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Ontario's October Surprise(s)

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This week, an MPP stunned Queen's Park by stating that they would defy their leader and run for Speaker. "There is no integrity in backing down," the MPP told the Globe and Mail when asked if that MPP would agree to stand down in the Speaker's race if asked by the party leader. "When I say I'm going to do something, I follow through."

The MPP in question? The member for Etobicoke Centre, Donna Cansfield -- one of a handful of Liberal MPPs openly campaigning for the Speaker's Chair.

Lots of ink has been spilled over the Frank Klees situation at Queen's Park this week, because it has it all: intrigue, allegations of disloyalty, a former leadership rivalry... and oh, the small matter of the medium-term future of the Ontario government's survival.

I'm not here to pretend that Klees' decision was good news for the Ontario PC party. It caused some anger, some frustration and genuine bewilderment. There are those who are calling for his head. But let's keep it into perspective: an MPP is running for Speaker, with what looks like a difficult road ahead of him to win.

And therein lies the rub. Klees handed the Liberals a huge gift. On election night, Liberal insiders pored over results late into the night dissecting whether or not one more seat could be wrung out of the province. It was not to be -- they were going to have to make do with a minority.

Yesterday, Klees' decision had the effect of handing them that seat, but there was a catch. They had to get their people to stand down in the race for Speaker. If even one Liberal MPP were to run, it throws the Klees bombshell into doubt. Can he still win? We will see.

The Liberal braintrust would have been desperate to buy some stability and anoint Klees. I expected them to at least try but the fact that they didn't shows they had no hope of succeeding. Within minutes, while Liberal partisans were crowing on Twitter the official reaction was muted. "There's still going to be a Liberal Speaker," a senior government official predicted on Tuesday afternoon.

I was genuinely surprised by this reaction, but when you look at the list of Liberals running (Levac, Cansfield, Zimmer, Flynn) you find some who have been booted from Cabinet and some that never made it despite being solid performers. One of the job hazards of eight years of government: you're bound to have some people who just aren't listening to the Premier's Office anymore because there is nothing new that is to be offered or threatened. The die on a career is cast.

The Speakers' Election will be held soon. We will know the outcome and Ontario will move on. I had hoped Frank would reconsider his decision but it looks like that is not the case. If he doesn't win, he will have some serious work to do with the party and the caucus to rebuild bridges. But the main difference between the PC Party and the Ontario Liberals this week? There's a lot of leader-defying going on. You'll hear a lot about Klees. The other side? It's buried below the headlines.

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