Duncan won’t seek leadership job

October 24, 2012 - News

Finance Minister Dwight Duncan has made it official — he won’t be a candidate to replace Premier Dalton McGuinty as Ontario Liberal leader, nor will he run in the next election.
Duncan, 53, endorsed former minister Sandra Pupatello, 50, his close friend and fellow Windsor native, for the Grit leadership.
“I have decided it’s time for me to move forward,” Duncan told reporters at Queen’s Park on Wednesday.
“I’ve always believed governments have a natural life span of about 8 years,” he added. “You’re compelled, in my view, to move on.”
Duncan said he doesn’t have a new job lined up but suggested he may run for federal office at some point.
His decision clears the path for Pupatello, who didn’t run in the Oct. 6, 2011 provincial election, to return to politics.
In an interview with CBC Radio’s Metro Morning, she said the prospect of either Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak or NDP Leader Andrea Horwath winning power is jolting her to action.
Pupatello told host Matt Galloway she will make a final decision soon.
As McGuinty’s right-hand man — and deputy premier — Duncan had been viewed as the front-runner among the would-be contenders in the Jan. 25-27 race that will be decided by 2,500 Liberal delegates.
But Duncan, a former Windsor city councillor with a quarter-century in elected office, was not interested in the prospect of another decade in provincial politics.
As treasurer and a big booster of Toronto’s financial services industry, he should be a hot commodity for a top Bay Street post.
Duncan’s move also means he can continue to work on the budget until the Liberal leadership convention.
“From a selfish perspective I’m delighted because it means we’ll be able to stay focused the most important challenge we have before us today, and that is to find a way to put in place a public sector wage freeze,” McGuinty said Wednesday.
“We have not enjoyed much success in the legislature in that regard, so we’ve got to keep finding ways outside and he’s my point guy on this.”
McGuinty said it doesn’t “say anything” about the state of the government or Liberal Party that his finance minister, unlike many previous finance ministers in other administrations, doesn’t want to seek the top job.
“Ultimately, they’re personal decisions,” he added, noting Duncan has devoted “effectively his entire adult life to public service…I’ve enjoyed the benefit of his good counsel.”
With the minority Liberal government expected to fall next spring, triggering an election, Duncan’s Windsor–Tecumseh riding would open up for Pupatello.
She represented the neighbouring constituency of Windsor West for 16 years.
Now the PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP director of business development and global markets, Pupatello was McGuinty’s deputy Liberal leader in opposition until 2003.
She also served as minister of economic development, education, and community and social services.
A feisty political powerhouse, Pupatello would bring some passion and enthusiasm back to Liberal ranks at a time when even the premier said the party needs renewal.
Unlike some other candidates, she is not linked to problems like Mississauga and Oakville gas plant cancellations, the ORNGE air ambulance scandal or the dispute with teachers’ unions over the wage freeze.
New Democrat MPP Peter Tabuns (Toronto–Danforth) said Duncan’s decision isn’t surprising given the scandals, including “unanswered questions” about the politically motivated decisions to scrap gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga that cost taxpayers at least $230 million.
“This is a party with a huge amount of baggage. Any new leader is going to have to climb a very big hill.”
McGuinty, premier since 2003 and Liberal leader for 16 years, had ordered ministers to quit his cabinet if they wished to run.
With a $14.4-billion deficit that is steadily going down — and is scheduled to be eliminated by 2017-18 — some Liberals are glad Duncan will remain at the treasury tiller through the transition.
The premier announced his surprise resignation on Oct. 15.
Since then numerous candidates have been jockeying.
Also considering leadership bids are Energy Minister Chris Bentley; Education Minister Laurel Broten; Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid; Children and Youth Services Minister Eric Hoskins; Health Minister Deb Matthews; Training Colleges and Universities Minister Glen Murray; Citizenship and Immigration Minister Charles Sousa; Government Services Minister Harinder Takhar; and Municipal Affairs Minister Kathleen Wynne.
Outside government, former minister George Smitherman, who lost to Mayor Rob Ford in the 2010 municipal election, is weighing a comeback.
Gerard Kennedy, a former education minister who left provincial politics in 2006 to run for the federal leadership, had been mulling a bid but sources say he will endorse Wynne.
Kennedy, who finished second to McGuinty in the 1996 Liberal leadership, is believed to be eyeing a possible mayoral run in 2014.
Candidates can spend up to $500,000 on the race and must pay a $50,000 entry fee to run, have until Nov. 23 to decide.
— Torstar News Service