Credits: REUTERS/Mark Blinch
TORONTO – Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has told his ministers they must resign their cabinet posts if they enter the leadership race, a senior Liberal source said.
The premier's edict is to ensure the government remains focused on its agenda, which so far is centred on securing a public-sector wage freeze, the source said.
It could be a very small cabinet.
Only a few McGuinty cabinet ministers were prepared Tuesday to completely rule out a run for the leadership.
When asked by reporters at a cabinet meeting, most ministers said it was a day to celebrate and reflect on McGuinty's accomplishments.
But when asked if they were prepared to cross their name off the leadership list, the majority of ministers danced around the question.
Only Finance Minister Dwight Duncan was prepared to openly admit that he was considering a run.
"That's a big decision. It's not a no," Duncan said.
Municipal Affairs Minister Kathleen Wynne said McGuinty's announcement Monday that he was stepping down came as a surprise to everyone.
"And there are lots of things that are being considered now. We don't know the timing, we don't know what the rules are going to be yet, so it's too soon to commit," Wynne said of a leadership bid.
Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid said all legislators need to recalibrate.
"I haven't made any decisions with regard to the leadership at this point in time," Duguid said. "I am looking forward to this opportunity for our party to renew ourselves and build on some of the successes we've had."
Several other ministers — including Colleges and Universities Minister Glen Murray, Children and Youth Services Minister Eric Hoskins, house Leader John Milloy and Citizenship and Immigration Minister Charles Sousa -- were also reluctant to show their cards.
Among the likely candidates are Duncan, Wynne, Energy Minister Chris Bentley, Education Minister Laurel Broten and Health Minister Deb Matthews.
It's been suggested that possible outside candidates include former McGuinty cabinet ministers Sandra Pupatello and George Smitherman.
"For the two years since I was put out to pasture in Toronto, I've been pretty focused on raising little kids and building businesses," Smitherman said, referring to his failed mayoral bid in 2010.
Senior Liberal strategist Bob Lopinski said the party will be choosing the next Ontario premier from a strong field of past and present MPPs.
"The truth is every single one of them will look themselves in the mirror and say, 'Why not me?' " Lopinski said.