Dalton McGuinty with Prince Charles and Sheldon Levy visiting the Digital Media Zone in May 2012
Katia Dmitrieva / Ryersonian Staff
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty stepped down from office in a surprise announcement Monday evening.
In his resignation speech, McGuinty also announced his intention to prorogue the legislature, a move that would end a tumultuous session at Queen’s Park.
First elected as Premier of Ontario in 2003, McGuinty leaves behind a 22-year history of public service. Notably, he brought many changes to education in the province – including increasing high school graduation rates and instituting full-day kindergarten.
His government’s changes had a major impact on post-secondary education. Since he was elected Premier, tuition fees in Ontario rose more than 25 per cent, adjusted for inflation. This was offset somewhat by the 30 per cent tuition rebate that most Ontario university students received this year.
When asked to define his legacy, however, McGuinty remained humble.
“I will leave others to speak on my successes, but I can tell you it was a true privilege to be able to serve the province of Ontario for nine years,” he said.
Successes aside, McGuinty leaves a substantial deficit problem to his successor. He spoke of his regret that his government could not find support for reducing the deficit through cuts in public sector wages – referring to it as an “economic impasse.”
“We need to eliminate the deficit,” McGuinty said. “An integral part of that is freezing public sector wages,” he said. “We haven’t been able to do that with the opposition parties.”
McGuinty’s resignation also comes in the wake of growing turmoil in Queen’s Park.
“I have the responsibility to make an ongoing decision on whether we’re making progress,” he said of debate in the legislature this year. “I think we’re generating a lot more heat than light,” “We need to have a cooling off period.”
Notably, McGuinty resigns amid opposition accusations that his government suppressed documents detailing the expensive cancellation of two new gas power plants – a decision he defended Monday.
There is some speculation that McGuinty might seek the leadership of the federal Liberal party. Though he claimed to have no future plans, McGuinty did not explicitly deny the possibility of contesting leadership hopeful Justin Trudeau for the spot.
McGuinty will remain in office until the next leadership convention. He also said he will serve out his term as MPP in his riding of Ottawa-South.