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Ontario Liberal party president Yasir Naqvi won’t seek leadership

Liberal candidate Yasir Naqvi, the incumbent, speaks with constituents while canvassing in his Ottawa Centre riding on August 26, 2011.

Dave Chan/dave chan The Globe and Mail

Ontario Liberal party president Yasir Naqvi is bowing out of the contest to replace Premier Dalton McGuinty.

It was a "very personal decision" not to run for the party leadership, he said in a statement Sunday.

"As the father of five-month old Rafi, I had to think long and hard," he said. "First and foremost, I am Rafi's dad, and being a father is my most important new job."

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Speculation that Mr. Naqvi would run grew last week when he recused himself from a conference call on the leadership convention, but wouldn't confirm whether he intended to run for leader.

Mr. Naqvi said he'll continue to work for his constituents in Ottawa Centre and looks forward to helping run the leadership convention.

"Now is a pivotal time in our party, and it is important that we ensure the leadership race is transparent, fair and robust," he said.

"I know many of my colleagues are considering entering the race, and I wish them all the best of luck in their deliberations."

Ontario Housing Minister Kathleen Wynne and Health Minister Deb Matthews are considered to be likely contenders, along with Energy Minister Chris Bentley and Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid, among others. But all remain coy about whether they'll throw their hat in the ring.

John Wilkinson, the former environment and revenue minister who lost his seat in last year's election, has also been mentioned as a possible candidate, as have former ministers George Smitherman and Sandra Pupatello.

Finance Minister Dwight Duncan told The Canadian Press that he's seriously considering a leadership bid.

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But he says it's a huge commitment at his age — and for the rest of his professional career — to either be premier or rebuild the minority Liberals if they lose the next election.

Party executives are meeting this weekend to decide how quickly they can hold the leadership convention, which was sparked by Mr. McGuinty's surprise announcement last week that he was stepping down and proroguing the legislature.

He's told his ministers that they have to step down from cabinet if they want to run.

The party's rules allow six months to hold a leadership convention, but the sources said the executive invoked what's known as an "electoral urgency" clause to shorten that time frame.

Observers predict the leadership convention won't be before late January, and is likely to be followed by a throne speech, budget and another prorogation to allow for a general election.

Mr. McGuinty said he prorogued the legislature to allow time for his embattled government to negotiate with unions and the Progressive Conservatives on a public-sector wage freeze.

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But it also brings all legislative business to a standstill and kills planned committee hearings into cancelled power plants in Oakville and Mississauga and a rare contempt motion against Mr. Bentley.

The opposition parties have accused Mr. McGuinty of proroguing to avoid more bad publicity over the decision to cancel the gas plants, especially after a second batch of 20,000 documents was released after the premier and his ministers had insisted all relevant records had been released in September.

The second batch — following 36,000 documents released Sept. 24 to comply with a Speaker's order — came just three days before Mr. McGuinty announced that he'd step down as premier once a new leader was chosen.

The government said its decisions to cancel the power plants in Oakville and Mississauga will cost taxpayers $230-million, but the opposition parties say it's triple that figure or even higher.

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