Former premier Dalton McGuinty gave his successor very little advance notice he would resign his seat in the legislature, only telling Kathleen Wynne of his plans around the time they were leaked to the media Tuesday evening.
Top Liberals were caught off-guard by Mr. McGuinty’s decision, which overshadowed a good-news day on which the party passed its budget in the minority legislature.
The final budget vote, in which the New Democrats supported the minority Liberals over the opposition of the Progressive Conservatives, took place late in the afternoon. It was followed by a celebratory news conference where Ms. Wynne and Finance Minister Charles Sousa touted the job-creation programs and cuts to auto-insurance rates in the bill.
Shortly after, word of Mr. McGuinty’s resignation leaked out. And Ms. Wynne said Wednesday, she didn’t have much of a heads-up.
“I spoke with him last night. I didn’t know before last night that he was planning to do this,” she said in an interview on Citytv’s Breakfast Television. “He needs to get on with his life and I totally get that. He’s done so many years of service to the province.”
Mr. McGuinty gave his formal resignation to the Speaker Wednesday.
“I leave politics with my idealism intact and a deep sense of gratitude for the opportunity to have served in public life,” he said in a statement.
He had pledged as recently as last month to stay on as a backbencher until the next general election.
Over the past week, he had been hounded by questions about the deletion of government records related to the cancellations of two gas-fired power plants.
NDP MPP Peter Tabuns conceded support for some of Mr. McGuinty’s policies, such as full-day kindergarten, but said his legacy would be tarnished by the plants, which cost a combined $585-million to cancel.
“The last time things got really hot on the gas plant file, he prorogued parliament and said he was not going to sit any longer as premier. The events of the last few days have ratcheted that up substantially. He takes the next step and resigns as MPP. I think you can draw your own conclusions,” Mr. Tabuns said.
Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, meanwhile, criticized the former premier for increasing government spending and leaving a “legacy of debt and waste.”
Mr. McGuinty, a married father of four, was first elected in Ottawa South in 1990. He served as premier from 2003 until February of this year.