Mike Harris will step down as premier of Ontario and head of the provincial Tory party after a spring leadership race.

"I did not feel that was what I wanted to do at this stage in my career," he said.

Some observers speculated that after back-to-back majority election wins in 1995 and 1999, he was beginning to lose interest in the job.

Harris said this summer he was going to stay on. But since then, the Tories have lost seats in key byelections. The government also came under fire from those who blamed cutbacks for the water tragedy in Walkerton. And it faced accusations of involvement in the shooting of an unarmed aboriginal protester in Ipperwash.

In recent months, Harris's popularity has dropped to 33 per cent, his lowest standing, compared to 53 per cent for his Liberal rivals.

Harris's main political accomplishment was presiding over the "Common Sense Revolution," which restructured government and the public sector.

He balanced the books for the first time in decades while cutting personal and corporate taxes.

Hospitals were shut down and the public school system was overhauled, leading to angry protests and strikes by workers and their supporters, including labour unions and social welfare groups.

Throughout his career he fought hard for Ontario's interests, attacking the federal government on tax cuts and health-care spending.

Possible successors to Harris include:

  • Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty
  • Municipal Affairs Minister Chris Hodgson
  • Health Minister Tony Clement
  • Education Minister Janet Ecker
  • Environment Minister Elizabeth Witmer
  • Labour Minister Chris Stockwell