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George Smitherman considering seeking Ontario Liberal leadership

TORONTO – Former Ontario Deputy Premier George Smitherman says he’s considering a run for Dalton McGuinty’s job.

“It’s fair to say my phone has been active,” Smitherman said on Tuesday morning.

“Politics is a matter of timing,” he says. “Circumstances change. I’ve given my life to politics so talking about opportunities is something that comes naturally.”

In an interview last month, Smitherman told GlobalToronto.com he was focused on building his businesses and raising two young children with his partner. “At present I don’t have any plans for politics. It’s not in my heart. Politics has to be in your heart,” he said, although not ruling out another run at office. “There will always be opportunities to re-enter politics.”

McGuinty resigned Monday night after 16 years as leader of the provincial Liberals and nine years as premier, saying it’s time for new blood.

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Smitherman says McGuinty’s resignation isn’t entirely surprising. “It reflects the fact that you can work as hard as you ever did but you can’t produce results like you once did,” he says. “Queen’s Park in the year since the election has not been a productive place.”

Smitherman, who served in McGuinty’s cabinet as Minister of Health and Long-Term Care and then Minister of Energy and Infrastructure from 2003 to 2010, says the leadership race “has to be about people bringing forward a bold set of proposals to create a distinction from the [existing] government.”

Former Ontario PC leader John Tory says he’s not surprised Smitherman is pondering a bid for the top job.

“One of the things that happens to you when you leave [politics] is you sort of fade out of the minds of a lot of people. He’ll have an uphill climb but I don’t underestimate his energy and I don’t underestimate his political skills,” says Tory, co-host of Focus Ontario on Global. “You want someone with ministerial experience. I don’t think he will be any worse off than most of the others who are running in terms of not being new blood.”