06.16.2013 01:07 AM

In Sunday’s Sun: Dalton, we hardly knew ye

Dalton McGuinty, we hardly knew ye.

Every time I encountered the former Ontario premier over the course of a decade and a bit — and I did so many times, as the chair of his election war rooms in 2003, 2007 and 2011 — I’d remember that aphorism, most famously applied to one of McGuinty’s heroes, John F. Kennedy.

Funny, easygoing, family oriented, down to earth: All of those descriptions of McGuinty, written many times over the years, were true.

But it was also true that, for most of us, Dalton McGuinty was essentially unknowable. Even now, just days after he has slipped off the political stage (probably) for good, he remains an enigma wrapped in a mystery.

It may have been a case of his inner circle keeping outsiders, even ardent supporters, away from him. It may have arisen out of his desire to keep some things to himself. Whatever the reason, Dalton McGuinty was — and remains — the most private public person I have ever met.

It didn’t hurt him at the ballot box, obviously. He won a massive majority in 2003, and humiliated what back then looked like an unbeatable Conservative political machine. In 2007, he won another big majority against a formidable opponent, John Tory, one of the most decent and sensible guys you could ever hope to meet.

In 2011, he came within one seat — one seat! — of another majority government. I and others were with him on election night in Ottawa, and he wasn’t defeated by that (even though most of us were very, very disappointed). Instead, McGuinty seemed energized by the result, and looking forward to what lay ahead.

What lay ahead, unfortunately, was month after month of political gridlock, bell ringing in the legislature, scandal mongering in committee, and precious little legislation passed. Prorogation, when it came, was simply a reflection of what had been happening at Queen’s Park since the night of the 2011 election — which is to say, nothing.

His policy achievements were myriad and multiple (personal favourites: Naming a stretch of the 401 after fallen soldiers and a holiday in February).

His political achievements were significant, too: He was the winningest Ontario political leader in our lifetimes. It is unlikely anyone will match his big back-to-back-to-back wins anytime soon.

He made mistakes, certainly, as do we all.

I thought it was a mistake to not immediately resign when a new leader was selected.

I thought prorogation was probably unnecessary. I thought his press release about the deleted e-mails — which seemingly threw assorted loyalists in his office under the bus — was a terrible mistake.

Most of all, I thought it was a mistake not to do what my former boss, Jean Chretien, always taught us: Fight back.

Fight, fight, fight — never give any quarter. Never give up. Admit that you’ve lost battles, sure, but never the larger war. After working/volunteering for Dalton McGuinty for more than a decade, I still respect and admire him.owever, I was heartbroken over what happened in that press release about deleted e-mails. As I said to some equally shocked Liberal friends, “Chretien would have never, ever done that to any of us, even if we deserved it.”

My relationship with Chretien was different — basically, I had one.

McGuinty? He ends his two decades at Queen’s Park much as he began it — as a likeable, easygoing guy, who was, in his essence, totally inscrutable to all but a few.

What motivated him? What angered him? What were his regrets and his proudest achievements? What made him happiest, in the centre of his soul?

We never knew. And now, after so long, we still don’t.


  1. Chris says:

    The SUN comment section of this article will be a doozy.

  2. headmaster says:

    Yet we know for sure that Dalton was the worst premier of Ontario we ever had.
    “It is unlikely anyone will match his “achievement” anytime soon.”

    • Iris Mclean says:

      Nope. No one has come close to that two-bit thug, Mike “I want the fucking Indians out of the park” Harris for being worst premier of Ontario we ever had. There was dancing in the streets when that little prick finally quit politics to “spend more time with his wife and kids”.
      Dalton made mistakes for sure, but he wasn’t a malicious low-life.

      • Bill says:

        Put down the weed Iris……..Harris was a decade or 2 ahead of his time and a much better premier than Dad Dalton who has basically screwed Ontario. We need a tough love premier right now big time, have you researched Ontario’s debt? Yikes, when interest rates rise Ontario is in big trouble, only second to Quebec’s massive $300++ billion debt…..Dalton basically increased taxes/premiums(wink, wink) and spent like a drinking sailor, continually caved to PS. Hydro rates are some of the highest in North America and people going to be pissed when they go up overnight by 10% when clean energy rebate is done in 2015.

        • Iris Mclean says:

          Fuck you Bill. I don’t smoke weed or use any other drugs. Asinine insults don’t strengthen your opinions.

    • headmaster says:

      No need to penetrate Bill, Iris.
      When comparing Mike to Dalton legacies we are not talking who was funny and who was a thug.
      We are considering the equation: state of a province before premiership TO state of province after premiership.
      Dalton leaves Ontario in ruins.
      You know that Dalton’s legacy is a disaster when even Warren cannot came with anything better than “naming a stretch of the 401 after fallen soldiers and a holiday in February.”

  3. Fred Webb says:

    Hey Warren
    Not related to this post but check out the Grace Foundation website for the posting of about the successful Justin Trudeau event in July 2012. They waited a long time to express concern.

  4. Larry says:

    I don’t get it. Turned Ontario into a “have not” province and somehow he deserves praise?

    • Michael says:

      A “have not” province that sends $11 billion more in transfer payments to other provinces. A problem the Harper government refuses to address.

      • Marlowe Johnson says:

        please, please lets keep repeating this inconvenient little fact until the chumps in Ontario wake up. Matthew Mendelson will thank you.

  5. Sean says:

    I’ve been a die hard Dalton guy since around ’98ish, when no one thought he had a chance. That said, this article reminded me of the Dalton McGuinty who hosted suites full of happy Liberals at the conventions…. but often never showed up to meet the delegates in person… I remember thinking this guy understands the game, plays the game, adapts to the game, but never really felt at home being *part of the game* as other leaders such as Chretien and Trudeau. I still say he will go down as one of the top ten Ontario premiers. He wrote the book / set the standard on how to organize an angry, divided party after a bitter defeat and step by step, turn it into a well tuned machine. The class of candidates he pulled into caucus was one of his most under appreciated achievements. If you look at the team he pulled together, resume by resume, I think it stands out as one of the best in history. Those who feel frustrated by being in the political wilderness should look at the OLP from 1999 – 2003 as their guide. I think those were his most important years, when he and his team made the impossible into the probable. We are unlikely to see an Ontario Liberal do this well for a long, long time.

  6. Mulletaur says:

    As much as it saddens me to say so, with that final press release perhaps we finally learned who the real Dalton McGuinty is.

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