Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty plans to step down after 16 years as leader of the Liberal Party and nine years governing Canada’s most populous province, according to a statement from the party today.
McGuinty’s party will convene a leadership convention “at the earliest opportunity,” Yasir Naqvi, president of the Liberal Party, said in the statement. The party’s executive will meet tomorrow to determine the timing and rules of the leadership campaign, the party said in the statement.
“It’s time for renewal,” McGuinty, 57, said at a party meeting broadcast by Toronto’s CP24. “It’s time for the next Liberal Premier.”
McGuinty said he would remain premier until a replacement is named and he asked Ontario’s lieutenant governor to “prorogue” or suspend the legislature to break the “heightened rancor.”
The surprise resignation comes a year after McGuinty won his third election in a row and formed a minority government. The party fell one seat short of the 54 needed to form a majority and needed opposition help to govern.
McGuinty was forced to make concessions to the New Democratic Party to pass his budget in June, agreeing to a new tax on people earning more than C$500,000 ($509,891) a year in exchange for cuts to help combat the province’s C$13 billion budget gap. Fighting the deficit has led to bitter confrontations with the province’s public sector unions.
McGuinty’s resignation comes amid pressure from opposition parties over the cancellation of two power plant projects west of Toronto. Before last year’s election campaign, the government called off the construction of the power stations after local residents had opposed the sites.
Energy Minister Chris Bentley has been facing a censure motion from the opposition after they accused him of hiding documents that show the cancellation caused the projects’ cost to soar.
“We got it wrong,” McGuinty said about the canceled plants at a press conference in Toronto tonight broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “We listened to those communities and we made a decision.”