MPP David Caplan latest to abandon nasty campaign
TORONTO - Former Ontario health minister David Caplan won't run for re-election this fall, adding his name to a growing list of prominent Liberals who have stepped away from an increasingly nasty race.
"I've been at the legislature for 14 years," said Caplan, who represents the Toronto riding of Don Valley East.
"I really just thought that this was the right time for me to go in a different direction and do some new things."
Caplan, 46, was first elected in 1997 and also served as infrastructure minister.
He said he was proud of the work he'd done to bring mental health and addiction issues to the forefront, as well as developments in road planning, which have become a template worldwide.
"The work that I did on infrastructure brought complete innovation on how we finance, deliver, build roads, bridges, highways, schools," Caplan said Wednesday.
His time in cabinet came to a halt when he was forced to resign over the Liberals' eHealth scandal in 2009, which saw millions of dollars paid to consultants with government ties, as well as abuses of expense accounts.
Many felt Caplan was unfairly treated in the wake of eHealth, especially given that most of the abuses at the agency happened under his predecessor.
He hasn't returned to cabinet in the two years since the scandal, even though there have been several shuffles since his demotion.
But the affable politician insisted eHealth and its aftermath hadn't influenced his decision. He said spoke with Premier Dalton McGuinty on Tuesday night to tell him he was leaving, and the premier wished him well.
"The decision not to run is, for me, simply where I am at this stage of life and what I think is going to be in the best interest of me and my family," Caplan said.
As a backbencher, Caplan brought forward several private member's bills, including a proposal to bring back photo radar in construction and school zones, and one to prevent strikes or lockouts at the Toronto Transit Commission.
He also sought to clarify the laws regarding personal medical records and to stop doctors from charging patients for access to their own files.
Caplan, whose mother Elinor Caplan was also a Liberal politician, is the 14th Liberal opting out of the campaign as the party seeks a third term but trails in the polls.
Other Liberals who have decided not to run include veteran cabinet minister Sandra Pupatello, Speaker Steve Peters, government house leader Monique Smith, former cabinet ministers Gerry Phillips and David Ramsay and backbenchers Pat Hoy, Jim Brownell, Wayne Arthurs, Marc Lalonde and Tony Ruprecht.
Liberal Bruce Crozier had also decided not to run for re-election but died suddenly just two days after the legislature adjourned.
Four Progressive Conservatives and New Democrat Peter Kormos have also announced they are not seeking re-election Oct. 6
The departures leave the Liberals with 58 incumbents vying for the 54 seats needed to form a majority in a legislature of 107 seats.
Caplan's riding fell to the Conservatives in the May federal election, when Joe Daniel defeated Liberal Yasmin Ratansi.
Opposition parties said Caplan's announcement was part of the Liberal "hemorrhaging," which may not have ended yet.
"It's obvious that the Liberal locomotive is running out of steam and it's also losing its passengers," said Kormos.
He described Caplan as a very effective member who for some reason had "earned the wrath clearly of the premier's office" and was used as a scapegoat during the eHealth debacle.
"I understand why he would be frustrated and discouraged and I wish him well," Kormos said.
Progressive Conservative Steve Clark said the latest departure was further proof that voters were looking for change.
"He's just another on the government's side that's leaving," said Clark. "And I think their numbers that are departing speak for themselves."
Caplan dismissed questions about whether his decision to leave the race would hurt the party, and said he'd still help the campaign on behalf of the Liberals this fall.
"I haven't missed an election, I guess, since I'm about eight years old, so I doubt I would miss one as important as the one coming up," he said.