There’s a new face on the hallowed walls of the hallowed halls at Queen’s Park: a history-making portrait of the Ontario’s first female — and openly gay — premier.
MPP Kathleen Wynne, whose Liberals went from a majority government to a rump of just seven seats in the June 2018 provincial election won by Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives, unveiled her official portrait Monday night.
“Kathleen, I wore my special red tie just for you,” a gracious Ford quipped.
Wynne (Don Valley West) told a crowd including former premier Mike Harris that she was eager to have the painting placed outside the premier’s second-floor office for the many touring school groups to see.
“Before today, the possibility of a woman in the job has not been visible to the children of Ontario,” said Wynne, noting that’s why a scarf has a place of prominence in the artwork that pictures her standing in front of her desk.
The painting by Linda Kooluris-Dobbs, who also did the portrait of Liberal premier David Peterson, features items of that are personally symbolic to Wynne. They include her running shoes, a biography of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau — who Wynne said “helped me first articulate my political beliefs”— and a book on lesbian parenting to which she and her wife, Jane Rounthwaite, contributed a chapter.
“The book is there because the people of Ontario, in their openness to difference, elected an openly gay woman to be their premier,” said Wynne, who held the office for five years as the province’s 25th first minister.
“I don’t really keep my running shoes right by my desk but in truth, they were and are part of all my days. They took me into the dark, cold mornings to clear my head.”
With rotating teacher strikes making news daily over concerns about larger class sizes and mandatory online courses, Wynne, a former school trustee who says she first got into politics because of Harris, weighed in.
“I entered provincial politics because of my abiding belief in the power of publicly funded education,” she said. “It is the most fundamental building block of our democracy.”
Ford echoed Wynne’s remarks on having a woman in the job.
“My hope is that this portrait will one day be joined by others showcasing talented women of every political stripe that Kathleen has inspired,” he said.
Get more politics in your inbox
Make sense of what’s happening across the country and around the world with the Star’s This Week in Politics email newsletter.
Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell noted that the walls honouring past premiers had been “resolutely male.”
“With this portrait, we celebrate the public voice of women,” Dowdeswell said to enthusiastic applause. “For all time, young girls will be encouraged and empowered to take their rightful place in this important place of power and service.”