2012-10-15 at 21:26
Minister of Natural Resources Michael Gravelle has been a two-term cabinet minister under Premier Dalton McGuinty, previously holding the Northern Development, Mines and Forestry portfolio.
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Michael Gravelle says Dalton McGuinty may very well be the best premier Ontario has ever had.
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The Minister of Natural Resources on Monday said he’s still in shock at the news McGuinty is leaving provincial politics after 16 years at the helm of the Ontario Liberals, the past nine as premier. McGuinty has not yet given a reason for his departure, though he has taken heat in recent weeks about the cancellation of a southern Ontario gas plant.
McGuinty told his caucus Monday evening that he was stepping down, though will stay on as premier through the upcoming leadership convention where his replacement will be chosen.
Gravelle, the Thunder Bay-Superior North MPP, said McGuinty has been a friend to both him and the North since he took over the leadership of the party in 1996, one year after Gravelle was first elected to Queen’s Park.
“He’s certainly shown a great amount of confidence in me and I’m grateful for that,” said Gravelle, reached by phone in Toronto where he and his staff are letting the news sink in.
“I think all Northerners should be very grateful for the extraordinary levels of support he’s shown for the North over many years. I’m sorry to see he’s made this decision. I think he’s been a tremendous premier. He’s a man of tremendous integrity, of great vision for the province, great vision for the North and a thoroughly decent man who I really believe is perhaps the greatest premier we’ve ever had in the province of Ontario.”
Gravelle’s Thunder Bay-Atikokan counterpart Bill Mauro said the news came as a surprise to him, even though the whispers have been echoing in Queen’s Park for some time that McGuinty might be ready to step aside.
“I knew it was a possibility, but nevertheless he has made the decision,” Mauro said. “He’s been leader for 16 years and premier for nine of those years. That’s a long haul and I certainly respect his decision.”
Faced with a minority in the provincial legislature, Mauro said obviously McGuinty thinks the time is ripe for change.
“He clearly thinks it is. If you’re around long enough you know there’s a bit of an ebb-and-flow and a natural life to parties and to governments and clearly there’s a time for renewal, where you have to sort of recharge and re-energize,” Mauro said.
“I think he feels very strongly that now is the proper time for him to step aside, to allow for a leadership convention and for someone else to take the helm.”
Gravelle, a two-term cabinet minister, said the North can thank McGuinty for economic renewal that’s really starting to come into fruition now, noting the premier helped support plans to reduce energy costs in the forest industry and supportive of the mining sector in making the Ring of Fire a priority for the province.
“He’s shown a real economic vision for Northern Ontario,” Gravelle said, adding McGuinty was supportive of the expansion and twinning of Northern highways during his term as premier.
“This is a man who I think will go down in history as someone who truly turned this province around. Before he became premier I think we were in a very difficult situation and now we are in a position where the province is moving forward in an incredibly prominent way, as are all of us in Northern Ontario.”
Both Mauro and Gravelle plan to take a wait-and-see approach as the leadership race begins in earnest, though neither politician indicated whether they plan to seek the premier’s chair and take a run at the leadership.
Tonight is a night for reflection, Gravelle said. The future of the party can wait a day or two.
“I’m just giving no thought to that,” said Gravelle, asked about his own leadership aspirations. "Quite literally the premier told us of his decision about two hours ago and we are all very much focused on that.”
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