McGuinty in no rush to call byelection 0
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. (QMI Agency file photo)
ORONTO - Retiring Tory MPP Elizabeth Witmer is the best person to head the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) and the fact her plum appointment hamstrings the opposition in the Legislature is just a happy coincidence, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Tuesday.
"My motives are always pure," McGuinty joked as he toured mobile gaming company Blammo Games.
"We kept coming back to a short list of people we thought were suited (to be chair of the WSIB).
"Only one name kept coming back in a recurring way, and that was Elizabeth Witmer's."
McGuinty said Witmer was uniquely qualified to be WSIB chair as she has previously served as a cabinet minister with the portfolios of labour, health and education -- as well as deputy premier.
Regardless of her skills, Witmer's departure leaves the two opposition parties with a combined total of 53 seats in the Legislature -- the same as McGuinty's minority Liberal government. Should the Liberals win a byelection in the Kitchener-Waterloo riding Witmer held for 22 years, they will gain a majority government with a 54-53 hold on Queen's Park.
Despite the importance of such a vote, McGuinty said he was in no hurry to call a vote. The byelection must be called within six months.
"It's really clear that the Liberals were looking out for their own hides," New Democratic Party Leader Andrea Horwath said.
"They're more concerned with what they need as opposed to what the people of this riding need."
Horwath and the NDP have levered their hold on the balance of power at Queen's Park into a wealth surtax on income over $500,000 and extra money for health care and welfare and disability benefits. A Liberal byelection victory could rob the third-place NDP of their current influence.
A loss for the Tories would add insult to injury -- losing a long-held seat on top of McGuinty scooping one of their most respected and high-profile members.