Ontario cabinet ministers Matthews, Sandals won't seek re-election in 2018

TORONTO - Two Ontario cabinet ministers announced Friday they won't seek re-election next year, adding to a growing tally of prominent Liberals bowing out at a time when the party struggles in the polls.

Both Deputy Premier Deb Matthews and Treasury Board President Liz Sandals, however, insist that is not the reason for their upcoming departures.

Matthews will remain as the Liberals' campaign co-chair through the election, saying she has enormous respect for Premier Kathleen Wynne.

``I am confident that, on June 7, 2018, the people of Ontario will give her and her team the mandate to continue to serve,'' Matthews wrote in a statement Friday.

Various polls would suggest a different outcome, however, with most putting the Liberals behind the Progressive Conservatives, and one survey even putting the Liberals in third, behind the NDP.

Sandals, 70, stressed that her 30 years of service and her age were behind her decision to retire.

``This was a challenging decision to make because while I'm ready to be a full-time grandmother, I've never had more faith in Premier Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario Liberal Party,'' she wrote in a statement.

``Over the last several months, I've spent time knocking on doors across Guelph and I know that our policies are resonating with my constituents.''

Matthews, who was elected in 2003, will stay as the representative for London North Centre and as advanced education minister until the election. Sandals, who first got into politics through her local school board and was elected to the legislature in 2003, will stay as the representative for Guelph, Ont., and in cabinet until the election, too.

Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid announced last month that he would not run in next year's provincial election.

Former environment minister Glen Murray recently left government for the private sector, and Speaker Dave Levac, the Liberal representative for Brant, and Monte Kwinter, Ontario's oldest MPP, have also announced they won't seek re-election