Outgoing lieutenant-governor David Onley bid farewell Monday to seven years in the vice-regal position, citing the high of meeting Queen Elizabeth II and the low of witnessing the deplorable conditions on native reserves.
And he conceded he breathed a non-partisan sigh of relief when the Liberals formed a majority government on June 12 because of the political upheaval it avoided.
Above all, Onley, who contracted polio as a child, hopes the success of his tenure is measured in improved accessibility for the disabled in Ontario, not only in terms of barriers but also access to jobs.
“I don’t think economic recovery can occur until hundreds of thousand of Ontarians who are currently on government assistance . . . until they are actually employed,” he told reporters.
Onley, who on Tuesday turns over the office to incoming Elizabeth Dowdeswell, a former undersecretary general of the United Nations with a long public service record, said the “pinch-me moment” came when he met the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
Onley added he was struck by how much the vice-regal institution means to Ontarians. “I have seen this in audiences big and small,” he said, noting he addressed more than one million people.
Onley said his wife, Ruth Ann, went to 23 fly-in First Nations communities in Ontario. “These, of course, were communities of Third World nature in many instances,” he said.
Onley said his office was prepared to deal with the aftermath of a short-lived minority government following the June election. However, the Liberals squeezed out a majority in the end.
“I would say in a completely apolitical way we were very relieved because we were looking at what could have been a completely unprecedented circumstances of a government going to the polls over the budget and then potentially winning a minority and the first thing they would have to do is come back with that (same) budget which could in all likelihood be defeated and then we would be right back at square root one,” he said.