Former Ontario education minister Laurel Broten, who was at the centre of a bitter battle with the province's teachers over wage-freeze legislation, announced her resignation from provincial politics Sunday, opening up a fourth Liberal-held seat in the legislature.
Ms. Broten – a lawyer – said she had advised Premier Kathleen Wynne that she will step down as the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore effective July 2.
"After 10 years of practising law, and nearly 10 years [in the legislature], it is time for me to look forward to the challenges of the next chapter in my career," she said in a statement. "This was a very difficult decision for me to make, and one that was made after much soul-searching and consultation with my family."
Ms. Broten was demoted from education to intergovernmental affairs after Ms. Wynne took over from Dalton McGuinty in February as part of the new Premier's efforts to repair badly strained relations with the powerful teachers' unions, and was also given responsibility for women's issues.
"Laurel has been an integral member of our team, having served in such diverse portfolios as minister of children and youth services, minister of the environment and minister of education," Ms. Wynne said in a statement. "In these roles, and in everything she did, Laurel was a tireless advocate for the women of Ontario."
Ms. Wynne announced she would take on intergovernmental affairs herself, and promoted Windsor rookie Teresa Piruzza to the women's issues portfolio.
Ms. Broten said she wasn't just leaving Ontario politics. She, her husband and twin sons are planning a move to Halifax before the school year starts in September.
"Whatever the future twists and turns my career will take, I am very hopeful that the next 20 years will be just as fulfilling as the last," she said. "I want to especially thank Premier Wynne for giving me the privilege to serve … in this historic female-led government."
Ms. Wynne has six months to call a by-election in Ms. Broten's suburban Toronto riding, but she must call by-elections in Windsor-Tecumseh and London-West by Aug. 15.
The Premier also said she would call a by-election for Ottawa South to replace former Mr. McGuinty at the same time as she calls the Windsor and London votes to replace former cabinet ministers Dwight Duncan and Chris Bentley.
Ms. Wynne made no mention in her statement about when she would call the by-election to replace Ms. Broten.
The Liberals fell one seat short of a majority government in 2011, so the outcomes of the four byelections would not change the balance of power in the minority parliament.
Meanwhile, Ontario's public elementary teachers have ratified a deal that would give them a 2-per-cent salary hike.
The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario said Sunday that its 76,000 members voted 91 per cent in favour of the agreement with the province.
The salary increase would take effect in September, 2014, after the current contract expires, and will eliminate a wage gap between public elementary teachers and their Catholic and French counterparts. ETFO was penalized back in 2008 after a standoff with then-education minister and now Premier Kathleen Wynne.
ETFO is the last teachers' union to settle the current two-year contract that ends August, 2014.
"The agreement brings added stability to the province's classrooms while ensuring fairness and consistency across the education sector for all elementary teachers and support staff in Ontario," Education Minister Liz Sandals said in a statement on Sunday.
ETFO's high-school counterparts voted in favour of negotiated agreements with the province this year that, among other items, promised a better payout for younger teachers who lost their banked sick days when the government imposed the terms of their contracts under Ms. Broten.
Most of the province's more than 100,000 public elementary and secondary school teachers stopped supervising extracurricular activities last fall to protest Bill 115 that imposed contracts with a two-year wage freeze.
With a file from Caroline Alphonso