Ontario Energy Minister Chris Bentley will resign from the legislature next week, becoming the third Ontario cabinet minister to announced his exit from politics as Premier Dalton McGuinty hands over power to Kathleen Wynne.
A nine-year veteran of the legislature, Mr. Bentley became a lightning rod for anger over the costly cancellation of gas plants and faced repeated attacks from the opposition last fall.
In a video message to constituents of his London West riding, Mr. Bentley said he will leave Feb. 14, a few days before parliament resumes.
“I’ve worked hard every day to justify the trust that you’ve placed in me. Together, we’ve accomplished a lot. But although it’s a hard decision, it’s time,” he said.
A lawyer by training, Mr. Bentley entered the legislature in 2003. He held several portfolios – including Labour and Attorney General – before taking over the energy file after the last election.
He presided over the fallout from the government’s decision to scrap two planned power plants – one in Oakville and one in Mississauga – at a cost of at least $230-million. The opposition accused the government of killing the plants purely to placate voters and hold on to Liberal seats.
Mr. Bentley faced daily fire in Question Period over the plants. When it became clear that his department had not released all the documentation related to the plants, opposition MPPs moved a contempt motion in the legislature, which was only quashed when Mr. McGuinty abruptly resigned and prorogued parliament.
Once touted as a future premier, Mr. Bentley declined to run in the race to succeed Mr. McGuinty, which was ultimately won my Ms. Wynne.
Finance Minister Dwight Duncan announced earlier this week that he will resign his seat, leaving the Liberals facing two by-elections that Ms. Wynne must call by summer. Mr. Bentley last won his seat by 16 percentage points. Mr. Duncan’s riding, in Windsor, is expected to be hotly contested by the NDP.
Rick Bartolucci, the minister for northern development and mines, has also stepped down from cabinet, but will remain in the legislature until the next election.
Ms. Wynne and her new cabinet will be sworn in Monday at 3 p.m. at Queen’s Park.