Kennedy reaches out to protesters

Ontario Liberal leadership hopeful Gerard Kennedy says the party has a responsibility to bring teachers back to the table, acknowledging the hundreds of protesters outside the party's convention in Toronto.

In his final pitch to delegates today, Kennedy said the Liberals would not only lose an election today to the Progressive Conservatives, they'd come third behind the New Democrats.

Kennedy says teachers and other public servants are the Liberals' partners in delivering government and the two sides must work together to eliminate the $11.9 billion deficit.

Kathleen Wynne also told delegates the party had to face up to its mistakes and assure people they won't happen again.

Wynne also vowed to recall the legislature by Feb. 19 and would immediately try to meet with the opposition party leaders.

Rival candidate Harinder Takhar emphasized his immigrant roots during his final speech, saying he had to cut his hair and stop wearing a turban to get a job in Ontario, a decision he said also meant losing a part of himself forever.

Registration and first ballot voting at the convention had to be extended until the wee hours of the morning following a 70-car pile-up on Highway 401 east of Toronto.

Party officials decided to extend the 11 p.m. Friday deadline to accommodate delegates involved in the huge accident or stuck behind it on the highway, which was closed until nearly midnight.

Over 100 protesters, mainly teachers angry over having contracts imposed on them by the government, greeted the delegates as they arrived, but thousands more demonstrators are expected by this afternoon.

About 1,800 delegates and another 400 so called "ex-officios", party executives, current and former MPs and members of the provincial legislature, already cast their committed first ballots Friday.

Second-ballot voting will begin around 1 p.m. The last-place candidate will be forced off each ballot until one of them gets over 50 per cent.

Political observers predict the Liberals are looking at a three- or four- or even five-ballot convention, which means the race could go on until late Saturday, or early Sunday.

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