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Leadership race gets heated

Arthur Enterprise News/Fergus-Elora News Express/Mount Forest Confederate editorial

It should be fairly obvious why the Ontario PCs and NDPs want the Legislature recalled as early as possible, especially if the new Liberal leader isn’t in it.

Some of the candidates running to succeed Premier Dalton McGuinty as Liberal leader have left politics – advantageous for them, because it lets them try to distance themselves from at least the latest Liberal decisions, austerity measures, forced wage settlements, and so on: Sandra Pupatello and Kathleen Wynne, who’ve both announced, are are both former government ministers.

Glenn Murray, who’s already announced, and Charles Sousa who was expected to throw in on the weekend, are both sitting MPPs, as is Dr. Eric Hoskins, mentioned as also considering the leadership bid.

Another potential candidate, according to the Toronto Star, is Gerard Kennedy, who left provincial politics in 2006 (he lost an earlier bid for the provincial Liberal leadership to McGuinty), lost in the federal leadership to Stephane Dion (whose candidacy he supported), and later lost his MP seat in the 2010 election.

If Pupatello, Wynne or Kennedy wins the leadership, they won’t have a seat in the Legislature until they can win a riding in a by-election – which could be late February or into March.

In fact, Pupatello came right out and said if she wins, she wouldn’t recall the Legislature until she has a seat. “I don’t want my party in the house without me in it as the leader,” she said in her leadership-announcing press conference last week.

What a gift that was to the opposition parties, who immediately jumped to stress how important recalling the Legislature is, and how selfish and arrogant it is to delay the restart of government.

One New Democrat went so far as to say Pupatello’s statement shows “the Liberal party’s putting their own interest first” – as if no other political party has ever done that before.

After all, it’s in the best interest of both the NDP and PCs to have the Liberals leaderless in the Legislature – the longer the better. Think how much political mileage they’d be able to get out of aiming questions at the “absent leader,” how much grandstanding to the empty seat they could do.

Recalling the Legislature has nothing to do with the need to get back to work, and everything to do with the same old partisan gamesmanship that’s plagued provincial politics for years. After all, MPPs have been telling us ever since the House was prorogued that it’s not like they’re “on holiday” – they’re hard at work at all manner of government-related business.

The Liberals would be foolish to give in to the opposition demands in that case – it would be handing their critics needless political advantage. We’re sure they will be giving up enough of that, with McGuinty’s record, Liberal mis-spending, the recession, and so on hanging over the new leader no matter how distant they’ve been from provincial politics.

What’s really needed here is a sincere desire to work for the good of the province – a sentiment that seems to be sadly lacking as leadership hopefuls and an antagonistic opposition jockey for advantage in the political game.

Editorial by Francis Baker

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