TORONTO -- MPP Kathleen Wynne formally entered the Ontario Liberal leadership campaign with a promise to make peace with the province's teachers.
"Over the weeks to come, I will talk about rebuilding our relationships with teachers ... I know how essential those relationships are and how much we risk if we don't rebuild those," Wynne said.
Teacher protesters outside the launch insisted Wynne is uncomfortable with Bill 115, the Liberal bill that mandates wage freezes and allows the education minister to impose a contract.
Wynne told reporters after the speech that she believes zero percent wage increases are possible through negotiation -- although her government has struggled to do that without legislation.
She did not commit to rolling back the teacher wage law.
Wynne also talked about the need to balance the books by 2017-18 but rejected the idea of attacking the deficit only through budget cuts.
Wynne, a former Toronto District School Board trustee, won her first seat in provincial politics in 2003 and later fended off a challenge from then Ontario PC leader John Tory to retain her Don Valley West riding.
Fellow Liberal caucus member Glen Murray leapfrogged Wynne's announcement by making his participation in the leadership campaign official Sunday.
Immigration Minister Charles Sousa is believed to be considering a stab at the top job but declined to comment on the race Monday.
At the same time, though, he did nothing to dispel the idea he might be interested.
"I am encouraged by the leadership discussion and the collision of ideas that are going to come forward," Sousa said.
Any Liberal leadership candidate still has to answer for the Ornge, eHealth Ontario, gas plant cancellation scandals, as well as the poor state of the provincial economy, NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo said Monday.
"In terms of the Liberal leadership, it really doesn't matter who's at the helm," DiNovo said. "Whoever's at the helm has got to wear the decisions the Liberal Party has made."
The entrance of a pair of cabinet ministers into the Liberal race was of little interest to Progressive Conservative finance critic Peter Shurman.
"What concerns us is that these people come from a cabinet that has taken Ontario to the brink," he said.
"They're the people who are behind the prorogation of this parliament and the lack of a legislature to serve the needs of the people of Ontario."
Others still pondering a leadership bid include Health Minister Deb Matthews, Children and Youth Services Minister Eric Hoskins, and former ministers Sandra Pupatello, John Wilkinson and Gerard Kennedy.