McGuinty Says He Prorogued To Avoid Opposition 'Shenanigans'

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DALTON MCGUINTY ONTARIO BYELECTIONS
Premier Dalton McGuinty says he had to prorogue the Ontario legislature because of "shenanigans" and the "wasting of time" by opposition members. (CP) | CP

Premier Dalton McGuinty says he had to prorogue the Ontario legislature because of "shenanigans" and the "wasting of time" by opposition members.

McGuinty, in an interview Saturday with CBC Radio's The House, defended his controversial prorogation, saying that the legislature was scheduled to sit 96 days and ended up sitting for 76 of those days.

But, he pointed out, the opposition called for adjournment of debate on 45 separate occasions, triggering a 30-minute period of bells, adding up to 45 "wasted half-hours," using what he called "procedural tricks."

McGuinty denied that he resigned and prorogued the house in order to duck questions about the possible billion-dollar cost of cancelling two gas plants. When the opposition came up with a contempt finding against Energy Minister Chris Bentley over the gas plant scandal, McGuinty pointed out that never in the 220-year history of the Ontario legislature has any member been found to be in contempt of the legislature.

McGuinty implied that the last straw was when he showed the opposition a copy of a bill he planned to introduce that would freeze public-sector wages.

"Both opposition leaders responded in writing and said, 'We can't support that,'" he told the CBC's Evan Solomon, host of Power & Politics. "So I thought, you know what, I need to blow the whistle, we need a timeout, we need to allow for things to cool down."

It wasn't because of accusations and allegations that he resigned, McGuinty said. The event of his daughter's wedding brought it home to him that "the love of your family, the support of your friends" are more important than a political life that "can consume you if you are truly devoted to it."

When asked about federal-provincial relations with the Harper government, McGuinty described the federal Conservatives as "passive" in their dealings.

"They believe that in many ways, the best government is the least government. I've tried to lead a progressive, activist government. I think government is a wonderful tool, but you've got to pick the damn thing up and you've got to work with it," he said.

His own vision of Ottawa's approach to the provinces would be to "lay before us kind of the great unfinished business of our time which would be this is how we are going to build a stronger economy, this is how we're going to continue to build a caring society." But that spirit is missing from the Harper government, McGuinty concluded.

However, he may have been smarting from jibes flung at him by the Harper Conservatives over the years. Conservative MP Peter Van Loan once famously referred to McGuinty as "the small man of Confederation," suggesting he was putting Ontario's interests ahead of the rest of the country.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty often criticized what he called "Ontario's spending mismanagement," and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, while attending a Toronto Mayor Rob Ford barbeque just before the last Ontario election, advocated defeating the Mcguinty government.

McGuinty admitted to Solomon that he was tempted to take on the prime minister by going after the federal Liberal leadership, as some were urging him do, but, he said, it was too much of an undertaking. Reflecting on his 22 years in politics, and underlining he wasn't referring to government or politics, he said that much of life was "noise," and that in the end he felt lucky that after all this time his wife still loves him and his children still talk to him.

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