Meanwhile here are a few quick early notes on Premier Dad’s “electoral urgency” leadership race

Oct 19th, 2012 | By | Category: In Brief

“Lincoln Alexander, Canada's first black MP and former Ontario lieutenant governor, has died at the age of 90 ... Ontario Lieutenant-Governor David Onley tweeted the news Friday morning, offering his condolences to Alexander's wife Marni and his family.“

[UPDATED OCTOBER 21]. Ontario politics has entered one of its rare phases of deep fascination — at least for the small band of regional deep thinkers who are actually interested in Ontario politics. (Unfortunately the band does not appear to include the lovely Alison Pill, even though she was born and raised in Ontario’s capital city!)

Among the ostensibly big issues at Queen’s Park now are Premier McGuinty’s progrogation of the legislature (presumably until early in 2013 — more than three months away and conceivably  longer?) ; and the McGuinty government’s “Project Vapour,”apparently designed to manage “the controversial scrapping of an Oakville power plant” (and then another plant in Mississauga) during the last Ontario election campaign in the fall of 2011.

(On prorogation, see, eg: “Dalton McGuinty planned to suspend legislature before deciding to quit”; “Prorogation is an unnecessary abuse of Ontario Premier’s power”;”Cohn: Ontario unions might find prorogation works” ; and “Legislature prorogue ‘not our first choice,’ Kathleen Wynne says.” On Project Vapour and all that, see: “Exactly how bad is Project Vapour for McGuinty?”; “McGuinty office’s ‘Project Vapour’ tried to manage power-plant fallout” ; “Liberals defend ‘Project Vapour’ code word for power plant cancellation”; and “Gas plant relocation code name ‘damning for Liberals, Tories allege.”)

The lovely Alison Pill — born and raised in Ontario’s capital city, but apparently not an Ontario politics junkie.

All this is interesting enough, no doubt. But, for better or worse, the greater mystery involves the suddenly urgent Ontario Liberal leadership race, now that Premier McGuinty has announced he will be stepping down, once a new leader has been selected. See here, eg: “McGuinty urges rapid leadership transition.”  Further details appear in a Canadian Press report: “Ontario Liberal executive meets this weekend to decide date for leadership vote …  The party’s rules allow six months to hold a leadership convention, but sources say the executive invoked what’s known as an ‘electoral urgency’ clause to shorten that time frame … No one is saying when the convention might be held, but observers predict it won’t be before late January… The sources say McGuinty spoke to the Liberal executive about the fact he had prorogued the legislature, which won’t be recalled until his successor is chosen.” (Click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll down for OCTOBER 21 UPDATE.)

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I have very hastily gone over various recent media reports to come up with a list of 10 potential new leaders of the Ontario Liberal “renewal” that Premier McGuinty has (and finally, I think, pretty shrewdly and even half-nobly) called for. (Whatever else you might think about his shades-of-Stephen-Harper prorogation trick!)

Here are the half-dozen main sources I have used: “McGuinty to step down as Ontario Liberal Leader” ; “Ontario Liberals face ‘electoral urgency’ in leadership race … Embattled party to discuss timing at weekend meeting” ; “Naqvi contemplates Ontario Liberal leadership bid”; “Gerard Kennedy may be Ontario Liberals’ best hope: Hepburn” ; “Sandra Pupatello considers run at Ontario Liberal leadership” ; “Duncan, Pupatello consider entering Ontario Liberal leadership race.”

Kim Kardashian probably doesn’t even know what street Ontario is on (unless you’re talking about Ontario, California). But judging from this particular outfit she recently profiled in the Sunshine State, that is probably a good thing.

And here is my own top 10 list, culled from these sources, and much aided by a counterweights editors caucus meeting this past Monday, immediately following Premier Dad’s announcement of his somewhat imminent departure:

Energy Minister Chris Bentley — widely seen until recently as a leading contender for the Ontario Liberal succession. But as someone “at the epicentre of the cancelled plants controversy,” who has been (rightly or wrongly) “accused of withholding key documents,” his latest adventures may have destroyed his leadership prospects?

Finance Minister Dwight Duncan — An attractive prospect in some ways, who exudes a  finance minister confidence. But University of Windsor political science professor Cheryl Collier may have wisely opined: “one obstacle to Duncan’s possible leadership ambitions will be his closeness to McGuinty in the eyes of the party. ‘There’s not a lot of daylight between them … He’s not a fresh start. Not at all’.”

Mark Holland — A 38-year-old former federal Liberal MP for the Ontario riding of Ajax-Pickering (just east of Toronto), who lost his seat in 2011. So far as I know, no one except a particular counterweights editor has proposed his candidacy as Ontario provincial Liberal leader. But he is bright and has some real charisma. Still quite but perhaps not too young, he would be a real fresh start (a man of renewal), with utterly no attachments to the McGuinty era at all.

Gerard Kennedy — Former federal MP and Ontario provincial MPP, much touted by Bob Hepburn at the Toronto Star: “He’s scandal-free, having been away from Queen’s Park since 2006. He’s charismatic, earned a good reputation as McGuinty’s first education minister, is identified as being on the progressive wing of the party, speaks French, is media savvy and has experience on Parliament Hill as an MP … If Kennedy runs, it would be the second time he has sought the provincial leadership. In 1996, he finished second to McGuinty on the fifth ballot, after leading on the first four.”

