Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan
Credits: STAN BEHAL/QMI AGENCY
TORONTO -- Finance Minister Dwight Duncan held an eye-glazing news conference Tuesday -- ostensibly to tell us how much money he'd saved on pension reform.
When nap time ended, he was asked about his leadership aspirations.
Of course he left the door open.
"I think the biggest question any of has to ask ourselves is that you're looking at a five- to 10-year commitment of your life and that's the one that's kind of front and centre for me," he told reporters.
Conventional wisdom says he'll throw his hat in the ring. I'm starting to doubt that.
He's always dismissed running for the federal Liberal leadership, citing the fact that his French isn't good enough.
There'd be pressure on him to brush up on his French if he were to become premier.
The other reason I suspect he's hesitating is that it just may not be his time.
There's a very real feeling within the party's movers and shakers that the next leader should be a woman -- not in some pat-you-on-the-head, affirmative action, it's-time-for-a-woman sentiment.
The Liberal left flank is hemorrhaging votes to Andrea Horwath and the NDP. Witness the Kitchener-Waterloo byelection.
The Liberals need a softer face -- a change of brand -- or they risk being wiped out in the election that's almost certain to happen next spring.
Duncan acknowledged he's no spring chicken. Then again, at 53, he's hardly over the hill. He still wouldn't be collecting his old age pension at the end of the 10-year commitment he says is needed from the next leader.
Still, he was hedging a little. He almost sounded weary.
"I'm a little past middle aged -- getting toward middle-middle aged. I've been in elected office for 25 years now," he said.
The other big question is whether it's worth it for him to run.
Could he win the leadership? If not, does he want to be seen as a two-time loser?
Duncan came fourth in the 1996 leadership convention that swept Dalton McGuinty into the leader's chair.
Worse, he pointedly threw his support to Gerard Kennedy -- who seemed to be the party's anointed. It was a shocker when McGuinty nudged out Kennedy by a mere 140 votes in a marathon five-ballot convention at Maple Leaf Gardens that finally wound up at 4:30 in the morning.
Despite getting off to that rocky start with the new leader, Duncan turned out to be McGuinty's faithful lieutenant. He was Tonto to McGuinty's Lone Ranger -- the guy who was given some of the toughest portfolios. First, he was energy minister. Then he took on finance.
Would Duncan be prepared to put himself through another leadership wringer unless he were a shoo-in to become premier?
I suspect not -- especially when there are several women likely to take a run.
Former MPP Sandra Pupatello might throw her hat in. Kathleen Wynne has telegraphed through her criticism of the prorogation that she's also considering it.
The other tricky issue is the next election. It will be a tough one for the Liberals. Prorogation has angered voters. With the gas plant controversy still hovering over them, they could take a drubbing at the polls.
It could be that whoever does lead the party into the next election could also lead them into a dismal defeat.
The next Liberal leader could well be premier for a short while -- and then be forced to spend a decade rebuilding the party in opposition.
Would Duncan really want to do that -- when he could make millions on company boards in the private sector if he decided to quit politics?
Tough decisions all round.