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Tim Hudak’s graceless goodbye to Dalton McGuinty

Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario leader Tim Hudak.

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

The gas-plant cancellation was an act of political desperation by the Ontario Liberals under then-premier Dalton McGuinty. It was reckless with taxpayers' money, and it has tainted the legacy of Mr. McGuinty. The late British politician Enoch Powell, himself the source of great controversy, was likely right when he said, "All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure." But Mr. McGuinty's was a particularly bad ending. It had it all: obfuscation, prorogation and resignation.

Even so, Tim Hudak's attack on the former premier is notable for its mean-spiritedness: "Clearly, this is a legacy of debt, of waste, and he's walking out under a cloud of corruption." Even an opposition leader can, on occasion, be gracious, and an appropriate moment to demonstrate that is on the exit from public life of those they have vigorously opposed. He need not have showered Mr. McGuinty with praise, but there is a public expectation that, at such times, politicians will set aside their partisanship and will be, just a little, dignified.

Mr. McGuinty demonstrated that himself in the statement that announced his resignation as the MPP for Ottawa-South. Among others, he thanked "my colleagues in opposition."

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It would have reflected well on Mr. Hudak had the Progressive Conservative Leader shown some class, and reciprocated. Instead, as one report put it: "PC Leader Tim Hudak couldn't be prompted to say one nice thing about McGuinty." The dignity of the office Mr. McGuinty held, and our parliamentary democracy, merited something better. Instead, Mr. Hudak probably hurt himself as much as his old nemesis. He came across as embittered, and perhaps even a sore loser.

Mr. McGuinty was a successful politician. He was a moderate Liberal. He made some needed investments during good times, although some of these were too much of a good thing. When the economy soured, he scrambled to rein in spending. That upset teachers and other public-sector workers. He made his share of mistakes, not least of them the cynicism of the power plant cancellation. Still, he deserved to be thanked for his service to Ontario.

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