Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is rumoured to be interested in running for the federal Liberal Party leadership to replace interim leader Bob Rae. That is, if Rae doesn't decide to run himself.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty may be publicly dismissing any interest he may have in running for the federal Liberal top job, but sources close to the Premier told Globe and Mail columnist Lawrence Martin last week that McGuinty has not ruled out the possibility of moving into federal politics once his third term as Ontario's Premier comes to an end.
David McGuinty, the Ontario Premier's brother and a federal Liberal MP, told Martin in an interview for iPolitics that the federal Liberals should look to Dalton because he could “rebuild the Liberal party, just like he did in Ontario.”
It would be wholly unnatural if people didn’t look to the premier of Ontario and say, ‘Geez, he just won three times in a row and it hasn’t been done in 126-odd years," McGuinty told Martin. "He kind of knows what he is doing, and the team he built is a high performing team.”
Christina Blizzard, writing in the London Free Press, noted that a common luncheon held by McGuinty at the Economic Club of Canada lead to a veritable who's who of Canadian Liberals turning out to hear the Premier talk about the troubling fiscal situation in Ontario. The speech may have sounded more like an audition.
"The federal Liberals are in disarray," she writes. "They’ve become irrelevant and risk extinction if they can’t get their act together. They need a leader with profile, credibility and personality.
McGuinty is all of that. The last election showed he may be unpopular — but he can still win this province. More importantly, he’s the only guy with experience in government who has the faintest chance of restoring the party’s fortunes federally. He’s just won his third election. Sure, he only won a minority, but it was a stunning achievement and he’s going down in history as a power house (not sure if it’s gas-fired or not) in this province’s politics. That’s why it’s interesting he’s still giving campaign-style speeches.
"It’s a long shot," she adds, "but the federal Liberals have few options. If they don’t go big, they’ll blow up."
Martin is quick to point out that the rumours of McGuinty's interest remain just that, and that any interest he does have in running for the top Liberal job in the country will likely remain close to the vest.
And it's not as if McGuinty has a smooth ride ahead of him in the next Ontario parliament, given minority status and the recent economic downturn. "His government was only recently re-elected to a minority and he has lots on his plate in trying to keep it afloat," Martin writes. "The federal leadership convention will not be held until 2013 however, meaning the premier probably has close to a year to make up his mind."
His shaky minority government, meanwhile, may not make it that long.
Meanwhile, interim Liberal leader Bob Rae is showing increasing signs that he has intentions of running for the permanent leadership position of the party. He has before, although Rae and Dominic LeBlanc resigned in December 2008 under pressure, leaving Ignatieff the sole candidate running. These musing from Rae come despite his pledge not to seek the permanent leadership of the party when he took over after the disastrous showing in the May election left him one of the few veteran Liberals standing in Parliament.
Liberal MP Scott Brison and others are calling on Rae to step down as interim leader if he intends to run for the permanent leadership gig at the 2013 convention.
But like McGuinty, Rae is not deciding his future just yet.