- Posted October 17, 2012 by
From "Boy Scout" to "Premier Dad" to now "the Unmentionable Uncle "
It was the balmy evening of 15th Oct., and I was still chairing the monthly meeting in Committee Room 2 of Queens Park that there was bombshell of Premier Dalton McGuinty resigning and proroguing the provincial parliament. "I will remain as Premier until that leadership convention,” stated the Premier as he bade good bye to the Parliament, putting it is a state coma, to renew the party in a vain bad to hold unto power the Liberals. This resignation coming close on heels after getting over 80% confidence votes in the last leadership convention was a surprise. But was it really a surprise? No, it was a forced exit- forced by desire to perhaps play a bigger role- may be at federal level; or to escape paying for the wages of sins of mission and commission.
Reaction from politicos across the country has been swift. Some have even raised the idea of McGuinty running for the Federal Liberals. McGuinty's resignation was expected once he realized support for his economic plan wasn’t forthcoming, and there was in fact no other way out for him- cornered as was.
The Conservatives were not going to support him on that. Since he did not have a majority in the legislature, it means he simply could not really implement his plan on public finances. His economic plan had hit a dead end and there was really nowhere for him to go.
McGuinty struggled hard to adjust to operating a minority government after holding a majority for eight years. He even manipulated a bye-election by winning over a former senior PC legislator to resign. Unfortunately for him, the benefit of the bye-election went to NDP and not to the Liberals. This government had a really difficult time finding that proper balance. It was probably time for him to go. He couldn't make this minority government work. And now what? Liberals need a new leader. Successor up in the air
Names spoken of as potential leadership candidates to replace McGuinty include Housing Minister Kathleen Wynne, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, former cabinet minister George Smitherman, and Energy Minister Chris Bentley, who has been the focus of the opposition attacks and original contempt motion over the cancelled gas plants.
Unfortunately the Ontario Liberals don't have an automatic choice for a successor. They have to follow and complete process that can take upto 6 months. But do they six months? Naturally, they would have to cut short the process and might end with a choice a la Ignatieff.
Who will be Dalton McGuinty's successor to the Ontario Liberal leadership?
Decision to adjourn legislature criticized
Both Ontario opposition parties were also critical of McGuinty’s decision to adjourn the legislature. And if the people recollect, there wa such a hue and cry by the Liberals when Prime Minister Harper had prorogued the parliament and that was in the end analysis for only about 3 weeks; and now it might be well nigh for three months. Well sauce for goose is evidently not always sauce for gander.
With the legislature now prorogued, the scheduled finance committee hearings into the gas plant cancellations and all other legislative business will be cancelled. There won't be any committees either because the three parties have been unable to agree on their makeup under a minority government.
By quitting and shutting down the legislature, McGuinty has effectively taken heat away from the Liberals. What Dalton McGuinty has done in Ontario is bought some time for his party. It's going to put a lot of distance between some of the scandals ... and the new leader, whoever he or she may be.
It’s not really a surprise that the opposition is in a furor because by proroguing, the Liberals basically take away the platform that the opposition parties have to attack the McGuinty government and the Liberals in Ontario.
The public may not like decision to prorogue the legislature, and that should make the new leader more careful. The Liberals need to be more concerned about who they will choose to succeed the outgoing premier. I can’t see prorogation as a big vote driver.
McGuinty has agreed to stay on as premier and Liberal leader until a successor is chosen, but he would not answer questions Monday about his future, prompting speculation that he might seek leadership of the federal Liberals.
The Ontario Liberals have been under fire for months for an out-of-control air ambulance service and faced a second contempt motion Monday for cancelling gas power-generation plants in Mississauga and Oakville at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars to taxpayers.
Most commentators reacting to McGuinty’s decision said Ontario’s premier had hit a roadblock getting his political agenda through a minority legislature. McGuinty needed support from other parties to ensure public-sector wages are frozen as the province tries to pare back a deficit in the $14-billion range. From "boy scout" to "Premier Dad" to now "the uncle no one wants to talk about" is how he can be best described.
So it goes for Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, who has run the largest province in the country for nine years, and who decided this week to step down before his party totally implodes. The conventional wisdom is that politicians know when it’s time to go. But the one-time Ottawa lawyer may have overstayed his welcome by a year. After back-to-back majority governments, McGuinty reached for number three in 2011. He returned to the premiership last October with a minority, and with a tag that — for many voters in Ontario — his best before date had expired.
