Tuesday, October 16, 2012

McGuinty prorogues legislature, resigns

The Toronto Star:

Premier Dalton McGuinty is saying so long, but not necessarily goodbye.

McGuinty has resigned from Ontario politics and taken the rare step of suspending the legislature, but not before dangling the possibility of a run for the federal Liberal leadership against front-runner Justin Trudeau. 

In power for nine years and leader of the provincial Liberals since 1996, the Ottawa lawyer made his stunning announcement Monday evening — just 12 months into his toughest stretch in government, leading a minority.

McGuinty, 57, said his decision stemmed from a mix of professional headaches and personal considerations, from tense relations with rival parties to the recent wedding of his only daughter.

A snap poll Monday night suggested Ontarians welcome his departure — two-thirds, or 67 per cent, approved of his move, with 17 per cent disapproving and 16 per cent having no opinion.

Forum Research, using interactive voice response technology, polled 220 Ontarians within minutes of McGuinty’s announcement.

Opposition party leaders thanked him for his service but said it’s irresponsible to prorogue the legislature with the province struggling to eliminate a $14.4-billion deficit and almost 600,000 Ontarians unemployed.

Shutting the legislature will put a temporary halt to committee hearings on the cost of the two cancelled gas plants in Mississauga and Oakville, noted NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

“The work we need to do here is simply too important to stop not . . . the people who make this province work every day sent us here to do a job,” she told a news conference.

“Stopping that work, while the Liberals select a new leader, is really not serving very well the people who sent us here.”

After taking power in 2003, he made peace with public-sector workers, particularly teachers, after years of strikes and tumult under the Tories.

But he hits the road at a time when tumult is returning over his wage freeze on teachers and other civil servants. Education unions, once key Liberal allies, are now more aligned with the New Democrats having helped them win last month’s byelection in Kitchener—Waterloo.

However, there were also damaging political scandals, including the $3,000-a-day consultants at eHealth Ontario, the ORANG air ambulance fiasco, the cost of at least $230 million to cancel gas-fired power plants in Liberal-held Oakville and Mississauga and a so-called “slush fund” to ethnocultural groups, including a cricket club that got $1 million without asking for it.

He will remain in power until a successor is elected by about 2,500 Liberal party members, including MPPs and candidates from all 107 ridings, delegates from each constituency and party brass and luminaries.

The premier said he will remain as MPP for Ottawa South — which is represented federally by his brother David, who is also mentioned as a federal Liberal leadership contender — until the next provincial election.

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