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Dalton McGuinty

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The Hon. Dalton McGuinty
Image:mcguinty77.jpg
Rank:24th
Term of Office:October 23, 2003 - present
Predecessor:Ernie Eves
Date of Birth:July 19, 1955
Place of Birth:Ottawa, Ontario
Spouse:Terri McGuinty
Profession:Lawyer
Political Party:Liberal

Dalton James Patrick McGuinty Jr. (born July 19, 1955, in Ottawa, Ontario) is a Canadian lawyer and politician and, since October 23, 2003, Premier of Ontario.

The son of politician and professor Dalton McGuinty Sr. and full-time nurse Elizabeth McGuinty, McGuinty grew up with nine brothers and sisters. He earned a science degree from McMaster University and a law degree from the University of Ottawa before practising law in Ottawa.

McGuinty is generally regarded as a moderate fiscal conservative. He has stated that his top objective is drawing more international investment to Ontario, and has targeted a balanced provincial budget by 2008-09 year. Although his government raised personal taxes in its first budget, the budget also included a plan to eliminate the province's tax on the capital of corporations in order to encourage investment.

On social issues, McGuinty holds progressive views. He supports abortion rights, although he is personally pro-life. He openly endorsed equal marriage for same-sex couples during the election he won, and passed legislation changing the definition of marriage in early 2005.

McGuinty is the Ottawa-born bilingual son of a francophone mother and an anglophone father. He is married to Terri McGuinty, an elementary school teacher. The couple have four children: Carleen, Dalton, Liam and Connor.

He is the twenty-fourth premier of Ontario and the second Roman Catholic, being the first to profess that faith since the 19th century.

Contents

Member of Provincial Parliament

His father, Dalton Sr., served as Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) for Ottawa South until his death in 1990. Dalton Jr. won the Ontario Liberal Party's nomination for Ottawa South for the provincial election of 1990, and was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as the MPP for his father's former riding.

The Liberal government of David Peterson was unexpectedly defeated by the social democratic Ontario New Democratic Party (NDP) in this election, and McGuinty was the only rookie Liberal MPP elected. In opposition, McGuinty served as the Liberal Party's critic for Energy, Environment and Colleges and Universities. He was re-elected in Ottawa South in the 1995 provincial election without much difficulty.

First term in opposition

In 1996, McGuinty was elected leader of the at the party's leadership convention in a surprise victory over front-runner Gerard Kennedy. McGuinty thus became the Leader of the Opposition at Queen's Park.

Kennedy, a former head of Toronto's Daily Bread food bank, was popular on the left-wing of the party, while McGuinty built his core support on its pro-business right-wing. At the leadership convention, McGuinty came to head an "anybody but Kennedy" movement on the final ballot as other contenders such as Dwight Duncan and Joe Cordiano dropped off. He holds the distinction of being the only Canadian party leader to win his party's leadership after finishing fourth on the first ballot.

McGuinty was often criticized for maintaining a low media profile during his first term as opposition leader, and the province's tabloid press frequently referred to him as ineffective. He was forced to reverse himself on a decision to hire his brother Brendan (later the chief of staff to Ottawa Mayor Bob Chairelli) as principle secretary, and his 1998 decision to replace Joe Cordiano with Gerry Phillips as Deputy Leader angered some in the province's Italian community.

The governing Progressive Conservatives played up McGuinty's low profile to define him as "not up to the job" in a series of television advertisements. A weak performance by McGuinty in the party leaders's debate, along with generally strong economic growth in the province, helped re-elect Mike Harris and the PC Party in the provincial election of 1999. McGuinty was able to rally his party in the election's closing days, however, and drew 40% of the vote for the Liberals on election day, their second-best performance in fifty years. The Liberal Party also increased its seat total in the Legislature from 30 to 36. McGuinty himself faced a surprisingly difficult re-election in Ottawa South, but defeated his Progressive Conservative opponent by about 3,000 votes.

Second term as opposition leader

McGuinty's second term as opposition leader was more successful than his first. With the Liberals consolidated as the primary opposition to Harris's Progressive Conservatives, McGuinty was able to present his party as the "government in waiting". He hired a more skilled group of advisors and drafted former cabinet minister Greg Sorbara as party president. McGuinty also rebuilt the party's fundraising operation, launching the Ontario Liberal Fund. In preparation for the 2003 election, the party adopted a platform that emphasized lowering class sizes in schools, hiring more nurses, increasing environmental protections, and "holding the line" on taxes. McGuinty also made a serious effort to improve his debating skills, and received coaching from Democratic Party trainers in the United States.

