TORONTO, Ont. – And now, there are three.

Former cabinet minister Sandra Pupatello officially launched her bid for the Ontario Liberal leadership, Thursday morning.

She made the announcement in Toronto, kickstarting a return to politics that many saw coming.

The Windsor, Ont., native stepped away from politics last year after she decided not to seek re-election, saying it was time for a change.

She already has a powerful ally in Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, who promised to throw his support behind his longtime friend if she joined the leadership race.

Premier Dalton McGuinty also had high praise for Pupatello, saying she’d bring a lot of passion and integrity to the race.

“If I win this leadership, I am going to take good ideas from the opposition, especially when they’re talking to us about jobs,” she said, Thursday.

Pupatello was first elected to the provincial legislature in 1995 and became a cabinet minister when the Liberals won the election in 2003.

She took on various portfolios over the years, from education to community and social services and economic development and trade.

“My last five years as Minister of Economic Development and Trade, I had labour leaders on the phone. Whether we were yelling or hugging, I was able to talk to them.”

However, she often found herself in hot water. In a 2009 incident, she was forced to apologize after calling Toronto residents “a bunch of babies” for complaining three days into a garbage strike. At the same time, the city of Windsor had quietly been suffering through a three-month garbage strike.    

“The best part about me is that when I do something really dumb, I actually learn from that, so I think it’s fair to say I’m greyer and wiser today,” she said.

Earlier this week, Toronto MPP’s Kathleen Wynne and Glen Murray each made their bids to become the new leader of the provincial Liberal party.

Citizen and Immigration Minister Charles Sousa is also expected to announce his intentions to run at a news conference on Saturday.

Candidates have until November 23 to launch their bids. A new leader will be picked at to convention to be held the weekend of January 25, 2013.

If either Pupatello or Wynne win, they would become Ontario’s first female Premier.