Leadership in Ontario
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 20 May 1999, p. 19-28
McGuinty, Dalton J.P., Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
The election and where the speaker wants to take the province. The importance of this election. The clear choice. Remarks on Mike Harris and his leadership of Ontario. The speaker"s parameters for strong leadership. A comparison of views between the speaker and Mike Harris. Health care and education in Ontario. The speaker's party's plans for Ontario. Concluding remarks about leadership, and about the speaker's party.
Date of Original
20 May 1999
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.70011 Longitude: -79.4163
Copyright Statement
The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
Empire Club of Canada
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Fairmont Royal York Hotel

100 Front Street West, Floor H

Toronto, ON, M5J 1E3

Full Text

Dalton J.P. McGuinty Leader of the Official Opposition in Ontario, Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party LEADERSHIP IN ONTARIO Chairman: Robert J. Dechert President, The Empire Club of Canada

Head Table Guests

John A. Campion, Partner, Fasken Campbell & Godfrey and a Past President, The Empire Club of Canada; Chris White, OAC Student, Special Arts Programme, Central Technical School; Reverend Dr. John Wiles, Victoria Park United Church; Judi Longfield, MP, Member of Parliament, Whitby-Ajax and Co-Chair, Liberal Party Campaign; Ken Rosenberg, Partner, Gowling Strathy & Henderson, Toronto Office; Henry Pankratz, Deputy Chairman, Ernst & Young; Terri McGuinty, Spouse of Dalton McGuinty; Bob Wong, Deputy Chairman, Glenn-Ardith Frazer Foundation; David Wilson, President and CEO, Scotia McLeod Inc.; The Hon: David Peterson, Former Premier of Ontario and Chairman, Cassels Brock & Blackwell; and Peter Lukasiewicz, Managing Partner, Gowling Strathy & Henderson, Toronto Office.

Introduction by Robert J. Dechert

When I was growing up in the 60s, I was taught to respect the local member of parliament regardless of whether or not he or she was a member of the party that my parents supported. Canadians realised that the men and women who served our city, province or country in elected office did so at great sacrifice to themselves and their families.

Over the last 30 years, as a result of a few bad experiences (some beyond our borders) we have all become very cynical about the motivations of our political leaders. Political discourse has become coarse and often devolves into mean-spirited personal attacks. I believe that this is a great tragedy.

In my experience, I have found the great majority of men and women who seek elected office to be motivated by the highest principles of public service. Why else would any sane person voluntarily submit to the long hours, low pay, career disruption and separation from family to seek elected office? In my view, these men and women make these sacrifices out of a deep sense of duty, honour and public service-and for this, regardless of whether or not we agree with their specific ideas or policies-they deserve our respect.

Dalton McGuinty learned about serving others at an early age, as the third of 10 children, helping his mother to care for his nine brothers and sisters. Mr. McGuinty was born in 1955 in Ottawa. He met his wife, Terri, while attending St. Patrick's High School in that city. They were married eight years later and today they have four children: Carleen, Dalton Jr., Liam and Connor. As a student, Dalton worked as an orderly at Rideau Veterans Hospital tending to the needs of war veterans. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology at McMaster University in Hamilton and a law degree from the University of Ottawa. He has also taught business law at Carleton University. Following his call to the bar, he founded the law firm of McGuinty & McGuinty in Ottawa with his brother Dylan.

Mr. McGuinty's father, Dalton Sr., had been elected the MPP from Ottawa South in 1987 and served until his sudden death in 1990. Later that year, Mr. McGuinty succeeded his father as the Member for Ottawa South. Dalton has continued his record of public service by sponsoring a number of private member's bills including a bill making it easier for large companies to donate to food banks. In addition, his ideas were incorporated into the Tobacco Control Act, making it tougher for kids to get hooked on cigarettes.

On December 1, 1996, Mr. McGuinty was elected on the fifth ballot as the new leader of the Ontario Liberal Party. Mr. McGuinty has agreed today to outline for us the highlights of his 20/20 Plan for the future of Ontario.

Ladies and gentlemen, please help me in welcoming Mr. Dalton McGuinty to the podium of The Empire Club of Canada.

Dalton McGuinty

Thank you very much for your warm welcome. Distinguished head-table guests, ladies and gentlemen, I really appreciate the opportunity to be here. It's the first time I have had the privilege of speaking to the Empire Club and I must tell you that my children are thoroughly impressed. When I informed them that I would be at the Empire Club, they said: "That's amazing! Can you get tickets to that movie this week?"

I want to take the opportunity to jump right into this. I want to take the opportunity to get something off my chest-and I don't mean padding. That's something I save for my shoulders. I want to talk about the election and where I want to take the province with your support on June 3rd.

I believe that this is the most important election campaign in the history of our province. This election is not only going to decide what government we are going to have but what kind of province we are going to have. We can be a proud province or act like we are just another state. We can lead the world or we can follow New Jersey. We can provide opportunity for our children or we can scapegoat those living on the edges. We can choose dignity for our sick or we can leave them on the stretchers in emergency room hallways. We can choose to bring people together or continue to pit one group against another. We can choose to put people first or we can choose another four years of mean-spirited, shortsighted government.

