McGuinty resignation surprises Hamilton Liberals

Hamilton Liberals say they are as surprised as anyone to hear that Premier Dalton McGuinty is stepping down.

Mayor Bob Bratina says the premier has 'great affection' for Hamilton

Dalton McGuinty is stepping down from his job both as premier and as the leader of the Ontario Liberal Party. (CBC)

The presidents of two local provincial Liberal riding associations say they are as surprised as anyone to hear that Premier Dalton McGuinty is stepping down.

Barbara Miller, president of the Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale Provincial Liberal Association, said McGuinty's resignation was news to her.

"I think he has given as much as he can, maybe, and that it's time to step down," Miller said. "Everybody was surprised."

McGuinty announced Monday evening during a surprise caucus meeting that he was resigning as Ontario premier and leader of the Liberal party. He is also proroguing the legislature so the government can work on reaching wage-freeze agreements with public-sector workers.

"After 16 years as leader of the Ontario Liberal Party and after nine years as premier, it's time for renewal, it's time for the next Liberal premier," he said.

"It's time for the next set of Liberal ideas to guide our province forward."

McGuinty asked the party to call a leadership convention "at the earliest possible opportunity" and will stay on as premier until a new leader is chosen and will finish his term as an Ottawa MPP.

When asked about a potential federal Liberal leadership bid, McGuinty said, "I have no plans."

NDP leader Andrea Horwath said she doesn't agree with proroguing the House as Liberal find a new leader. (Steve D'Souza/CBC)

Nithy Ananth, president of the Hamilton East/Stoney Creek Provincial Riding Association, said he was also surprised by the announcement.

He didn't speculate on why McGuinty stepped down, but "at this juncture, obviously governance is not easy," he said.

McGuinty has been a great premier, he said.

"I've been in this province for 23 years, and in my 23 years, he's the best premier. I can tell you that confidently," Ananth said.

"Times are difficult. He's had to take some difficult choices. He's not a perfect man, but he's made many decisions in the interest of Ontarians and not just getting votes."

Mayor Bob Bratina said McGuinty has "a great deal of affection for Hamilton."

"It was obvious by the things that they did for the city such as the funding gap for the stadium," he said. "They provided $7 million for the restoration for the Lister Block, and all-day two-way GO train service.

"As the mayor of the city of Hamilton, I'm dismayed that he's decided to step down."

During the same announcement, McGuinty announced that he had prorogued the legislature to give the government the chance to work on reaching wage-freeze agreements.

"Our top priority these days is, of course, the economy," he said. "We have reached an impasse at a very important priority."

McGuinty said there is more heat than light at Queen's Park and they need a cooling off period,  which is why he says it was necessary to prorogue the House while the government pursues two goals.

"First of all, we're going to make a sincere and determined effort to sit down with our labour partners and see if we can negotiate wage-freeze agreements, not unlike what we've done for 80,000 public-sector workers so far," he said.

"Secondly, we're going to continue to reach out to the opposition to see if we can determine precisely what they would need, by way of a legislative response, to ensure that we could through legislation put in place the necessary wage freeze."

Both opposition leaders Tim Hudak and Hamilton's Andrea Horwath said proroguing the legislation is not necessary.

"While I support the premier's service, I have to say I'm opposed to proroguing the house," Horwath said.

Stopping work in the legislature so the Liberals can have a leadership race is wrong, she said.