Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty today defended his decision to prorogue the legislature, saying the controversial move gave the government crucial time to sign new contracts with unions and work on breaking the deadlock at Queen’s Park.
McGuinty faced reporters for the first time since announcing last week’s prorogation decision along with his surprise resignation, and said the decision won’t halt the business of government.
"Things were becoming overheated," said McGuinty "And the legislative process was in danger of seizing up entirely. So I blew the whistle. I said, 'All right, everybody out of the pool. Let’s allow the waters to calm. And let’s use our time productively.'
"The public interest demanded that we freeze public-sector wages. We are making progress right now outside the legislature."
McGuinty also denied that the decision to resign and prorogue was an attempt to sidestep growing scandals facing his government.
These included contempt motions over how the Liberals handled the closure of power plants west of Toronto and an ongoing controversy regarding cost overruns at Ornge, the province’s air ambulance service.
McGuinty blamed the opposition for creating a legislative stalemate at Queen's Park that he said was not serving the public interest. He also said prorogation will only cost the legislature 18 days in session.
Reacting to McGuinty's comments Wednesday, NDP energy critic Peter Tabuns said the Liberals could have kept the legislature open.
"[McGuinty is] acting as if the only thing important in this province is the Liberal party and its political plans," said Tabuns. "I think it was shut down to avoid the hearing on the gas plants. It was going to do enough damage to the party that it had to be buried."
McGuinty denied the decision to prorogue was made to buy time for his party as it selects a new leader. He has said his successor, who will be selected at a leadership convention on the Jan. 25 weekend, will choose when the legislature will resume sitting.
In the meantime, McGuinty said he will reach out to the opposition parties in an attempt to get an agreement that will freeze public-sector wages.