One day after Premier Dalton McGuinty announced his sudden departure, his right-hand man confirmed he is considering running for leader of the Ontario Liberal Party.
Dwight Duncan, who is Finance Minister and Deputy Premier, said a number of people have suggested that he should jump into the leadership race, which began at precisely 6:27 on Monday evening, when Mr. McGuinty announced to his caucus that he was stepping down.
“I honestly have not given it a lot of thought up until now,” Mr. Duncan told reporters at Queen’s Park on Tuesday. “That’s a big decision.”
Asked to clarify, he added: “It’s not a no. That’s correct.”
If Mr. Duncan does jump into the race, he will have to relinquish his cabinet posts. At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Mr. McGuinty advised ministers that they will have to step down from cabinet if they plan to seek the leadership, a senior Liberal source confirmed.
Speculation is rampant around the legislature that other cabinet ministers will also seek the leadership, including Energy Minister Chris Bentley, Health Minister Deb Matthews, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Kathleen Wynne and Citizenship and Immigration Minister Charles Sousa.
However, with the exception of Mr. Duncan, other ministers heading into a cabinet meeting were coy with reporters, saying they needed time to absorb the shocking news and reflect upon Mr. McGuinty’s nine-year stewardship.
“It’s too soon to commit,” said Ms. Wynne, who has also served as education minister and transportation minister since her election in 2003.
“Today is a day where I’m really celebrating the extraordinary accomplishments of Dalton,” Ms. Matthews told reporters. “Twenty-four hours ago, none of us knew this was happening.”
Mr. Duncan, 53, would be viewed as a strong contender, according to Liberal sources.
“He’s been active in the party his whole life,” said a Liberal insider who has known him for years. It would not surprise me that he would run. It’s part of what he wants.”
Mr. Duncan, a career politician and lifelong resident of Windsor, was first elected an MPP in 1995. He was appointed Finance Minister in 2005 and Deputy Premier in 2011.
His mentor is former federal Liberal prime minister Paul Martin. When Mr. Duncan delivered his first budget speech in 2005, he was sporting a deep red rose in his left lapel for the occasion. It was a Nell Rose, the official City of Windsor flower named for Mr. Martin’s mother.
It will be up to Liberal backbencher and party president Yasir Naqvi to organize the leadership convention. Mr. Naqvi, who is also mentioned as a possible candidate himself, told reporters Mr. McGuinty told him privately that he was stepping down shortly before the caucus meeting on Monday evening.
“It was quite shocking,” Mr. Naqvi said. “I was quite surprised.”
With a report from Paul Waldie.