Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty unexpectedly announced Monday he would be stepping down as the leader of the provincial Liberal party. He also announced he would be proroguing the government because his minority government could not reach an agreement with the opposition over proposed public sector wage freezes.
“I’ve concluded that this is the right time for Ontario’s next Liberal Premier, and our next set of ideas to guide our province forward,” McGuinty wrote in an open letter.
While McGuinty has gone on the record saying he has no immediate plans following his resignation, his abrupt announcement has prompted speculation that he may make a run for Federal leadership of the Liberal Party.
He asked the party president to convene a leadership convention as early as possible, and will continue to serve as premier until a new leader has been found. He also plans to give up his seat in the Ottawa South riding.
“Everyone has been talking about Chris Bentley and Deb Matthews running for leadership of the party,” Jaquetta Newman, a political science professor at King’s University College, said.
“It’s hard to say, but those two might be a bit reticent because Deb Matthews has been having real problems in terms of the questioning around the Ornge scandal, and Chris Bentley is now caught up in all of this stuff about not tabling certain documents that were requested by the opposition parties,” she said, referring to the recent scandal which caused the provincial Conservatives to accuse Liberal energy minister Chris Bentley of contempt of parliament.
According to Alysha Li, vice-president university affairs for the University Students’ Council, the leadership change could be problematic for new tuition policies being advocated by the Ontario Undergraduate Students’ Alliance.
“Before all this we knew that the government was looking into implementing some sort of new tuition framework within the next budget session, but at this point it’s probably going to be considered a major policy decision,” she said.
“Hopefully we’ll get more information in the next few weeks, but we know that things like tuition, quality teaching, online learning and experiential learning are still priorities and we’ll still make sure that gets at the forefront in front of the government.”
Newman was more concerned over McGuinty’s decision to prorogue Parliament.
“Prorogation is historically, and traditionally, used if a government has come to the end of its legislative agenda,” she explained.
“But now we have precedent with Harper in terms of using prorogation for political purposes, and that is what McGuinty is doing—he’s doing this for his own party purposes of finding a new leader without having to go to the polls in the middle of it,” she said.
“This is irresponsible government—the government is responsible to the opposition and the house. The fact is that there will now be no question period and no debate within the house at Queen’s Park. [It] means we simply do not have a responsible government.”
—With files from Jesica Hurst.