Locals react to McGuinty resignation

(Photo by Nick Lachance)

Ontario politics took a surprising turn Monday evening with the unexpected announcement by Ontario Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty that he was resigning from his post. He subsequently announced he would ask the lieutenant-governor to prorogue the legislature until the party finds a new leader.

With his wife Terri by his side, McGuinty spoke to the caucus about Liberal accomplishments before stating that he had asked party president Yasir Naqvi “to convene a leadership convention at the earliest possible time.”

McGuinty’s announcement was followed by addresses from Progressive Conservative and NDP leaders Tim Hudak and Andrea Horwath, respectively.

McGuinty said he will continue to act as leader until a leadership convention can be held.

The prorogation has drawn criticism from other party representatives, including Hudak, who said in his statement, “Now is not the time to close the doors on parliament and walk away.”

Catherine Fife, the New Democrat MPP for Kitchener-Waterloo, was also critical.

“The timing of it was surprising to me in that they had just revealed Ontario’s economic outlook and fiscal review, and there’s a lot of work to be done for the economy in the province of Ontario,” she said. “He shut down Queen’s Park for their own political purposes.”

Fife argued that disrupting work on the legislature was not in the interest of Ontarians, stating that provincial representatives “were elected to serve, regardless of leadership competition.”

Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris, a representative of the Progressive Conservative Party, was in agreement.

Echoing Fife’s sentiments, Harris said, “It’s clearly an example of Dalton McGuinty and the Liberal party putting their own partisan interests in front of Ontarians.”

“Right now, we have a jobs and debt crisis that continues to grow each and every day that requires real action. Dalton McGuinty, in essence, has now just locked the doors on dealing with those important issues on behalf of Ontarians,” he continued,

Barry Kay, a political science professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, mentioned that the prorogation of parliament was an inevitable decision.

“If he hadn’t prorogued the House, the government would have been brought down in a confidence vote and they would have been in an election without a leader,” he said.

McGuinty did not provide reasons for his decision, though he has recently been facing a number of contentious political issues such as the ORNGE scandal. In 2003 and 2007, he led the Liberal Party to a majority government in the province, but lost ground with a minority victory in 2011.

The Ontario government has also generated approximately a $15-billion deficit last year. That number has since been projected to be $14.4 billion for 2012-13, according to Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan.

“All around him it’s a mess. And being premier isn’t fun in that situation when you’ve got minority government,” said Kay.

In addition, over the summer, McGuinty faced off with Ontario’s teachers, legislating them back to work to prevent the delay of school starting. His plan to freeze the wages of public sector workers to help Ontario’s economy has not been well received.

Controversy has also arisen over the cancellation of energy projects in Oakville and Mississauga. All documents regarding the gas plants were supposed to be released to the legislature on Sept. 24, but another 20,000 pages, which the Liberals claimed to have missed, were not released until Oct. 13. Opposition parties were highly critical, with Hudak claiming that correct information was intentionally withheld to hide the costs of the project.

Additionally, while the Liberals were successful in retaining their seat in September’s Vaughan byelection, they were unable to gain a crucial seat in Kitchener-Waterloo, which would have given the party a majority government. Fife took the riding, with the Liberal candidate Eric Davis coming in third.

“If they had won the byelection, I don’t think McGuinty would have resigned at this time,” Kay reflected. “I’m not sure he would have stayed for another election, but it would have made life a lot simpler for him in sort of negotiating the next couple of years.”

Questions are now arising over who will take over for McGuinty once a leadership convention is held, which Kay speculated would likely be in March or April.

Looking to the future, he believes “they need somebody with some pizzazz and for want of a better term, charisma. They need somebody who can renew excitement within the party.”

Gerard Kennedy, who formerly served as the Minister of Education for Ontario and Sandra Pupatello, a former MPP, he said, could be potential candidates.

After numerous calls to Liberal Kitchener-Centre MPP and House Leader John Milloy’s office in Toronto, the minister of community and social services could not be reached for a comment on the situation

“Whoever becomes the next leader of the Liberal party, it doesn’t really matter who that person is, they are inheriting a mess,” said Harris. “It will take more than one election cycle to undo the damage of the McGuinty Liberals.”

 

By Lindsay Purchase and Justin Smirlies

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