Ontario’s new lieutenant-governor has broken with recent tradition and not named a cause to champion.
Elizabeth Dowdeswell is bringing a “different approach,” she said Tuesday at her investiture ceremony following a procession by horse-drawn carriage from the Royal Ontario Museum to the legislature.
“I want to start by listening,” the Ireland-born, Saskatchewan-raised former executive director of the United Nations’ environment program told dignitaries during an hour-long ceremony punctuated by 15-gun salutes from 105-mm guns fired by the Royal Canadian Artillery.
“In the first months of my mandate, I will convene diverse groups of Ontarians to hear your ideas and insights about Ontario’s place in the world. What can we contribute? What can we learn from each other to meet the global and local challenges that we face in common?”
These discussions will become “a crucible for ideas,” pledged Dowdeswell, the third woman to hold the post as the Queen’s representative in Ontario.
“In time, from those stimulating conversations, a few priority themes will emerge.”
Dowdeswell did tip her hand at an area of personal concern during her 17-minute address, speaking about social justice issues and better connecting Ontario with the rest of the world.
“We generally think of peace as freedom from war, but we’re not at peace if there’s not enough food to eat, if there’s inadequate shelter, if people are sick and cannot get medical care, if they’re impoverished and cannot hope to escape,” she said.
“In these terms, millions of our fellow humans on this planet cannot be said to be at peace.”
The audience included outgoing lieutenant-governor David Onley, who is owed a “debt of gratitude” from Ontarians for promoting accessibility issues, said Premier Kathleen Wynne.
Dowdeswell, who was selected by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, comes to the post with an impressive resume.
She is a former high school teacher with environmentalist credentials who has held a number of senior posts nationally and internationally.
As an Environment Canada official, she headed a 2010 panel that concluded the Alberta oilsands may be a massive threat to water, wildlife and the atmosphere but noted it is difficult to say for sure because of a lack of “world class” scientific monitoring.
She was named to the Order of Canada in 2012 and was ranked 66th on the Times list of the most powerful women in 1996.