Just as people settled in for a cosy night at home on a windy and cold fall evening, Ontario politics took a most bizarre turn which will no doubt be talked about for years to come. Dalton McGuinty announced, his wife by his side, that he was resigning as premier and that parliament was prorogued while the Liberals stabilised and chose a new leader. He explained that he wished to spend more time with his family and to see new blood in the party leadership. Prorogation would also allow the government more time to negotiate pay freezes with various unions.
McGuinty's premiership has been controversial since his first term. The mention of (among other things) health premiums, e-health, ORNGE, the ONTC and cancelled power plants will no doubt illicit groans from across Ontario. McGuinty's resignation was inevitable, but the timing - the same day as the government's fiscal update - is strange and caught everyone off guard, especially as the update was somewhat optimistic. The decision to prorogue parliament is itself surprising and suggests that Stephen Harper's actions in 2009 and 2010 have set a disturbing nationwide precedent for governments wanting to duck out of a bad situation.
But what of the ONTC? With the final legislative hurdle having been cleared when the budget passed earlier this year, the divestment is now in the hands of bureaucrats. So, while one of the figureheads of the plan has stepped down, the divestment should continue as planned.
Whatever people think of McGuinty, his resignation makes it clear that his policies were unworkable from a minority position where compromise was virtually non-existent.
Addendum: McGuinty's resignation also comes on the same day as Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli delivered over 3,000 petitions asking the government to stop the sale of the ONTC.