London-West Liberal MPP Chris Bentley announces he is stepping down from politics during a press conference at his constituency office in London on Friday October 26, 2012.
Credits: CRAIG GLOVER/QMI AGENCY
A day after Energy Minister Chris Bentley said he wouldn't seek the Liberal leadership or even re-election, Matthews declared she'd be a strong contender if she enters the race and that under no circumstances would she not run again for her London North Centre riding.
"I have absolutely no interest in leaving," she said.
The contrast between the two area MPPs was striking.
In the face of a scandal not of his own making -- the spending of at least $230 million to cancel gas plant deals in Liberal ridings -- Bentley spoke of the responsibility of making tough and unpopular decisions.
But where Bentley explained, Matthews pounced, defending her role in the biggest scandal of her tenure -- Ornge air ambulance -- and insisting she fixed the mess, not created it.
"There's no question Ornge was a very difficult situation. I went in and cleaned it up," she said.
The fiery talk came in a week where two leadership possibles sought the exit door, with Bentley following Finance Minister Dwight Duncan.
Opposition critics have likened their exodus to rats leaving a sinking ship, but political scientist Nelson Wiseman says their departures may very much help the Liberal party.
"Bentley is really tarnished and Duncan is carrying a lot of baggage," said Wiseman, a professor at the University of Toronto.
Other candidates, he said, may fare better making a cleaner break from the Liberal struggles of the recent past.
That may benefit Sandra Pupatello, who did not run in last year's provincial election after 12 years representing Windsor West.
Pupatello is widely expected next week to announce her candidacy for leadership, and Duncan -- a close friend -- has all but endorsed her.
Though Pupatello, twice an economic development minister, would draw support from more moderate Liberals, another rumoured candidate from outside is decidedly from the left, former education minister Gerard Kennedy.
A run would be full-circle for Kennedy, who was the front-runner for leadership in 1996, leading in four ballots before losing in the final vote to Dalton McGuinty.
Also talked about as a possible candidate is Kathleen Wynne, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and Aboriginal Affairs, who distanced herself from McGuinty when she said she disagreed with his decision Oct. 15 to suspend the legislature until the Liberal leadership race Jan. 25.
-- with files from QMI reporter Laura Cudworth