The Sudbury MPP and Northern Development and Mines minister told Northern Life party members were as shocked as anyone else by McGuinty's resignation Monday evening, saying “deafening silence” greeted the announcement.
“I've been a staunch supporter of Dalton McGuinty — he's honest, filled with integrity and tries to bring people together,” Bartolucci said. “I respect his wishes, but I'm sad he's stepping down. He had a passion for Sudbury and for all of Northern Ontario.”
As for the premier's motivations for proroguing the legislature, Bartolucci laid the blame squarely on the opposition parties. In their zeal to bring down Energy Minister Chris Bentley over the gas plant cancellations, they have made the business of the legislature next to impossible to accomplish.
“The House was unproductive because the opposition with the aid of the NDP are besmirching the reputation of a good man. I've never seen it so unproductive,” he said, adding the legislature has been filled with “fright, fight and gutter politics.”
Proroguing stops the business of Queen's Park and allows the parties to meet in a “less combative way” while ensuring provincial ministries will continue to function normally, Bartolucci said, and government priorities like the divestiture of the ONTC all continues.
When it comes to McGuinty's replacement, who will become premier following the leadership convention, several names have been tossed around. A few of the personalities about whom leadership speculation swirls are Kathleen Wynne, minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, as well as Aboriginal Affairs, Health and Long-Term Care Minister Deb Matthews and Finance Minister Dwight Duncan.
Bartolucci told Northern Life that he is not interested in the job.
Prominent Sudbury Liberal supporter Gerry Lougheed Jr. said he has his own idea of who would make a good leader. He said 43-year-old Sault Ste. Marie MPP David Orazietti would be an ideal choice, described him as a hardworking, young family man with no “baggage issues” with which other candidates might be saddled. Plus, he is a northerner.
Lougheed said polling numbers show the Liberals could have a tough time come the next election, suggesting the party might have to re-invent itself in much the same way the Alberta Conservatives have done. A fresh face like Orazietti might be the person to do just that.
The absolute ideal, Lougheed added, would be someone who could forge the same relationship with the North, and Sudbury in particular, that McGuinty and Bartolucci had.
“Rick and Dalton were the dynamic duo,” he said. “We have a huge legacy in our community thanks to them.”