McGuinty's chances of forming government were improved by a number of controversies involving the governing PC Party, including the fallout over the shooting death of native protester Dudley George at Ipperwash, the deaths of seven people from tainted water in Walkerton, and the decision to provide tax credits to parents who sent their children to private schools. Harris resigned in the fall of 2001, following the then-Premier's high profile testimony at the Walkerton Inquiry and the PC government's defeat in a key by-election in Vaughan--King--Aurora.

Harris's successor, Ernie Eves, received a short boost in the polls from his attempts to move the PC Party to the centre. However, Eves was never able to gain control of the political agenda, and appeared indecisive and reactive on issues ranging from electricity restructuring to taxes.

The 2003 North America blackout gave Eves increased exposure and rallied some support for his party. He called an election immediately after the blackout, and polling showed that the previous Liberal lead had narrowed to a tie in the first week. The rise in Tory support was short-lived. The Liberals took a commanding lead in the campaign's second week, and remained in that position for until election day.

Many voters regarded the Progressive Conservative government as unnecessarily confrontational and divisive, and some of the Liberal Party's strength was based in a promise to change the combative tone of government. The Progressive Conservatives ultimately played into this strategy by running a series of poorly-conceived negative advertisements against McGuinty throughout the campaign. Poor response to the PCs' negative advertisements created frustration and that party, and was followed by a news release being issued by a low-ranking PC organizer that referred to McGuinty as an "evil reptilian kitten-eater from another planet".

In contrast, the Liberals ran what was widely regarded as an excellent campaign. The party's advertising remained positive and focused on the selling the merits of changing governments and the Liberal leader's readiness for office. McGuinty undertook a series of well-choreographed events, including signing a taxpayer's protection pledge not to raise taxes, and appearing on the popular sports show "Off the Record", where he received an endorsement from Canadian Idol winner Ryan Malcolm. At the same time, caucus members like George Smitherman carried the party's negative message in critiquing the PC Party record.

McGuinty's was generally regarded as having performed well in the televised leaders debate, and maintained his party's high standing in the polls. On election day, the Liberal were elected to a majority government, winning 72 of the Ontario Legislature's 103 seats. The PC Party fell to 24 seats, while the NDP lost official party status in the legislature. (It regained that status a few months later by winning a by-election.)

Following the election, the McGuinty government asked former Provincial Auditor Erik Peters to examine the province's finances. Peters revealed that the out-going Conservative administration had left a hidden deficit of at least $5.6 billion. The Conservatives questioned Peters's methodology, and suggested that the McGuinty government was overstating the province's financial difficulties to break or delay some of its campaign spending promises. Most neutral observers, however, agreed that the Conservatives hid a deficit of at least two billion dollars during their final year in office.

First year in office

McGuinty formally took office as premier on October 23, 2003.

The new government called the Legislature back in session in late 2003. The government brought in auto insurance reforms (including a price cap), rolled-back a series of corporate and personal tax cuts that had been scheduled for 2004, passed legislation that enshrined publicly-funded medicare into provincial law, hired more meat and water inspectors, opened up the provincially-owned electricity companies to Freedom of Information laws and enacted a ban on partisan government advertising.

The McGuinty government also benefited from a scandal involving the previous government's management of Ontario Power Generation and Hydro One, which broke in the winter of 2003-04. It was revealed that a number of key figures associated with Mike Harris's "Common Sense Revolution" had received lucrative, untendered multi-million dollar consulting contracts from these institutions. Among the figures named in the scandal were Tom Long, former Harris campaign chairman, Leslie Noble, former Harris campaign manager and Paul Rhodes, former Harris communications director.

On May 18, 2004, Provincial Finance Minister Greg Sorbara released the McGuinty government's first budget. The centrepiece was a controversial new Health Premium of $300 to $900, staggered according to income. This violated a key Liberal campaign pledge not to raise taxes, and gave the government an early reputation for breaking promises. The Liberals defended the premium by pointing to the previous government's hidden deficit, and McGuinty claimed he needed to break his campaign pledge on taxation to fulfill his promises on other fronts. This broken promise has created a lasting public relations difficulty for the Liberal Party.

The Ontario Health Premium also became a major issue in the early days of the 2004 federal election, called a week after the Ontario budget. Most believe that the controversy hampered Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin's bid for re-election.

Also controversial was the elimination of coverage for health services not covered by the Canada Health Act including eye examinations and physical therapy. Other elements of the McGuinty government's first budget were a four-year plan to tackle the deficit left behind by the Conservatives, free immunization for children, investments in education and investments to lower waiting times for cancer care, cardiac care, joint replacement and MRI and CT scans.

Soon after the federal election, McGuinty participated in a First Ministers' Meeting on health-care reform that resulted in a new agreement for a national health accord. This Accord saw the provinces agree to provide reports on such things as waiting times for surgeries in exchange for new federal funding.

