Chambers the latest to dive off Premier Pinocchio’s poop deck
Fiberal retention rate compares poorly to that of Harris (and even Eves)
There are some who believe that the 50-plus broken promises of the McGuinty Fiberals have now faded into the mists of time, and that another majority is his for the taking come October 10th.
Well, that’s one theory. It is a theory, however, that does not seem to have penetrated the plaster of the government caucus room, judging by the steady stream of Liberal MPPs who, for one reason or another, have chosen not to run on the Promise Breaker ticket come Labour Day.
The latest overboard is first-time MPP and children’s minister Mary Anne Chambers, who will not seek re-election in Scarborough Guildwood, where the Progressive Conservative candidate is former Toronto Police staff superintendent Gary Grant. (Full disclosure: I help out the Ontario PCs from time to time.)
Chambers has offered illness as the reason for her retirement. “I don’t really want to go into the details. I’m not dying or anything like that,” she told the Toronto Star. “I really have to slow down and pay attention to my health. It’s been a while since I’ve done that.”
Since the McGuinty government’s election four years ago, there has been a steady exodus from the Liberal caucus, whether by outright resignation, or retirement as of the general election. The exodus is not only heavier than during the comparable period of the Harris government, but even heavier than occurred among PC MPPs during the PC government’s second term.
Economic development minister Joe Cordiano quit. Markham MPP Tony Wong, frustrated at having been left out of cabinet, quit to run for Markham council.
Gerard Kennedy left to run for the federal Liberal leadership and will run federally in the next general election. Mississauga MPP Tim Peterson quit to sit as an independent and will run as a PC in October. Ernie Parsons and Richard Patten are also retiring.
Then there are the ladies: democratic renewal minister Marie Bountrogianni, Hamilton MPP Jennifer Mossop, and the aforementioned Chambers. Bountrogianni and Mossop have both said they want to spend more time with their kids.
The Fiberals have also lost three seats to the NDP in by-elections: Hamilton East, Parkdale-High Park and York South-Weston, though the Hamilton East by-election was precipitated by the untimely death of Dominic Agostino in the fall of 2003. (Over their eight years in office, the PCs lost only two PC seats in by-elections.)
How does McGuinty’s retention rate compare with those of the previous PC leaders? Well, during Mike Harris’s first term (1995-1999), there were no PC resignations (though there were five by-elections that resulted from Liberal and NDP resignations).
The only PC incumbents who didn’t run again in the general election of 1999 were, if I’m not mistaken, Toronto cabinet minister Al Leach and Brantford MPP Ron Johnson. We did lose some MPPs through nomination races between incumbents (the Legislature was being reduced from 130 seats to 103 in the next general election, in accordance with a – gasp – election promise) and of course some incumbents were defeated in the 1999 general election. Though we did pick up about half a dozen new MPPs.
In 2000, Hamilton-area MPP Toni Skarica quit over the amalgamation of Hamilton (which amalgamation the Fiberals have not reversed) and his seat was lost to the Liberals. Ernie Eves announced his retirement in early 2001 but the PCs retained his seat in a by-election. Al Palladini died suddenly in 2001 and the by-election to replace him gave the seat to the Liberals (Greg Sorbara). Mike Harris retired in 2002 and his seat was (barely) retained by the PCs in a by-election. David Tilson resigned to make way for new leader Ernie Eves, who won Tilson’s seat in a by-election.
Approaching the 2003 general election, Oakville MPP Gary Carr decided not to run again, because he had a hockey coaching gig in the UK (which ultimately didn’t pan out). But by this time he hardly counted as a PC MPP because (1) he was Speaker and (2) he had publicly attacked the government.
Cabinet minister Chris Hodgson announced he was not running again, but his seat was retained by the PCs in the general election. Former cabinet minister John Snobelen, who had been spending a great deal of time away from the Legislature, announced he would not run again in early 2003. His seat was lost in the general election. Energy minister Chris Stockwell announced he would not run again, after criticism of his travel expenses. Etobicoke MPP John Hastings decided not to run again (both Stockwell’s and Hastings’s seats went to the Liberals). All four were MPPs who had served at least two terms.
So, to sum up, during the first PC mandate, no PC MPPs quit. Heading into the 1999 election, two PC MPPs declined to run again. During the second PC mandate, two PC MPPs quit (Harris and Skarica); Eves quit but returned, and Tilson only quit to make way for Eves to come back. Going into the 2003 election, four PC MPPs (not including Carr) declined to stand for re-election.
During McGuinty's first term, four of his MPPs quit (Cordiano, Wong, Kennedy and Peterson). Going into the 2007 election, five Liberal incumbents would rather not stand for McGuinty again. So far. Perhaps the prospect of being the turkey at the McGuinty family Thanksgiving table is an unappetizing one.