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McGuinty's stuck in the middle - just where he wants to be

Ontario Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty speaks during a press conference in Ottawa on Friday, October 7, 2011., in response to the Liberal's win in the Ontario provincial election.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Premier Dalton McGuinty says he will have an easier time finding common ground with his political rivals than Prime Minister Stephen Harper did during his years presiding over minority governments.

For the first time in his eight years in office, Mr. McGuinty's Liberals will be in the minority, with 53 of the legislature's 107 seats. But the Liberal Leader said he is confident he can carry out an agenda that most Ontarians support because he presides over a party that is in the middle of the political spectrum.

"We'll work it out day to day, likely on an issue by issue basis," Mr. McGuinty told reporters on Thursday. "But remember, we're a centrist party. We're the party in the middle."

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He is not planning any attempts to entice someone from the opposition benches to cross the floor to give the Liberals the magic number for a majority.

"I accept our 53 seats," Mr. McGuinty said, speaking for the first time since the Liberals fell just one seat short of winning a third majority in last week's election. "We didn't get 54, we didn't get 52. We ended up with 53."

Ontario's first minority government in a generation will officially get down to business next Thursday with the swearing in of a new, leaner cabinet.

Just before the election writ was dropped on Sept. 6, there were 29 cabinet ministers, including the Premier. Three ministers retired, and four others were defeated in the election, so the table will have several new faces. At least one will be familiar: Dwight Duncan will stay on as finance minister. His first responsibility is preparing a fall economic update on the province.

"We want to move quickly," Mr. McGuinty said. "We want to position ourselves to confront any challenges that may be out there for us to manage."

Once the new cabinet is sworn in, the next order of business will be electing a Speaker of the Legislature. Mr. McGuinty said the Liberals plan to nominate candidates. New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath said on Thursday she is declining to put forward any of her caucus members for the role because that would mean any vote could end in a split.

With 54 of the legislature's 107 seats between them, the NDP and the Progressive Conservatives could bring down the Liberal government if they chose.

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Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak has not emerged in public since the election left his party with 37 seats, 11 more than in 2007. However, the results were disappointing because the Tories went into the race ahead in the opinion polls.

With a report from The Canadian Press

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About the Author

Karen Howlett is a national reporter based in Toronto. She returned to the newsroom in 2013 after covering Ontario politics at The Globe’s Queen’s Park bureau for seven years. Prior to that, she worked in the paper’s Vancouver bureau and in The Report on Business, where she covered a variety of beats, including financial services and securities regulation. More

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