TORONTO - Finance Minister Dwight Duncan says he is leaving politics to give Ontario's premier-designate a "free hand" to renew the Liberal government.
Duncan announced Thursday he plans to quit as the MPP for Windsor-Tecumseh, effective Feb. 14.
He said he was a key figure in Premier Dalton McGuinty's cabinet, and it's very important that incoming premier Kathleen Wynne has the opportunity to put her own stamp on the Liberal front bench.
"I've always believed ... governments have a natural lifespan in my experience of about eight years ... unless they renew," he said at the Ontario legislature.
"I'm very proud of the fact that I was Dalton McGuinty's guy, I always will be, but I think Kathleen needs a free hand, and there are a lot of talented people in our caucus who have not had the opportunity to serve in cabinet, (and) can help put a fresh face on the government."
Duncan, who supported Sandra Pupatello during the Liberal leadership race, had made it clear he intended to resign his seat soon.
Duncan lost when he ran against McGuinty for the Liberal leadership in 1996 but became his finance minister after Greg Sorbara bowed out.
McGuinty released a statement Thursday morning thanking Duncan for his many years of service.
"Dwight Duncan was the longest serving finance minister in the modern era and Ontario is better for it — stronger, fairer and more prepared for a future of constant change and ever-growing opportunity," he said.
McGuinty praised Duncan for reforming Ontario's tax system, helping harmonize sales taxes with the federal government and for working to protect the auto industry during the recession.
"Dwight's steady hand has set our province on a sure path to a balanced budget while protecting the gains we have made together in health care and education."
Duncan's resignation will clear the way for a byelection in Windsor-Tecumseh. He has represented Windsor-area ridings since 1995.
Earlier on HuffPost:
Dalton McGuinty's Scandals
When you lead Canada's biggest province for nine years you're bound to have some missteps. Ontario's Premier Dalton McGuinty has had his share of scandals and mistakes. <p>We highlight a few that caused him more headaches than usual. <p>Photo: Ontario Liberal Party
Back in 2004, a relatively new Liberal government under Premier Dalton McGuinty was forced to go back on a campaign promise not to raise taxes and instituted a health premium of between $300-$900. Photo: Alamy
In 2006, the Liberals tried to announce a new $46-billion energy plan that would see renovations of many of Ontario’s power plants. But the plan became a problem for the Liberals when <em>the Globe and Mail </em>revealed that the government tried to exempt their plans from environmental assessments. Photo: Shutterstock
The government’s plans to modernize medical records in the province ran into massive scandal when reports of overspending, waste and possible conflict of interest were revealed at <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EHealth_Ontario">eHealth</a>, the agency responsible for building a new electronic records system. The scandal forced the resignation of Health Minister David Caplan. <P>Photo: Shutterstock
G20 Police Laws
Dalton McGuinty and the Liberals were criticized for laws giving police greater powers to ensure security during the <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2010/12/08/mcguinty-g20-ombudsman-report652.html">G20 in 2010</a>. The laws were seen by civil rights groups as draconian. Andre Marin, Ontario’s ombudsman also <a href="http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/torontog20summit/article/902817--ombudsman-charges-g20-secret-law-was-illegal">criticized the government</a> calling the laws and police action a massive violation of civil rights. <p>Photo: AP Files/Carolyn Kaster
Ontario’s air ambulance service, Ornge, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/tag/ornge-scandal">caused another headache for McGuinty’s Liberals</a> after reports of financial irregularities, cost overruns, huge salaries for managers being kept secret and reports of kickbacks began to emerge in the media. <P>Photo: CP/Globe and Mail
Canceled Power Plants
Hobbled by scandal and facing a resurgent Conservatives in the 2011 provincial election, the <a href="http://www.globaltoronto.com/timeline/6442734189/story.html">Liberals cancelled two power plants</a> in the GTA despite the fact it would cost taxpayers several hundred million dollars. The move would dog the Liberals and is seen as a factor in the resignation of Premier Dalton McGuinty on Monday night. <P>Photo: Michelle Siu/CP