Sousa, Pupatello set to join Ont. Grit leadership fray

Ontario Citizenship and Immigration Minister Charles Sousa. (Antonella Artuso/QMI Agency)

Ontario Citizenship and Immigration Minister Charles Sousa. (Antonella Artuso/QMI Agency)

Jonathan Jenkins and Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau

, Last Updated: 6:07 PM ET

TORONTO -- Ontario's leadership race will welcome two new contenders with Sandra Pupatello and Charles Sousa making if official this week.

Pupatello, a former economic development minister in the Dalton McGuinty government who opted not to run in the 2011 provincial election, will make the announcement in Toronto Thursday morning, followed by an event in her hometown of Windsor.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Sousa has scheduled an "important announcement" for Saturday to announce he'll run to replace McGuinty.

Already in the hunt to become the next Liberal Leader -- and premier -- are Glen Murray and Kathleen Wynne, who both had to resign their cabinet posts before declaring. Sousa will have to follow suit.

The London Free Press reported Wednesday that local MPP and Health Minister Deb Matthews would not run for the top job, joining Energy Minister Chris Bentley, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, Education Minister Laurel Broten and Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid on the sidelines.

Tory MPP Vic Fedeli said all four leadership candidates will have to wear the scandals -- runaway consultant expenses and poor results at eHealth Ontario, more questionable expenses and bad decisions at Ornge Air Ambulance and accusations of political opportunism and taxpayer waste in the cancellation of gas plants in Mississauga and Oakville.

Pupatello's decision to step away from government doesn't protect her from the criticism, he said.

"She's no outsider -- she was at the table for every one of the scandals," Fedeli said. "She's only been gone for 13 months."

Sousa, who represents Mississauga South, can expect to field some pointed questions on his role in the decision to scrap the gas plant in his riding in the middle of the last election.

Sousa opposed the plant from the start but has largely escaped involvement in the controversy over the $190 million cost of relocating the plant to Sarnia.

The fallout from that decision and another gas plant cancellation in Oakville led directly to contempt charges against Energy Minister Chris Bentley, gutting the London MPP's own leadership ambitions.


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