Dalton McGuinty, Ontario premier once removed, was so circumspect a gentleman that even under provocation scarcely a harsh word passed his lips.
In his new memoir Making a Difference, McGuinty does, at last, unburden himself of some appraisals of those with whom he crossed paths.
Here, starting with recently ousted prime minister Stephen Harper, apparently the most vexatious of those he encountered, McGuinty’s judgments on his peers:
Stephen Harper: “I quickly learned there would be no nation-building on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s watch . . . Harper would never allow me to forget that he was the prime minister and I was just a premier. . . I have met many politicians over the years, but none as partisan as Stephen Harper. And that’s a shame.”
Rob Ford: “It was painfully obvious to me (after their first meeting) that the man was in over his head. I could not help but feel that those nearest and dearest to Ford — his family, closest friends and political confidants — had not been honest with him. Had they been, they would have told him that, for a host of reasons, he lacked the capacity to serve Torontonians as their mayor. Instead he acted in a fog of delusion.”
Ernie Eves, the former premier McGuinty defeated in 2003: “I’m certain he enjoyed the job of premier. But, as I have learned, that isn’t enough. The trappings of the office just won’t sustain you. You need a burning desire to do something. . . . For years (after losing office) it seemed to me that Eves continued to define himself by his election loss . . . He stood out as a guy with a chip on his shoulder.”
John Tory, Toronto mayor who McGuinty defeated as PC leader in 2007: “A genuinely decent man and I could not help liking him . . .” But as a provincial party leader, “I sometimes got the sense he was acting out the role of a politician.”
Tim Hudak, the former PC leader who McGuinty defeated in 2011: “He was practising the politics of division . . . He was appealing to baser instincts rather than promoting positive ideas enhancing opportunities for all Ontarians.”
Howard Hampton, former NDP leader: “Was nothing if not dogged . . . I sometimes saw Hampton arguing openly with his caucus colleagues in the Legislature . . . On public occasions we were sometimes seated next to each other. But try as I might, I could never get him to open up and just chat about life in general. He never let his partisan guard down.”
Ralph Klein, the late Alberta premier McGuinty encountered at conferences: “He would show up late for our meetings, say very little and leave early . . . He saw me first and foremost as a Liberal. What’s more, to Klein I was too young, too left, too modern and too Ontario. I wasn’t, as the saying goes, Ralph’s cup of tea.”
Kathleen Wynne, McGuinty’s successor as Ontario premier: “She is a person of conviction and integrity, as well as very competent and hard working. Of all the ministers who sat at the cabinet table with me, she was one of the best briefed.”
Richard Brennan, recently retired Queen’s Park reporter for the Toronto Star: “Of all the Queen’s Park media gallery characters I came to know, my favourite was Richard Brennan, nicknamed the Badger. The Badger has been around for decades, knows every trick in the book, and loves his craft. As his nickname implies, he is fearless and relentless.”
Dalton McGuinty: “I had always thought of myself as determined, disciplined and well-suited to meeting life’s challenges. But the truth is more complicated. I have self-doubts and misgivings; on occasion I lose perspective or lack insight. It’s (his wife) Terri who keeps me balanced, self-aware and happy . . . She knows me better than I know myself.”