Skip to main content

Former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty appears at the Ontario legislature in Toronto on May 7, 2013.CHRIS YOUNG/The Globe and Mail

Former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty has stepped down from his seat in the legislature, definitively ending more than two decades in provincial politics shortly after his successor's first budget was passed.

Mr. McGuinty tendered his resignation to the Speaker Wednesday. In a statement, he said the end of the legislative session the previous day was "an opportune time" to move on.

"I leave politics with my idealism intact and a deep sense of gratitude for the opportunity to have served in public life," he said.

A nomination meeting for his Ottawa South constituency will be held June 20.

A lawyer by profession and married father of four, Mr. McGuinty was first elected to the legislature in 1990. He served as premier from 2003 until February of this year.

During his near-decade in office, he focused on health, education and environmental policy, bringing in full-day kindergarten and renewable energy plants, among other initiatives.

Premier Kathleen Wynne lauded Mr. McGuinty for pumping money into social programs, kick-starting a transit-building plan and establishing the greenbelt of preserved land around the Greater Toronto Area.

"Unbowed by the challenges of his office, he always had a family anecdote, a historical reference and a charming turn-of-phrase to put things in perspective," Ms. Wynne said in a statement.

"Earlier this year, he wrote me a letter encouraging my commitment to conversations in which he quoted the Greek statesman, Pericles, who described continued discussion as an 'indispensable preliminary to any wise action at all.' I have always valued Dalton's counsel and look forward to our continued discussions as I endeavour to build on his many wise actions."

Since leaving the province's highest office in February, Mr. McGuinty had attended just two legislative sessions, to take part in confidence votes on the Throne Speech and the budget. He was absent from the legislature Tuesday, during the final vote on the budget bill.

But the former premier said as recently as last month that he intended to remain an MPP until the next election.

Over the past week, he was dogged by questions about political staffers whose e-mail accounts were erased. Those e-mails could have shed light on the cancellations of two gas-fired power plants.

The province's Information and Privacy Commissioner revealed that Mr. McGuinty's former chief of staff had asked for advice on permanently deleting government records.

Save for a statement denying that he had ordered e-mails erased, Mr. McGuinty did not make himself available to answer to the allegations, and took heat from the opposition for being absent from Queen's Park.

Mr. McGuinty's future plans are not yet known, but one government source said he was in talks with a number of law firms.

The opposition parties wasted no time in blasting Mr. McGuinty as he made his exit.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak criticized the former premier for increasing government spending and leaving a "legacy of debt and waste."

Asked if he could find one nice thing to say about Mr. McGuinty, Mr. Hudak replied: "Look, I'm not going to say any more."

New Democrat MPP Peter Tabuns conceded support for some of Mr. McGuinty's policies – including full-day kindergarten – but attacked the Liberals for cutting corporate taxes and bringing more private companies into the energy sector.

"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.

Ms. Wynne has six months to call a by-election to fill Mr. McGuinty's seat, the third to become vacant this year. The ridings of former finance minister Dwight Duncan and former energy minister Chris Bentley, in Windsor and London respectively, also have to be filled.

Ms. Wynne said Tuesday she had not yet decided when to schedule the elections.

"Dalton McGuinty served Ontario with integrity throughout his years in public office. He will go down as one of our greatest premiers," Mr. Duncan tweeted.

With a report from Karen Howlett