McGuinty shares lessons from a life in politics

Posted on Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Dalton McGuinty debout devant les drapeaux des provinces canadiennes.
Dalton McGuinty speaks at an event in 2012. Photo: BC Gov Photos/flickr 

By Paul-Cezar Tanase

Former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty returned to his alma mater on May 5, 2016, to share with students and fellow alumni some key lessons learned from a long political career.

Describing himself as an idealist who continues to regard public service as a noble profession, McGuinty said that “politics is a way to accomplish great things.”

Be ready for rough and tumble, he advised, because “politics is a contact sport.” But when you enter the political arena, don’t try to promote your own ideas by slinging mud at your opponent. This will only cause voters to lose trust in you, the other candidate and politics in general.

Drawing on lessons in leadership that he details in his new memoir, Making a Difference, McGuinty said that “true leaders take the high road. If you want to be a leader, be people at their best — resourceful and relentless.”

Recalling advice on self-confidence that he gave his caucus, he said: “People did not hire us to despair for them — they can easily do that on their own. Have faith in your capacity to overcome challenges.”

McGuinty, who served as premier for almost a decade, said he now meets people in their 20s who have no idea who he is. “In politics, if you look for external recognition, you will get yourself in trouble.”

“For me, politics has always been much more an affair of the heart than the head,” he said. His own decision to run for office sprang from an urge, two weeks after the death of his father, to continue his legacy. Dalton McGuinty Sr. served as an Ontario Liberal MPP from 1987 until his death in 1990. Before then, he had been a popular professor of English at uOttawa for 30 years until his retirement in 1981.

Since leaving politics in 2013, McGuinty has completed a fellowship at Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. He is now a senior fellow at the University of Toronto’s School of Public Policy and Governance, and special adviser to the president of Desire2Learn, an Ontario education technology company. Before entering politics, McGuinty (LLB ’81) practised law in Ottawa.

Among those who gathered to hear his reflections on political life were President Allan Rock (LLB ’71), Faculty of Law professor Errol Mendes and Craig Haynes (LLB ’99), past president of the University of Ottawa Alumni Association.

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