Now with the polish of a short sojourn in the corporate world and several years of government experience under her belt, the 50-year-old former Windsor Woman of the Year, is expected to leave her Bay Street job to run for leader of the beleaguered Ontario Liberals.
“She is feisty, full on, she hit every file very energetically. That’s her stock and trade, her intensity and energy she brings to whatever she does. She will be a very serious contender,” Snobelen said.
The fact that fellow Windsor resident Finance Minister Dwight Duncan isn’t interested in the top job and won’t be running in the next election has opened the door for Pupatello’s return to Queen’s Park, where she was a member of Premier Dalton McGuinty’s cabinet from the time the Liberals formed government in 2003.
During her tenure, she was minister of community and social services, education and economic development. But the lure of corporate Canada in 2011 overcame her political ambition and she left the Park after 16 years to become director of business development and global markets at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.
The former Windsor West MPP, first elected in 1995, made a name for herself in opposition with her daily question period rants against Progressive Conservative premiers Mile Harris and later Ernie Eves. She got under the skin of government members like no other.
Pupatello accused the government of starving the health-care system of funds “so that you can give the money to your friends, people like Ted Rogers, Paul Godfrey,” referring to the owner and the president of the Blue Jays baseball team.
“She was my critic on more than one occasion and she was a very effective critic … she wasn’t someone you took lightly. When she stood up you sort of got ready because it was usually a wallop upside of your head. You had to be on your game,” said Ecker, who held the education and social services portfolios.
Ecker, now president of the Toronto Financial Services Alliances, a public-private partnership between government and Canada’s leading financial services firms, worked closely with Pupatello when she was economic development minister in trying to generate investment in Ontario and job creation.