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Wynning ways

SHE USED TO BE ON THE OTHER SIDE. As a school board trustee, Kathleen Wynne fought budget cuts; now she holds the pursestrings. Credit: Xtra Files

Kathleen Wynne may be the first openly lesbian cabinet minister in Ontario history, but she wants to make it clear that’s not why she was appointed.

“I happen to have the experience and background to do the job,” she says. “I’ve worked in the education area all my life.

“We all have communities that we come from and communities that we refer back to. The gay and lesbian community is part of who I am. But I’m also a mother. And I’m also an Ontarian who’s lived all her life in the Toronto area.”

Wynne says she will address the issues faced by gay and lesbian students, especially problems of homophobia.

“We’re trying to put in place in Ontario the resources that will allow schools to reach every student, and allow students to take part in a safe and secure learning environment.

“We will be tackling the issue of homophobia. Every time I talk about bullying in the legislature, I raise the issue of homophobia. It’s sort of the last bastion of bullying on the schoolyard.”

Wynne says she thinks Toronto’s Triangle Program has been a great success, but she wouldn’t commit to establishing similar programs elsewhere. She says school boards have to take on the initial responsibility.

“That’s something each school board has to look at…. If there were the political will in other parts of the province, I think we could set up those programs.”

Wynne was a TDSB trustee before she became a politician, and helped lead the fight against cuts demanded by former Conservative premier Mike Harris’s government to balance the school board’s budget. Ironically, she is now the minister in charge of a similar situation. The TDSB has a deficit of $84 million, and provincial legislation prohibits boards from running a deficit.

When asked if she could offer any reassurance to queer advocates worried that their programs could be among the first cut by the TDSB, she wouldn’t commit to providing more money.

“I have heard nothing to suggest to me that the kind of program that is run at Triangle is at risk. I haven’t looked at all the options. There are advisors in the Toronto board working with the trustees to look at the options. I’m waiting to hear from them.”