Proroguing legislature strategic:...
Proroguing legislature strategic: Miller
MUSKOKA – Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller is suspicious about why Premier Dalton McGuinty has put the legislature on hold.
MPP NORM MILLER.
McGuinty announced on the evening of Oct. 15 that he was stepping down as leader of the provincial Liberals and as premier of the province. He also said he had prorogued the legislature pending a Liberal leadership convention.
Miller said his first reaction to the announcement was surprise.
“The timing did surprise me and I think it does have a lot to do with the brewing scandals, particularly the Oakville and Mississauga power plants,” he said.
McGuinty has told the media the controversy over his party’s decision to cancel two gas-fired power plant projects in southern Ontario had nothing to do with his resignation.
But Miller disagrees.
He said he and other Opposition members were speculating as to when McGuinty would step down after serving for nine years. Miller suggested that if McGuinty had planned to step down this year the most prudent time would have been during the legislature’s summer break or over Christmas, not while the legislature is in session.
Miller suggested the cause of McGuinty’s resignation is the pending fallout of the power plant issue.
No figures have been confirmed, but critics are speculating that the cancellation of the power plant projects will cost taxpayers millions if not billions of dollars.
The energy minister stonewalled an investigation into the cost by the provincial estimates committee, said Miller. That instead prompted the legislature to pass a motion mandating the finance committee to investigate the cost.
The Liberals had handed over 36,000 pages of documents for that investigation, which they said was the complete package. But on Oct. 12 the government handed over an additional 20,000 pages. It is now facing a contempt motion for withholding information.
“This was a brewing thing and it wasn’t going to be fun for the premier. I think it did play a role in his decision to step down now,” said Miller.
If the legislature had continued, he said there was a good chance McGuinty would have been called before the finance committee to answer to questions about why the documents were not handed over promptly.
“And tough questions about the costs of making the political decision to move the power plants in the middle of an election,” he noted.
With the legislature suspended, all business stops, said Miller, including the finance committee’s work.
He said he is disappointed with the prorogation because the legislature has work to do.
“The Liberals could have a leadership race, he could have appointed an interim leader or stayed on as leader, but the legislature could still function while the leadership race goes on,” said Miller. “There are a lot of things we should be dealing with in the legislature … in particular dealing with the finances of the province – the now $14.4 billion deficit. We should be working on that, not taking a break until the Liberal party figures out who its new leader will be.”
But with the suspension of the legislature, Miller said he would be spending more time in Parry Sound-Muskoka, speaking with constituents. The downside, he said, is that if he wants to bring riding issues to the attention of provincial ministers, it would be harder to do so now since they are not meeting.
Miller is skeptical a change in Liberal leadership will benefit Muskoka.
“It’s going to be tough for them after nine years to try to breathe new life into the government,” he said. “It is sort of struggling at this point and it will be a challenge for whomever is chosen to lead the party.”
District of Muskoka chair John Klinck echoed the comment that the prorogation is questionable since the legislature still has much to do. And Klinck said his fear with a new Liberal leader is that it may slow things down.
“Sometimes there is a lot of catching up to do. It almost sets you back and you have to start again,” he said. “But we haven’t had a terrible lot of success with several ministries on several issues facing Muskoka, so with a new leader perhaps there might come a change in ministerial responsibility and maybe we’ll have somebody who is a little more receptive to some of the Muskoka issues.”
But he understood McGuinty’s decision to step down if it was made for personal reasons.
“Sixteen years is a long run (as a politician). It’s very close to the amount of time I’ve spent, so I know how it can wear you out a little bit,” said Klinck. “But it remains to be seen as to whether we’ve seen the last of Dalton McGuinty.”
Rumours are swirling in the media that McGuinty may run for leadership of the federal Liberal party, though the premier has made no comment on that topic.