Finance Minister Dwight Duncan is quitting the Ontario legislature, leaving the minority Liberal government facing a by-election in a seat where they are vulnerable to the NDP. Northern Development and Mines Minister Rick Bartolucci, meanwhile, is stepping down from cabinet and will not run again in the next election, leaving his Sudbury riding open.
Mr. Duncan has not formally finalized any post-politics jobs while still in cabinet, but has informed the province's integrity commissioner of several offers. And multiple sources said he will sign on with McMillan LLP, a top Bay Street law firm. Not himself a lawyer, Mr. Duncan is likely to serve as a “senior advisor” – a common role for high-profile former politicians at prestigious firms.
He will also help Justin Trudeau's run at the federal Liberal Party leadership, and left the door open to entering federal politics himself in the 2015 federal election. The 54-year-old, however, is said to be eager to make money in the private sector.
An MPP since 1995, Mr. Duncan has long said he would leave cabinet when Kathleen Wynne is sworn in as premier next week and framed his departure as being in the party's best interest.
"I'm very proud of the fact that I'm Dalton McGuinty's guy. I always will be. And I think Kathleen needs a free hand," he said. "There are a lot of talented people in our caucus who have not had the opportunity to serve in cabinet, who can help to put a fresh face on the government. I've always believed, and I've said this before, that governments have a natural lifespan, in my experience, of about eight years, unless they renew."
At a speech in Sudbury, Mr. Bartolucci said he made his decision after a post-Christmas holiday in Florida.
"Moving forward means renewal and change," he said.
Although Mr. Duncan held his Windsor-Tecumseh seat by a comfortable margin in the last election, the NDP is strong in the city and holds the equivalent federal riding, setting up a potentially tight race. Mr. Batolucci also faced a tough challenge from the NDP in the last election. The Liberals are particularly weak in the north, where they hold only three other seats.
Mr. Duncan had originally hoped to vacate his seat for Sandra Pupatello, whom he supported in the party's leadership race. After losing that contest to Ms. Wynne, however, she signaled that she would not seek to return to the legislature, meaning the party must find a candidate.
In a statement, Ms. Wynne said Mr. Duncan "is a tribute to the people of Windsor, and I will miss his presence and his insight."
Mr. Duncan held the high-profile energy minister and house leader positions before taking over finance in 2007. Under his stewardship, the province implemented a harmonized sales tax and a bailout for the auto industry, among other policy moves. He also wrestled with the $11.9-billion deficit, and warned that his successors would have an even tougher time bringing the province back to the black.
"Four governments of three political stripes since 1990...have each, in their succession doubled the province's debt," he said. "We've got to change the political culture."
It is unclear whether Mr. Duncan's future role at McMillan will be a full-time commitment, or he will also take on other private-sector postings.
Mr. Bartolucci first won his seat in 1995 and held a string of cabinet posts, including community safety and municipal affairs.