McGuinty’s first two terms in 2003 and 2007 were marked by major achievements: there were heavy investments in education and health care, support for the troubled auto industry, a push to green energy, and the activation of environmental protection measures. But since that October election night, McGuinty has struggled to deal with what he liked to call his "major minority" — a term that has come to mean no truck or trade with the opposition — though there have been some minor agreements along the way.
Basically, the leaders of the opposition parties complain McGuinty has operated as if he still had his majority — a "my way or the highway" approach to governing that clearly irked the Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats.
Minority governments of yore worked well in Ontario. Former PC premier Bill Davis was able to find common ground with then NDP leader, Stephen Lewis, in successive minority governments in the 1970s. The parties didn't agree on every issue. But they agreed enough for the Tories to survive not once, but twice, and Davis was rewarded in 1981 with a majority government.
The difference is clear. Davis was prepared to seek co-operation and compromise. Dalton McGuinty? Confrontation. And the result of that short-sighted approach is that he’s now leaving, having failed to make his government and its agenda work.
Kitchener-Waterloo loss a harbinger
McGuinty and his party were sent a clear signal just over a month ago by voters in the riding of Kitchener-Waterloo. Not only was the Liberal candidate in the by-election there defeated, he finished in third place behind the NDP and the PC candidates.
Initially, the result was viewed as just one more anti-government by-election. But in the long term, it may well have marked the beginning of the end of McGuinty — a message that it was time to go.
For many years McGuinty enjoyed the total support of his caucus. After all, big election wins and the perks of power had a tendency to quell even his most outspoken critics. But toward the end, many Liberals were talking privately about the need for McGuinty to go and that he had worn out his welcome.
There was chatter that the government had lost its way, mired in scandals at provincial agencies and politically motivated infrastructure decisions that made a mockery of McGuinty’s oft-stated commitment to "protecting taxpayers' money."
McGuinty’s downfall serves as a textbook example of what happens to governments that stay in power for several years: they forget they once sat on the other side of the legislature. They forget they had to struggle to get noticed by voters and the media and that they were sent to Queen's Park to represent voters, not their own interests.
It’s the arrogance of power — if nothing else — that has left the Liberals in search of a new leader and a new way.
Polls haven't been offering much good news for the Liberals and the opposition smells blood. And so the hustings beckon for a provincial election campaign that may well give Ontario what McGuinty couldn't anymore — a new government.
I personally feel that a McGuinty campaign team is ready to go – go for Federal politics. For the past month, a draft campaign has been in the works to persuade McGuinty to jump into the federal fray. Some of his closest campaign advisers have been involved, including brother Brendan McGuinty -- who was on hand for McGuinty's news conference Monday -- and Don Guy, campaign director for each of McGuinty's three winning provincial campaigns. Deputy chief of staff Dave Gene, former chief of staff Chris Morley and former operations director Charlie Angelakos are also part of the group.
Sources say a leadership campaign road map has already been sketched out."
In an email exchange with Yahoo! Canada News, Liberal insider Warren Kinsella said if McGuinty ran for the federal leadership, McGuinty would win. "I've been privileged to work for him for more than a decade. He is an extraordinary guy, and a historic political success," he told Yahoo! "If he runs federally, I and many others will follow. And he will win."
When asked about a potential federal leadership run at his press conference, McGuinty would only say that he hadn't made any plans about the future.
McGuinty 'going federal' was also a common theme on Twitter: McGuinty to run for federal leadership? Deadline to decide is one month away. Allow me to start the speculation! It is one tweet. Why did Dalton McGuinty resign? Who is betting on federal Liberal leadership? is the second one. McGuinty vs Trudeau vs Charest for Federal Liberal leader? We'll see soon. Reads the third one and so on.
The Ontario Liberals have been under fire for months for an out-of-control air ambulance service and faced a second contempt motion Monday for cancelling gas plants in Mississauga and Oakville at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars to taxpayers.
The Liberals at the Federal level are gasping and some of them see a ray of hope in Justin Trudeau, who struts in the borrowed plumes of his dad; but who in fact is no political visionary leader - at the most he is a rock star and Dalton might be a good choice to herd the wayward and lost sheep that are a rump in federal parliament. Provincially in case the new leader shows will to change, then there can be some hope. Much will depend on the new leader- shall it be a a person of vision or just a person who is rehash of old thoughts.
Dr. Bikram Lamba, a political and business strategist, can be contacted at 905 848 4205. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org