The Inside Agenda Blog

Follow-Up: A Pupatello Byelection

by Steve Paikin Friday January 25, 2013

Sandra Pupatello signs the guest registry at the Canadian Club of Toronto.

One of the nagging irritants the Sandra Pupatello campaign has had to bat down is the question of her not being ready on Day One to assume the premier's chair in the legislature.

Pupatello declined to run in the October 2011 election and therefore doesn't have a seat. Kathleen Wynne, her prime challenger, does have a seat (Don Valley West) and would be ready to bring the House back on Feburary 19 with her in it.

Puptello has said she won't bring the House back until she wins a byelection, presumably in her native Windsor, running in the seat currently held by Finance Minister Dwight Duncan. 

The best bet is the earliest that byelection could take place is February 28, which means another delay in the House returning from its prorogued status, something that has infuriated plenty of Ontarians.

Pupatello, scrumming after a speech to the Economic Club of Canada.

The numbers from the last three elections in Duncan's Windsor-Tecumseh riding also have been somewhat of a concern for some Liberals. Duncan went from 55 per cent of the total votes cast in 2003, to 50 per cent in 2007, to 43 per cent in 2011. If that trend were to continue, Pupatello would lose the seat.

Not only that, but some Grits have found it passing strange that if Pupatello wins, Ontario could have a premier without a seat, a prorogued legislature, and no finance minister at the same time, given Duncan's departure. Odd circumstances to be sure.

Dwight Duncan's margin of victory has delined for three straight elections in Windsor-Tecumseh.

But Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis, with whom I just spoke, says any concerns about Pupatello losing a byelection just aren't on.

"If Sandra becomes the premier, the people of Windsor-Tecumseh will want the premier in their riding," he insisted. "In coffee shops, in drug stores, at dry cleaners, people are talking about this. I have yet to hear anyone say Sandra can't win."

Having said that, Francis admits this won't be any ordinary byelection. The teacher unions, furious at having their contracts imposed by the Liberal government via Bill 115, would no doubt descend on Windsor to work for Pupatello's New Democratic challenger. Could that make Pupatello's victory less certain?

Francis says no.

"Windsor-Tecumseh is not going to get in the way of getting Queen's Park back to work," he said.

Furthermore, Francis said he sustained a 101-day strike by Windsor labour unions, had a pro-labour challenger take him on in the last mayor's race, and yet still won with 57 per cent of the votes.

"And my race was more polarizing than any byelection would be," he said.

Minister of Economic Development and Innovation, Brad Duguid, considered running for the leadership. Instead, he became an early supporter of Pupatello's.

Francis is a non-partisan political figure. He's not endorsing Pupatello. He became one of the youngest mayors in Canadian history, claiming his first victory at 29 (he's 38 now). But on the question of whether Pupatello could lose a byelection in Windsor, he's adamant:

"I just don't see it."