she replaces Dalton McGuinty, who announced his retirement last October.

At a press conference Jan. 27, Wynne said “reaching out to the education sector” is one of her highest priorities. “Education is the most important service that government delivers.”

Wynne obtained a master’s degree in linguistics from U of T in 1980 and in 1995 received a master’s degree in education and counselling psychology at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. She was first elected as an MPP from Don Valley West in 2003 and has held several cabinet portfolios, including Education Minister from 2006 until 2010.

She released a plan recently “to make post-secondary education more accessible and affordable.” The premier-designate, who will recall the legislature Feb. 19, says she will “commit to bringing stability and predictability to our post-secondary education system by balancing the need for sufficient funding with our current economic and fiscal reality. Doing so provides the necessary stability to allow our universities and colleges to grow with the changing demands of our province and our economy.”

Born in Richmond Hill, Wynne has made several commitments with regard to post-secondary education:

  • Continuing the 30 per cent Ontario Tuition Grant.
  • Establishing a Premier’s Advisory Council with representatives from student organizations, college and university bodies, Aboriginal youth organizations and groups that represent youth entering the workforce.
  • Adding more flexibility and mobility in the system through credit transfer opportunities and distance education programs.
  • Creating, when resources are available, a competitive scholarship program for universities and colleges to support the “entrepreneurial spirit of our undergraduate and graduate students.”

Wynne also wants to provide “stimulus for increased opportunities for graduate education” in Ontario and introduce “sustainable and predictable funding that reflects the real needs across the sector.”

She says she will also promote community hubs for adult education training by co-ordinating government, non-profit and private sector resources to give recent graduates, new Canadians and unemployed people practical tools to participate in the workforce.

Wynne joins other distinguished U of T alumni who have become premier of Ontario. William Davis was premier from 1971 until 1985, Bob Rae was premier from 1990 until 1995 and David Peterson, who was Chancellor of U of T for six years until last June, served as premier from 1985 until 1990.