Doesn’t anybody want this job?
The race to drop out of the nascent Liberal leadership contest seems more crowded than the one to get into it.
Education Minister Laurel Broten, who was always a long shot, announced Thursday she’s not going for Premier Dalton McGuinty’s job.
“After much consideration … I will not be seeking the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party,” Broten said in an email to supporters.
“While it is not the right time for me personally, I am certain that the process of choosing a new leader will collectively inspire us in the coming weeks and months,” she wrote.
Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid, another would-be successor to the retiring McGuinty, on Wednesday ended his brief dalliance with a bid.
“I’ve decided to continue with my current responsibilities and therefore will not be seeking the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party,” Duguid told a large media throng for an announcement televised live because some apparently believed he may run.
His news conference came the day after former deputy premier George Smitherman, who lost the 2010 Toronto mayoralty to Rob Ford, said he would also be taking a pass, but offered his colleagues some advice.
“To date, every prospective candidate is playing to the opposition’s narrative about the McGuinty government. It’s time to show some pride for the accomplishments as a foundation for new ideas and opportunities,” Smitherman said Tuesday.
Last week, Energy Minister Chris Bentley and Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said they wouldn’t be running — nor is party president Yasir Naqvi, the MPP for Ottawa Centre.
The apparent reticence has opposition MPPs crowing.
“Clearly nobody wants the job,” said Progressive Conservative house leader Jim Wilson.
“It illustrates the only real news coming out of the Liberal leadership race is nobody wants to be leader,” said New Democrat MPP Peter Tabuns (Toronto—Danforth), citing a “trifecta” of scandals from cancelled power plants to ORNGE and eHealth Ontario.
But their glee at the dearth of candidates may be short-lived.
Front-runner Sandra Pupatello, a former minister now working in the private sector, is waiting in the wings, quietly assembling a formidable campaign.
Municipal Affairs Minister Kathleen Wynne, the other leading contender, also has a team in place.
While CBC Radio reported Thursday morning that Wynne was set to launch, her office told the Star: “She is still in cabinet and not announcing anything today.”
“We’ll let you know when she has something to announce,” an aide said.
Indeed, Wynne was coy Wednesday as she entered what could be her last cabinet meeting because McGuinty has decreed that all candidates must quit their ministerial posts.
“As I’ve said, I’m considering seriously. There are lots of conversations happening,” she said.
“I’ve said that I have been talking to people and there are folks who are interested in having this conversation with me.”
Health Minister Deb Matthews, another possible leadership hopeful, sounded as if she is starting to waver.
“This is a really big decision, I’m still thinking about where I want to go . . . it’s a personal question. Is it something I want to commit my life to for the next 10 years,” said Matthews, a former party president and the sister-in-law of former premier David Peterson.
Children and Youth Services Minister Eric Hoskins said he’s still “giving it serious consideration.”
“It’s a difficult decision to make,” said Hoskins. “I’m reaching out to friends and family and individuals whose judgment and advice I trust to help me make that decision”
But Training Colleges and Universities Minister Glen Murray said his decision would be “pretty imminent.”
Citizenship and Immigration Minister Charles Sousa is expected to make his plans known soon, as is Government Services Minister Harinder Takhar.
The deadline for entry, which will cost candidates $50,000, is Nov. 23, the same day party membership sales close.
Liberals will select delegates to the Jan. 25-27 Maple Leaf Gardens convention at meetings in all 107 Ontario ridings on Jan. 12 and 13.
Candidates can spend up to $500,000 in the pursuit of the job.
McGuinty, who prorogued the legislature when he announced his resignation Oct. 15, said he couldn’t promise his successor would bring the house back after the Family Day holiday in February, when it had been scheduled to return after the Christmas break.
“I have neither elicited nor sought that commitment. I would surmise that everybody would sense the desire to return the legislature at the earliest possible opportunity,” said the premier, who has been in office since 2003.
“That’s one of the reasons we’re having the leadership take place at a relatively quick pace.”