The job no one seemed to want

By Patrick Hunter Wednesday November 07 2012 in Opinion
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For a moment there, I thought that leading the Liberal Party of Ontario and being the next Premier of Ontario was the job that nobody wanted.


After all, it seemed that there was a steady stream of potential candidates who stepped forward only to announce that they would not be seeking the leadership and, thereby, the premiership of the province.


And who can blame them? The public relations mess that Dalton McGuinty is leaving for his successor will not be an easy one to clean up. Add to that the reality of a minority government, leading to the possibility of an early election soon after his or her assumption of power, the new leader would almost certainly be relegated to the backwoods of politics. The outlook would be grim.


The scenario is not unlike what faced Kim Campbell, who as the Conservative Party’s leader, and Prime Minister of Canada for what seemed like a few days, led her party to a significant defeat with only two surviving MPs in 1993. Campbell assumed the role after Brian Mulroney, who had fallen out of favour with the electorate, decided to step down as prime minister and leader of the Tories.


Facing the new leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario are, among other things, answering for McGuinty’s prorogation of the Legislature to take the business of the province into his own hands, and answering to the charges of the millions of taxpayers’ dollars involved in the power station moves for political reasons.


The handling of the teachers’ dispute and the public sector wage freezes has not endeared the Premier to some of the province’s unions which have left, what can be best described as “strained relations”.


I would also add to that list, although it may be a lone voice in the wilderness, the sometimes less than respectful treatment of the Black community, particularly regarding youth violence. I am still seething, as you might guess, from McGuinty’s request for yet another report on the Black community – The Roots of Youth Violence – just before an election call, then totally ignoring it for years, taking some appeasing action earlier this year. And who can forget his knee-jerk response to the decision to establish an Africentric school?


In a nutshell, the new leader of the Ontario Liberals and the next Premier of Ontario has a less than enviable task on his or her hands.


So, finally, after the line-up of those announcing that they would not be seeking the leadership, Don Valley West MPP, Kathleen Wynne, signalled her intention to seek the leadership by resigning her cabinet portfolio as required. Toronto Centre MPP, Glen Murray, who quit his cabinet post one day later than Wynne, launched his campaign one day earlier than Wynne. Cheap shot, if you ask me, and it probably sets up the conditions for what could be a divisive leadership campaign.


It is worth noting that in an interview with Matt Galloway on CBC’s Metro Morning, Murray had not quite worked out the appropriate response to: “Did you agree with the prorogation?”


I would suggest to would-be candidates that they work that answer out before announcing, especially those who were in Cabinet at the time.


The buzz around other potential candidates include Gerard Kennedy, a former education minister and a former federal leadership contender; Sandra Pupatello from Windsor, and Deb Matthews, the current Minister of Health from London, Ontario. So, the potential of Ontario getting its first woman as premier, however short lived, is high, assuming the latter two declare their candidacy.


Without taking sides at this point, Wynne, while education minister, did not openly oppose the premier on the matter of the Africentric School. News reports, at the time, quoted Wynne as defending the right of school boards to establish alternative schools, which was probably the safest path to take in holding her job. Also, under her stewardship, the Ontario government launched the “Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy”, designed to “improve and close the gap in student achievement”. Whether this strategy has continued is hard to say since no one seems to be talking about it.


I also remember Gerard Kennedy, as minister of education, dragging his feet on the issue of the Safe Schools Act, although he expressed serious concerns with it. That Act was subsequently changed, after Kennedy had left the Legislature.


These are some of the issues, and how they were remedied, that can give some guidelines as to whom our community can rely on for respectful action. Which one of these leadership candidates is more likely to listen intently to the concerns of our community and who would likely accept and support advice on how the government and the community can work together to resolve issues.


We will see.


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