There is a very clear choice in this election and it has everything to do with leadership. Mike Harris has said that he has provided and will continue to provide strong leadership. It seems to me that strong leadership would demand that we do something to help the 500,000 Ontario children growing up in poverty. On that score, Mike Harris has promised to arrest and jail a few thousand squeegee kids and pan handlers.

Strong leadership understands that it is wrong to create or reinforce negative stereotypes. Mike Harris eliminated a $37-a-month nutrition allowance for welfare mothers because, as he said, they will only spend it on beer. Last election he said that we should fingerprint Ontarians on welfare. This election he is saying we should test them for drugs.

Strong leadership understands that when it comes to the education of our children, we will never bring out the best in them, unless we get the best out of teachers. Mike Harris has, for purely political purposes, waged a war on teachers for four years now. And our kids continue to pay the price. Strong leadership demands that we do everything to make our communities safe and that we do so without exploiting people's fears.

Mike Harris tells us that crime is up, when our police are telling us that crime is down. And because the gun lobby has demanded it, Mike Harris has changed the law to allow 12-year-olds to use firearms in Ontario. And because the gun lobby has demanded it, Mike Harris is fighting gun control in court-a law that everybody else, including our police, supports.

Strong leadership demands that we do the right things for the right reasons. When Mike Harris was approached by the Dionne sisters and by Ontarians infected by Hepatitis C, he said those people are not getting any money, not now, not ever. In both cases, Mike Harris later changed his mind, not because he saw the light, but only because he felt the heat.

Strong leadership demands that we bring people together to better enable us to meet our province's challenges. Mike Harris has divided our province and pitted us against each other. Mike Harris tells us on a daily basis whom we should be against.

He says that we should be against unions, because unions can never help. They only stand in the way of making our province better.

He tells us that we should be against teachers because teachers belong to unions.

He tells us that we should be against nurses, especially those who complain about his cuts, because they are only bleeding hearts.

He tells us we should be against defence lawyers because they are hung up on this notion that people should somehow be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

He tells us that we should be against municipal politicians and locally elected trustees because these people are know-nothing busybodies who only know how to raise our taxes.

He tells us that we should be against parents who fear he is harming education because they are misinformed and don't understand. And it is very likely that they are listening to their union bosses.

He tells us that we should be against young people who say he is cutting off their educational opportunities. Because after all these young people don't know their place.

He tells us that we should be against sick people and their families who complain about Mike Harris's cuts to their health care, because these people are whiners and because these problems have always been around anyway.

He tells us that we should be against disabled Ontarians who say that he let them down, because those people are just too demanding.

He tells us that we should be against people, including doctors, who speak out against pollution in the air we breathe and the water that we drink, because, as everybody knows, pollution and illness are the price we pay for a growing economy.

At the end of the day Mike Harris says that we should be against those people who are against him because, in the end, they are all just special interests.

I take a different view when it comes to strong leadership. It seems to me that the responsibility of leadership is not to take sides but to bring sides together. Just think for a moment about the opportunities that are facing us in the 21st century and all that we might bring to that challenge. Does anybody here honestly believe that we can continue to enjoy the luxury of infighting and bickering? With all we have to offer our people in the new millennium, do you honestly think we can afford to continue down the path we have been following?

Mike Harris likes to say that he has got secret deals with union bosses. Well, I want to be on the record. I want to make people understand that from my perspective it is absolutely essential that I have labour at the table. But I also want business at the table. I want nurses at the table. I want teachers at the table. I want doctors at the table. I want farmers at the table. I want miners at the table. I want the forestry people at the table.

One of Mike Harris's cheap political tricks is to stand in front of a room and target the gut area. He will do whatever he can to elicit a visceral response. He says that we could improve things if we did something with a particular group of people or better still we could improve things if we did something to those people.

It seems to me that fundamentally the job of the leader is not to elicit a visceral response. It is not to reflect the worst; it is to bring out the best. Maybe I am a little bit old-fashioned about this, but it seems to me that the premier of Ontario should be someone that people can look up to, somebody who sets a high moral tone.

Mike Harris is saying that if you elect a Liberal government led by McGuinty that will hurt the economy. I find that offensive. I understand that real leadership means putting people first and people depend on a strong economy. Good health care and education depend on a strong economy and I will do nothing to put our health care and education at risk.

I have had the opportunity to travel the province for about two and a half years on an on-going basis. And I can tell you that when it comes right down to it, people really don't ask for a lot from government. But there are two things in particular that they insist they should be able to count on. One of those is health care and the other is education.

If anybody doubts the value of public health care and public education then look around this room and ask yourselves how many of us here today would enjoy the quality of lives we lead if our parents had to pay for private schools and private hospitalisation.

