Kathleen Wynne praises allies and opponents alike in candid Queen’s Park goodbye speech

She came, she saw, she conquered.

And, after almost 19 years at Queen’s Park, Kathleen Wynne, the most powerful woman in the history of Ontario politics, called it a day.

“This is the best place in the world to live, and Ontario is at its best when we’re not divided,” said Wynne — the first woman to become premier of Canada’s most populous province — in her final speech to the legislature on Thursday. The 69-year-old will not seek re-election in her Don Valley West riding on June 2.

“‘One Ontario’ is not a slogan to me. It’s when we are at our best. Not just diverse, but inclusive; united, not divided, and full of opportunity for every child. Lifting each other up is not only the moral path, it’s actually the smart political path,” she said.

“I’m here because I believe the government exists to do the things that people cannot do for themselves. I’m here because government should be a force for good in people’s lives.”

Acknowledging the highs and lows of politics — she won a stunning majority in 2014, extending a Liberal dynasty before losing power in a 2018 Progressive Conservative landslide Wynne stressed there are no bad seats at Queen’s Park.

“I sat in this legislature as a member of the government with no ministerial portfolio. I sat here as minister and I sat here as the premier. And for the past nearly four years, I’ve sat as a member of the third party, without even that official status,” she said.

“But in each one of those roles, that sense of responsibility to the people who elected me, to the democratic process, and to the common good in Ontario has been the same.”

First elected as an MPP in 2003, she was a backbencher in premier Dalton McGuinty’s government for three years before becoming education minister, eventually succeeding him as Liberal leader in 2013.

A political pioneer who spent her career shattering glass ceilings, Wynne was also Canada’s first — and still only — openly gay premier.

In a soaring 22-minute speech to the legislature, her voice cracked when she recalled “the pain of acknowledging and apologizing for the injustice and deep harm done to Indigenous children robbed of their childhood and sometimes their lives in residential schools.”

She also spoke warmly about her political allies and opponents alike — and candidly about her own shortcomings.

“I’m under no illusion that I have made the best decisions at every turn in the past 19 years. I know that I have made mistakes. I know I have failed sometimes to shine that light. And I have been quick to judge my opponents,” said Wynne.

“You only have to look at my social media feeds to gauge just how many people see me as deeply flawed. But here’s the thing — we all are. That’s the point. We are all here trying to find the best way forward.”

While seven Tory cabinet ministers were on hand for Wynne’s speech — as was former PC leader Tim Hudak — Premier Doug Ford, Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Green Leader Mike Schreiner were not in attendance.

Earlier in the day, Labour Minister Monte McNaughton led a standing ovation, hailing Wynne as “a trailblazer” in Ontario.

“She inspired many people across this province,” said McNaughton, recalling the kindness Wynne showed his young daughter while premier.

“So I want to say to the former premier — on behalf of the province of Ontario, on behalf of this government — thank you for your service.”

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

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