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Ontario Elections: Meet Dalton McGuinty

The Ontario Legislature used to be called "the dullest chamber in all of Canada." For 42 years, the Progressive Conservatives and their "Big Blue Machine" ruled the province. But 1985 ushered the PCs out and an age of turbulence in with a Liberal-NDP coalition. In the next three elections, voters handed majorities to all three parties: a sweep for the Liberals, a stunning NDP victory and a sharp right turn with Mike Harris's Common Sense Revolution. Dalton McGuinty's Liberals swept the 2003 and 2007 elections and won a third time with a minority in 2011.

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As Ontario took a sharp right turn under Premier Mike Harris, the political centre has also moved right. Now the Opposition Liberals have chosen a leader who fits squarely in that new centre. He's a backbencher from Ottawa named Dalton McGuinty, a criminal lawyer who has condemned teachers' strikes but also spoken out against child poverty. After defeating Gerard Kennedy, his left-leaning rival for the Liberal leadership, McGuinty's first task is to heal a rift in the party. 
• Dalton McGuinty won the leadership in a convention held at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. It took five ballots before he finally emerged as the winner at 4:30 a.m.
• McGuinty's opponent, Toronto-area MPP Gerard Kennedy, was leading in the first four ballots of the leadership race. The former director of Toronto's largest food bank and a newcomer to the party, Kennedy had won Bob Rae's old NDP seat in a by-election just six months earlier.

• The contrast between the left-leaning Kennedy and McGuinty was so clear that Progressive Conservatives referred to the new Liberal leader as "Blue Light."
• Following McGuinty's victory the Globe and Mail wrote: "The Liberals now hope that bland works for them as it did for the Conservatives under former premier William Davis. In Mr. McGuinty they are appealing not to the underclass of the New Democrats... but to the middle class of the Conservatives."

• McGuinty earned a degree in science from McMaster University in Hamilton before studying law at the University of Ottawa. He established a law firm, McGuinty & McGuinty, with his brother Dylan in 1983 and practiced criminal law until he was elected to the Ontario legislature.
• Before McGuinty won his Ottawa seat in 1990, his father, Dalton Sr., held it for three years until his death.

• McGuinty was criticized for his lacklustre performance in the leaders' debate before the 1999 election. A journalist asked McGuinty, "One of your first acts was to try and put your brother on the Queen's Park payroll... Do you think you've demonstrated to Ontarians that you have the right stuff to be premier of this province?" McGuinty's only response was: "Thank you for your question... I want to make it perfectly clear that I make no claim to perfection."
Medium: Radio
Program: The World At Six
Broadcast Date: Dec. 2, 1996
Guest(s): Dalton McGuinty
Host: Russ Germain
Reporter: Bill Gillespie
Duration: 1:41

Last updated: October 18, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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