Health Minister Deb Matthews — A very competent lady, running the biggest Ministry in the province by far. But the ORNGE scandal, which has rubbed off at least somewhat on her, even if she doesn’t deserve it, may put a damper on her leadership prospects.

Colleges Minister Glen Murray — Always talked about, but I’m sceptical … somehow, perhaps for not exactly clear reasons?

Ottawa backbencher Yasir Naqvi — “Ottawa Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi said Tuesday he will talk to his wife about whether to run for the Ontario Liberal Party leadership [the couple have a very young child] … Naqvi, first elected to Queen’s Park in 2007, is also president of the Ontario Liberal Party. He has held that post since 2009 and was elected to a third term just last month. In that role, he is charged with setting up the convention to select the new leader…” According to the Canadian Press, however, he has most recently “recused himself as president of the Liberal party, but won’t confirm he intends to run for leader.” [UPDATE October 21: Yasir Naqvi has now “abandoned any leadership run.” See below.]

Sandra Pupatello — “Although Pupatello retired from public life last year — officially leaving her elected post in October 2011 — the former Windsor West MPP remains an imposing figure in provincial politics … Now working comfortably in the private sector as a business director for consulting firm PricewaterhouseCooper, Pupatello boasts 16 years of experience in the Ontario legislature and legions of supporters … University of Windsor political science professor Cheryl Collier said Pupatello’s year-long absence from the arena might work in her favour: She wouldn’t be tarnished by the government’s recent troubles and defeats.”

John Wilkinson — “the former environment minister who lost his seat in last year’s election, has also been mentioned as a possible candidate.”

Housing Minister Kathleen Wynne — She looks like an old-style schoolmarm, who could (and would)  hit the bully at the back of the class very hard with a ruler if he deserved it. She nonetheless seems liberal as well as Liberal, and  has built a strong track record as a McGuinty cabinet minister. As noted elsewhere above, that may not be an advantage in the new era of renewal. But MsWynne has recently tried to distance herself a little from the premier’s prorogation call. The last paragraph of her current official Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing biography, btw, reads: “Kathleen has three children, Chris, Jessie and Maggie, and two granddaughters, Olivia and Claire. Kathleen and her partner Jane have lived in North Toronto for more than twenty-five years.”

ALSO BEING TALKED ABOUT: Laurel Broten, Michael Bryant, Eric Hoskins, and George Smitherman. [UPDATE  October 21: Add Brad Duguid and Charles Sousa to the list.]

Finally, no one has declared as yet. (And Premier Dad has no doubt wisely ruled that cabinet ministers who want to run must resign from cabinet.) But the most intriguing things about the race may be that it will have to come together very quickly, if the whole scenario is going to work, and, as matters seem to stand right now, there are a number of plausible enough prospects, but no clear front runner at all! For certified political junkies at least, it could be quite interesting — and yet still mercifully short!

UPDATE OCTOBER 21: See the Toronto Star report,  “Dalton McGuinty: Liberals to choose new premier Jan. 25 … Some 2,500 Liberal delegates will choose the next premier of Ontario on the weekend of Jan. 25 … Premier Dalton McGuinty’s successor will be elected at a delegated convention in a city yet be determined, because the Liberals are still checking the availability of large venues … The new premier is expected to call back the legislature, which McGuinty controversially prorogued as part of his surprise resignation last Monday, on Feb. 18 with a throne speech … Ontario Liberal Party president Yasir Naqvi said Sunday that leadership hopefuls will have to pay $50,000 to enter the contest and can spend $500,000 in their pursuit of the province’s top job … “There’s a lot of excitement about this and . . . a lot of potential for renewal,” said Naqvi, the Ottawa Centre MPP who briefly considered running for leader … “It was a tough decision and very personal. My son is only 5 months old,” he said, when asked why he’s not running … Leadership candidates have until Nov. 23 to join the race.”

For a very early poll on the race, see “McGuinty resigns: Poll shows Ontarians support Premier’s resignation, oppose legislature’s prorogation … There does not yet seem to be a saviour on the horizon to lead the Liberals to a fourth term in office when the party selects a new leader, likely in January … Angus Reid tested nine of the possible contenders with all appearing ‘largely unknown’ to Ontarians … In terms of positive impressions, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan was at 23 per cent, Health Minister Deb Matthews at 17 per cent, Municipal Affairs Minister Kathleen Wynne at 16 per cent, Energy Minister Chris Bentley at 11 per cent, Education Minister Laurel Broten at 11 per cent, Children and Youth Services Minister Eric Hoskins at 9 per cent, Training Colleges and Universities Minister Glen Murray at 9 per cent, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Charles Sousa at 9 per cent, and MPP Yasir Naqvi (Ottawa Centre), the Ontario Liberal Party president, at 5 per cent… Overall, the Tories are at 36 per cent, the NDP at 32 per cent, the Liberals at 26 per cent, and the Green Party at 5 per cent … [reading all the tea leaves together] suggests the minority Liberals, who have been in office since 2003 and have bounced back from double-digit deficits before, are far from finished with a spring election expected  …”

Two recent CBC News reports online are also interesting:  “Ontario Liberals to hold leadership convention in January ; and “Ontario finance minister ‘mulling’ bid to replace McGuinty.”

On the sad death of former Ontario Lieutenant Governor Lincoln Alexander (1985-1991) see : “Lincoln Alexander’s body arrives at Queen’s Park to lie in state” ; and “Lincoln Alexander: Friends, family bid farewell to former lieutenant governor.”

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