Kinsella

The Premier Dad we never knew — and likely never will

Warren Kinsella

By Warren Kinsella, Special to QMI Agency

Former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty (QMI Agency files)

Former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty (QMI Agency files)

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.


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