My parents had 10 kids, lots of ambition for us, a solid work ethic and no money. That was almost enough to get by. But they needed a couple more things-health care and education. Public health care and public education. I can recall when one of my younger brothers got very sick. We didn't have to sell the house. We didn't have to consider putting a third mortgage on the family home. My parents' children have all met with success as a result of the opportunities that we found in Ontario, apart from the fact that four of us have become lawyers. The rest are successful however.

I don't feel that I have a responsibility to provide our young people with a job, to guarantee them a living. But I do feel that collectively we should provide them with opportunity. We owe them opportunity. That's called education-public education. We extend the ladder. They do the climbing. We provide the opportunity. They do the work.

There is something at the bottom of that ladder. It is health care. We want everybody on that ladder. We want them reaching, extending, being ambitious, being entrepreneurial, making the best of themselves. I don't want

Ontarians to worry about what is going to happen if their mother gets sick. I want to provide them with the guarantee that we will have quality health care in place.

Mike Harris is sawing away on the education ladder and cutting huge holes in the health-care net. Let me give you just a couple of examples. Today, in Ontario it costs $44,000 in tuition alone to become a doctor; $55,000 in tuition alone to become a dentist.

I think it is important to remember the examples set by previous governments who acted both out of enlightened self-interest and with a sense of responsibility, when they ensured that colleges and universities were affordable for the younger generation. I don't want to go home and tell any of my four teenagers: "Sorry, you see that programme. You've got the brains and I know you've got the work ethic, but we can't afford that programme. That one is not available to you."

I don't think any Ontarians want that to happen. I think Ontarians now understand implicitly that if we are going to cut it in the 21st century, we've got to invest in our people. We've got to develop the highest degree of brainpower that we possibly can. That's not happening today. We want to reduce tuition by 10 per cent and we are going to bring funding up in our colleges and universities to the national average instead of being at the bottom.

When I kicked off my campaign, I did it at the steps of a hospital in Hamilton. And I did it there because two weeks prior there was an elderly gentleman 87 years of age who died in that hospital after spending two and a half days on a stretcher in the emergency room. For two and a half days, there was no bed available for him. For two and a half days, his daughters were with him at his side. And when he died, the only thing that separated them from the busy hustle and bustle of an emergency ward was a cheap, rose-coloured curtain. All that man asked for and all his children asked for on his behalf in the end was a bed. That man, that grandfather, that father had played by all the rules. He'd struggled to raise his family and paid a lot of money in taxes. He paid for his bed. The bed should have been there for him. The bed should be there for you and me if we should ever need one.

We are going to introduce quality health-care standards guaranteed by law into our province for the first time ever to make sure that never happens again. We are going to do the right things in the right order. We are going to invest in health care and education. We are going to repair and improve health care and education-things that Ontario families have to be able to rely on.

Next thing we are going to do is we are going to balance our budget. Mike Harris has us on track today to be the last province in the country to balance our budget. He has added $24 billion to our debt. He has gone to international markets and borrowed $10 billion for a tax cut. So, if anybody here thinks that he has got it right on the fiscal front, think again.

Economists tell us that our economy will continue to grow. This is what we are going to do with the surplus: 55 per cent will be invested in Ontarians' priorities-primarily health care and education. Twenty-five per cent will be devoted to tax relief targeting middle- and low-income earners-those who have been hit hardest by Mike Harris's cuts. And the final 20 per cent will be devoted to debt repayment in a "rainy day" fund. Just as surely as night follows day, there will be another economic downturn. I think it is important to get ready for it.

Health care and education. Health care and education before tax cuts. Those are our priorities. Those are the priorities shared by the people of this province.

Fundamentally, if you stop to think about it, I don't think people are asking for a great deal. They just want to know that their kids are going to get the best possible schooling and be able to go on to college and university and enjoy all of the opportunities that you and I enjoyed.

People are also asking that if you take your mom to the hospital and she's there at 3:30 in the morning, if she presses the buzzer there will be a nurse available who will come to her bedside. They are asking that if you take your daughter to the emergency ward you won't be checking into a waiting room and will be assessed in a timely way.

I am convinced that the greatest strength in our province is found in its people. You want to have a strong province? Make your people strong. Invest in their health care, invest in their education. That's what our 20/20 Plan is all about.

I was saying at the outset that this election is all about leadership. I can tell you that on the basis of my travels people are looking for genuine leadership. Leadership that knows the difference between strength and brute force. Leadership that knows that listening to people really does matter. Leadership that knows that what matters most is opportunity for our kids and dignity for our sick. That's the kind of leadership I am going to bring to Ontario. That's the kind of Ontario I will build.

Ladies and gentleman, I thank you and I ask you for your support.

The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by John A. Campion, Partner, Fasken Campbell & Godfrey and a Past President, The Empire Club of Canada.

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Leadership in Ontario

The election and where the speaker wants to take the province. The importance of this election. The clear choice. Remarks on Mike Harris and his leadership of Ontario. The speaker"s parameters for strong leadership. A comparison of views between the speaker and Mike Harris. Health care and education in Ontario. The speaker's party's plans for Ontario. Concluding remarks about leadership, and about the speaker's party.