Elizabeth Witmer fields questions from the media in this undated file photo.
Credits: QMI AGENCY
TORONTO -- Tory MPP Elizabeth Witmer was roundly praised by colleagues of all political stripes Monday, but the rare show of unity dissolved quickly as party leaders looked ahead to the crucial byelection triggered by her resignation.
"Far be it for me to try to get inside Dalton McGuinty's head and guess what his motive is in this," PC Leader Tim Hudak said of Witmer's nomination to chair the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).
"Given the fact that we had a downgrade by Moody's, or put on credit watch by S&P, I would have hoped that Dalton McGuinty's approach would have been to bring new measures forward to get spending under control. His priority seems to be a byelection."
Witmer, who has held her Kitchener-Waterloo riding since 1990 -- as well as senior cabinet positions in education, health and labour -- announced last Friday that she would be resigning to serve as WSIB chair.
The timing of her departure raises concerns for Tories and New Democrats, who together hold the balance of power at Queen's Park.
If the Liberals take the riding in a byelection, they will have a majority government.
NDP MPP Taras Natyshak asked the governing Ontario Liberals during question period if their motivation was strictly political.
"Did the premier appoint Ms. Witmer based on her vision for the WSIB or are they so desperate for a majority government they're ready to play politics with this appointment?" Natyshak said.
Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said it was unfortunate that the NDP chose to denigrate an MPP with such an outstanding track record.
"It really is, to question her integrity. It contradicts what the leader of his party said," Duncan said, referring to NDP Leader Andrea Horwath's tribute to Witmer.
Kitchener Mayor Carl Zehr has ruled out running for the Liberals in the byelection.