Ontario Liberal staffers are being warned to keep out of the federal Liberal leadership race.
“I don’t want us to compromise our ability to deliver on responsibilities here. That’s what it is really all about,” Premier Dalton McGuinty told the Toronto Star.
While he can’t stop Grit MPPs from getting involved, he has warned them as well as cabinet ministers not to do anything that jeopardizes their provincial responsibilities.
McGuinty’s chief of staff Don Guy puts it more bluntly in a memo obtained by the Star:
“The Premier also indicated that the Premier’s Office, Liberal Caucus Services Bureau and Ontario Liberal Party staff, should remain focused on their own work, and would not be allowed to involve themselves in the federal Liberal leadership.”
McGuinty has made it clear he wants a number of government initiatives, including improving medical wait times, to be completed over the remaining 19 months of the Liberals’ four-year mandate.
Chris Morley, McGuinty’s press secretary, confirmed that Liberal Queen’s Park staff has been told to stay clear of the federal Liberal leadership race until they hear otherwise.
“The premier will remain entirely focused on the job....and he expects his staff to do the same,” he said.
Morley said the Liberal caucus will “at some point come to a common landing” on what involvement, if any, there will be in the federal leadership campaign.
“Until their bosses have had an opportunity to discuss the issue, staff have been asked to avoid making commitments and to remain focused on their jobs,” he said.
According to sources, McGuinty did get some push back on his directive from cabinet ministers intent on helping out their favourite candidate when the time comes.
McGuinty’s approach has many political insiders scratching their heads.
“It’s strange,” said one staffer. “Usually people decide on their own who they are going to support - not caucus or cabinet.”
“It’s like asking a snake not to slither,” said another ministerial aide, adding that he thought such a directive violates their constitutional rights.
The first signs that the Liberals were taking a different approach came when Guy held a meeting directing all political staff not to get involved in any federal leadership campaigns until cabinet and caucus had time to discuss it.
The Guy memo of yesterday went on to say:
“Yesterday at caucus the Premier led a great discussion on setting some ground rules for involvement in the upcoming federal Liberal leadership. The Premier indicated, and caucus agreed, that members who choose to get involved should not allow their involvement to compromise their responsibility to serve their constituents as a member of the government (and) to ready their riding and the Ontario Liberal Party for successful re-election.
“Ministers’ Office and Members’ staff should seek direction from their own bosses on the degree to which they can become involved on their own time.”