Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty abruptly ended the legislature's spring session Tuesday, more than three weeks earlier than initially planned and one day before Citizenship and Immigration Minister Mike Colle was set to appear before a committee to face questions about grants given to groups with ties to the Liberal Party.
Mr. McGuinty invited members of the media into the Liberal caucus meeting Tuesday morning and delivered campaign-style remarks on his government's accomplishments.
"Look at how far we've come, together, in just four years," he said. "We have much more to do, but I'm confident we can do it."
Mr. McGuinty was greeted by cheers of "four more years" by 57 of the 67 Liberal caucus members at the meeting. He made his remarks shortly after Ontario Lieutenant Governor James Bartleman prorogued the legislature. The announcement capped a busy schedule, during which 14 pieces of legislation were passed, including the Endangered Species Act, the Independent Police Review Act and the Long-Term Care Homes Act.
The legislature will not be back in session until some time after the provincial election on Oct. 10. Opposition members accused the government of skipping off work early.
"With the legislature shutting down early, Dalton McGuinty is once again ducking accountability," Progressive Conservative House Leader Bob Runciman said. "There are questions that need to be asked and answers that need to be given."
Perhaps "most galling," he said, is the fact that Mr. Colle will no longer have to face the Estimates Committee to answer for the year-end grants handed out by his ministry.
Mr. McGuinty asked the provincial Auditor-General to conduct a special investigation last month into the alleged multimillion-dollar slush fund. The grants handed out without any formal application process totalled $32.4-million over the past two fiscal years.
New Democrat Leader Howard Hampton said the McGuinty government decided to "cut and run" because it is "desperate" to avoid answering questions about how $30-million could go out the door with no questions asked.