Wow. This comes as a pretty big surprise. Sorbara, who is a close ally of McGuinty, and basically saved his ass after the 99' election, seemed pretty secure in his spot as Finance Minister, particularly after running the very successful re-election campaign. Sorbara said he "wants to spend time with his family", which could either be very true, or be a euphemism. While it is still too early to tell what Sorbara's resignation could mean from a policy perspective, to me, it raises two key points:
1. With McGuinty's closest cabinet ally quiting, is that a sign the next leadership race might be starting sooner than we think? I don't think Sorbara has an interest in being party leader/Premier, so I don't think he himself would make a run, but his departure could be a sign that the "old guard" of the party wants to make a peaceful exit before the gritty stuff happens. I do think that McGuinty, whose personal popularity is below that of the party and the Liberal brand, will probably want to pull a Bill Davis, and step down as leader whenever the polls are showing he is really popular, but I don't see that happening for at least a couple of years. As Sorbara was the 2nd in command, and such a close ally of McGuinty, it is hard to imagine anyone could muscle him out but McGuinty, and no reason why McGuinty would want to remove him is apparent.
2. The new cabinet will be wide open. Ian Urquhart wrote (http://www.thestar.com/comment/article/269115) about how Smithermann would be the key character in any cabinent shuffle, and that if Smithermann wanted to stay at Health, the cabinet would retain much of its current make-up, but if he wanted to move to another portfolio (the article discusses Environment) in preparation for a run for either party leadership, or for Mayor of Toronto, that would be a sign the cabinet would be more wide open. With Sorbara gone however, even if Smithermann does want to stay at Health, I think we can expect more of a major shuffle. The media buzz has focused on some of the more high-profile rookies, including Margarett Best in Scarborough-Guildwood, Sophia Aggelonitis in Hamilton Mountain, and my man Charles Sousa in Mississauga-South. I think Sophia is a good bet, being both a woman, and a Liberal in Hamilton, which is an NDP area, and Charles has a good shot too, since he won a traditionally PC seat that was supposed to be close so overwhelmingly, combined with media speculation about Harinder Takhar losing his portfolio, and the need to have a cabinet minister from Mississauga. I think that it is a safe bet that irregardless of what happens to Takhar, a Portuguese guy from Mississauga will be in cabinet, meaning either Charles in the South to both consolidate the gains made in a traditionally PC seat, and reward him for his victory, or Peter Fonseca, who has seniority over Sousa and has built himself a very nice power base and a safe seat in Mississauga East-Cooksville.
Outside Mississauga, look for former federal cabinet minister Aileen Carroll, who picked up Barrie, (the seat she used to represent federally) from the PC's, to be a fairly safe bet to get into cabinet. Kevin Flynn in Oakville has a shot, as does Deb Matthews, particularly as with the defeat of Caroline Di Cocco, the Liberals have a female, South-Western gap to fill. I also think that Kathleen Wynne, fresh of the victory over John Tory, might be a dark horse to get a promotion to finance minister. And be sure to watch the big names that have leadership whispers around them; Jim Watson, George Smithermann, Michael Bryant, and Dwight Duncan.