Michael Bryant, former Member of Provincial Parliament for St. Paul’s and Cabinet Minister during the 38th and 39th Parliaments of Ontario, arrived back at Queen’s Park in March for an exceptional meeting with the OLIP interns. Mr. Bryant discussed his ten years as an MPP, Cabinet Minister, how he became elected, and what the future holds for both him and ourselves.
With Mr. Bryant holding the distinction as the youngest Attorney General in Ontario’s history at age 37, it should come as no surprise then that his drive to enter politics began at a young age. Having decided during high school that he wanted to become a provincial politician, Mr. Bryant’s amazing intellect and drive propelled him to Osgoode and Harvard law schools following which he clerked at the Supreme Court of Canada. After practicing law and instructing at the University of Toronto, Mr. Bryant decided to follow his dream as a youth and “just run” in the Ontario provincial election of 1999. “Just run,” those words summed up more than just his resolve to run for elected office but were advice he had for us as young professionals to pursue our dreams and make the effort to achieve our goals no matter how lofty they may appear.
Having won the riding of St. Paul’s in Toronto in the 1999 election and subsequent 2003 election that ushered in the government of Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals, Mr. Bryant fulfilled yet another dream by being appointed as Attorney General. His tenure in the office saw him deal with the contentious Douglas Creek land claim dispute in Caledonia where the need to find justice and restore peace to the communities proved difficult. Having a great empathy and compassion for Aboriginal peoples of Canada, Mr. Bryant went on to serve as Ontario’s Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and now as a Principal of Ishkonigan Consulting & Mediation following his departure from the Ontario Legislature in 2009.
Throughout our meeting with Mr. Bryant, he spoke to the challenges of politics in Ontario, Canada, and the United States with politicians playing on the growing anger among many electorates while neither working with their opposing counterparts to find solutions or even having solutions themselves to the major problems of today. Mr. Bryant also spoke to his own struggles while an MPP with alcoholism and the tragic death of Darcy Allan Sheppard in 2009. While Mr. Bryant cautioned us as to the pitfalls and challenges of politics, he also spoke about the importance of serving one’s community through politics and doing what is right regardless of what one’s party or peers might think.
Our meeting with Michael Bryant will be one that will remain as among our most memorable meetings of our ten months in OLIP and serve as an inspiration in our years following the program. Who knows, many of us might “just run” someday.