TORONTO - Saying he has no ties to the scandals that have rocked Ontario's Liberal government, former MP and one-time education minister Gerard Kennedy launched another bid Monday to become party leader and premier.
The $1-billion eHealth scandal, a police probe into the Ornge air ambulance service and decisions to cancel two gas-fired power plants at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars all happened after Kennedy left Ontario politics for the federal scene.
"I hope the fact that I’m not associated with any of the issues that have been flash points will allow us to deal with those issues, in the sense they’ll be reckoned with and any problems arising will be dealt with," Kennedy said in an interview.
"So yes, I think there is a fresh start that I’ll be able to bring to the table, and that includes our taking responsibility for problems, fixing what needs to be fixed so they don’t ever happen again."
Kennedy, who lost to Dalton McGuinty in the 1996 Ontario Liberal leadership race and lost the federal Liberal leadership to Stephane Dion 10 years later, moved quickly to distance himself from legislation that imposed a two-year wage freeze on most teachers, and suggested he would repeal the bill.
"I don’t need the powers that are in Bill 115, but I don’t think I’m going to be very helpful to the current minister right now who is trying to get arrangements by making unilateral offers," he said.
"People will know that should I become premier, there will be a different approach taken."
Too many decisions are centred in the premier's office, and that's what got the Liberals into trouble, said Kennedy, who promised to give cabinet ministers and MPPs more power if he wins the leadership.
"I think it’s an impossible effort for a premier’s office to try and manage everything, and I think we need to have more empowered ministers, caucus members and more openness," he said.
"I know we have to take those steps to gain back the faith that people have lost, and I think that’s something I can offer because I wasn’t part of the decision making that people are beginning to question."
Kennedy also took aim at McGuinty's move to prorogue the Ontario legislature and promised to recall members "as soon as possible" if he becomes leader on Jan. 25, and would not wait until he wins a seat in the legislature.
Leadership rival Sandra Pupatello, the only other candidate who is not currently a member of the Ontario legislature, said if she becomes premier she would first want to win a seat in a byelection before she recalls the house.
Charles Sousa, Glen Murray and Kathleen Wynne all recently resigned from cabinet to launch their campaigns. Eric Hoskins also resigned from cabinet last week — a prerequisite set by McGuinty for making a leadership bid — and is expected to launch his campaign at a news conference Tuesday.
Potential Liberal leaders have until Nov. 23 to launch their bids and sign up new members who will vote for delegates to be sent to the convention in Toronto in late January. The delegates will be the ones who vote to elect the new leader and premier.
Kennedy announced his leadership bid in a series of media interviews and an official campaign launch was planned for 5 p.m. Monday in London, Ont.
He was first elected to the provincial legislature in 1996 in the west-end Toronto riding of York South, then to the nearby riding of Parkdale-High Park.
Kennedy left the Ontario cabinet in 2006 to run for the federal Liberal leadership, a race won by Dion. He returned to office in the 2009 election as the MP for Parkdale-High Park, a seat he lost to New Democrat Peggy Nash in 2011.
Kennedy currently runs Enterprising for the Public Good, an organization that advises private and non-profit companies.