Backstage at McGuinty's announcement: 'Would you like the hug shot?'

Leaning over the Queen’s Park security desk at 7:30 on Monday night, a reporter is rifling through his pockets.

“I have my credentials in here somewhere,” he says as he puts on reading glasses. “I’m just here to help my colleague. I had to run over.”

Under the security guard’s weary stare, the reporter empties his wallet onto the desk. Finally, triumphantly, he locates the yellow card. Security nods curtly, the reporter scoops up his open wallet and bounds away.

“Busy night?” I ask.

“I’ve only been here for five minutes,” she says. “But, yes, it’s already been a crazy night.”

In the corridors outside the legislature, cameras are assembled hastily as young staffers herd journalists into their corners.

“I had two stories I was working on for tomorrow,” says one reporter. “Now they’re totally useless.”

“He must have thought we wouldn’t be here,” says another. “I bet he hoped we all went home.”

The doors open and Premier Dalton McGuinty stands hand in hand with his wife. They walk slowly down the hall, serene smiles on their faces.

“How does it feel to have your husband back?” a reporter asks.

“She has mixed feelings,” the premier says softly.

His wife continues to smile.

“But it was time,” he says. “Would you like the hug shot?”

Before anyone answers, McGuinty embraces his wife, cameras flash, and the two disappear behind closed doors. He won’t answer any more questions until the 8:30 press conference.

Some journalists return to their offices, but with very little to write, most just strategize in huddles.

Most of the talk is about Oakville and Mississauga and ill-fated gas plants. Could a $230-million mistake sink the Liberals — even with McGuinty gone?

There is also a bit of speculation about the federal leadership race. He couldn’t — he couldn’t — be thinking about taking on Trudeau. There are rumours he has a federal campaign team in place. Could he? Against Trudeau? He couldn’t.

At the start of the press conference, what seems to be Queen’s Park’s only perky journalist walks through the doorway behind me.

“He’s been premier for nine years,” she says loudly, “It’s really the end of an era!”

“Nine years and this is it,” another voice says quietly. “Seriously, what’s the guy thinking?”

The question lingers — long after the journalists have filed their quick hits and their contributions to the daily file.