McGuinty's government ended the year by releasing "Progress Report 2004: Getting Results for Ontario". This work focused on health, education, and economic growth, and set targets to achieve before the next election (including reducing the high school drop out rate, increasing participation in post-secondary education and reducing wait times for specific medical procedures).

Second year

The McGuinty government brought forward a number of initiatives in the fall of 2004. These included legislation allowing restaurant patrons to bring their own wine, banning junk food in public schools, outlawing smoking in public places, and requiring students to stay in school until age 18. Following a series of high-profile maulings, the government also moved to ban pit bull dogs.

During early 2005, McGuinty called the Legislature back for a rare winter session to debate and pass several high-profile bills. The government legislated a "greenbelt" around Toronto. The size of Prince Edward Island, the Greenbelt protects a broad swath of land from development and preserves forests and farmland. In response to court decisions, the McGuinty Liberals updated legislation to reflect the change in the definition of marriage to include homosexual couples.

McGuinty also launched a campaign to narrow the so-called "$23 billion gap" between what Ontario contributes to the federal government and what is returned to Ontario in services. This came as a sharp turn after more than a year of cooperating with the federal government, but McGuinty pointed to the special deals worked out by the federal government with other provinces (Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia) as compromising the nature of equalization. In particular, McGuinty noted that immigrants in Ontario receive $800 in support from the federal government, while those in Quebec receive $3,800.

Premier McGuinty and Prime Minister Prime Minister Paul Martin debated the Ontario government's accusations throughout the spring of 2005. McGuinty and Martin finally met in May and, following a nine-hour meeting, McGuinty received commitments for almost $6 billion in specific funding for Ontario, including new money for immigrant settlement, training for the unemployed, federal delivery of meat inspection and corporate tax collection and per capita funding for post-secondary education.

In late April 2005, McGuinty announced the closure of the Lakeview coal-fired generating station, one of Ontario's largest polluters. Although the McGuinty government originally promised to close all coal-burning plants by 2007, Energy Minister Dwight Duncan announced on June 14, 2005 that this was no longer possible, and that the that Nanticoke Coal Plant will not close until 2009.

On May 11, 2005, the McGuinty Liberals delivered their second budget, which included the "Reaching Higher" plan. Investing $6.2 billion over the next four years, the budget included the largest investment in higher education in forty years. It also increased accessibility for low-income students, expanded medical school spaces, and invested in new faculty, graduate scholarships and research. The budget also broke a previous promise to balance the budget in 2007-08. The government has instead aimed at balance in 2008-09.

The McGuinty Liberals also moved to expand infrastructure spending by encouraging Ontario's large pension plans to invest in the construction of new roads, schools and hospitals. Specific projects in the budget included a 10-year expansion of the Toronto Transit Commission and GO Transit, 15,000 new affordable housing units and improved border crossings. NDP leader Howard Hampton described this move as "privatization by stealth".

During their second year in office, the McGuinty Liberals brought forward a series of successful negotiations with the province's unions, a significant change in labour relations after years of strikes under the previous Progressive Conservative regime. First, Health Minister George Smitherman concluded an agreement with the province's doctors that included incentives to practice in family health teams or under-services communities. Education Minister Gerard Kennedy established a province-wide negotiating framework with the province's teachers' unions with the result that most school boards settled their contracts without lost teaching time. Finally, Management Board Chair Gerry Phillips closed a deal with the provincial government's own civil service union, the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union.

In June 2005, it was disclosed that the trustee overseeing Minister of Transportation Harinder Takhar's businesses, the Chalmers Group of Companies, is a long-time loyal employee of the corporate group and is also the Chief Financial Officer of Mr. Takharís riding association. The trustee is supposed to be at "armís length" to the Minister, i.e., not have any personal, political or business connections. The Ontario Progressive Conservative Party and the Ontario New Democratic Party believe that Takhar crossed his duties. According to the two parties, The Members Integrity Act clearly states that a Cabinet Minister cannot "engage in the management of a business carried on by a corporation." This practice is under review currently by the ethics commissioner.

Toward the 2007 election

In late 2004, John Tory was chosen to replace Ernie Eves as leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. A principal secretary to former PC Premier Bill Davis, Tory is widely regarded as more moderate than Mike Harris and the rural MPPs who make up the majority of his caucus. Some believe that Tory could win the support of centrist voters who supported the Liberals in 2003. Conversely, some argue Tory's centrism could alienate his party's right-wing, and prevent the Progressive Conservatives from presenting a clear alternative to the Liberals.

On the left, NDP support has remained lower than historic trends throughout the McGuinty years, as it has been since their imposition of the Social Contract while in government in 1993.


Preceded by:
Lyn McLeod
Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party
1996Present
Succeeded by:
Incumbent
Preceded by:
Ernie Eves
Premier of Ontario
2003Present
Succeeded by:
Incumbent

Template:End box

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