Municipal Affairs Minister Kathleen Wynne says she’s not comfortable with Premier Dalton McGuinty’s move to suspend the legislature following his surprise resignation.
As Liberal leadership hopefuls begin positioning to replace McGuinty, Wynne said Wednesday that “there’s a discomfort, obviously, in having the legislature shut.”
“Nobody wanted to do that, it’s not our first choice. We want this to go quickly, we want the people’s place to be open,” Wynne told reporters as she and fellow leadership contender Health Minister Deb Matthews announced $15 million in improvements to treatment programs for narcotic addicts.
Opposition parties have been highly critical of McGuinty’s decision to prorogue the legislature, saying it short-circuits scrutiny of the government and a committee investigating the politically-motivated cancellation of two power plants that cost taxpayers at least $230 million.
The premier said rancour in the legislature has become so bad that a “cooling-off period” is needed.
Wynne’s remarks follow perceived efforts last month to distance herself from Education Minister Laurel Broten’s controversial wage freeze bill for teachers.
The former education minister told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning the Liberals must “take some lessons” from the debacle surrounding the bill, which helped the NDP win a Kitchener– Waterloo by-election Sept. 6 with support from teachers unions that had previously been in the Liberal camp.
“Believe me, there will be internal discussion about that,” added Wynne, who later insisted to reporters at Queen’s Park that she was not criticizing her own government.
“My point is that we wanted the collective bargaining process to work . . . I’m a part of the team. What I said was I wasn’t at the negotiating table and that’s true, I wasn’t. But I’ve been part of the strategy all along,” she said on Sept. 12.
Both Wynne and Matthews said Wednesday they were caught off guard by McGuinty’s edict that ministers seeking the twin jobs of party leader and premier resign their plum $165,000-a-year cabinet posts before launching their campaigns.
“I was surprised, I hadn’t really thought about it…it hasn’t been the tradition,” said Matthews, who is mulling her next steps.
“There are lots of things we all have to think about,” Wynne said. “It’s too early…taken aback kind of describes this week. Had I thought of all the ramifications? No, I hadn’t.”
Candidates are waiting for the rules of the leadership race and a convention date to be set by party officials in the coming days by the party executive as they assess support from party members and donors needed to fund their campaigns.
Wynne said she didn’t think the scandals over two cancelled power plants and at eHealth Ontario, the ORNGE air ambulance service, Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. and other government agencies — which opposition parties blamed on poor oversight — prompted McGuinty to issue his ban on sitting ministers running to replace him.
“That’s a negative way of looking at it,” she said.
McGuinty made it clear at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting he wants ministers to step down for their leadership runs because they can’t properly run their departments and campaign at the same time.
Other contenders for the premier’s job are Broten, Energy Minister Chris Bentley, Children and Youth Services Minister Eric Hoskins, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Charles Sousa, and Liberal party president Yasir Naqvi, a lawyer and MPP for Ottawa Centre.