“I’m not a politician”.
A phrase we interns heard all too often in our MPP interviews earlier this fall. Whether it was a tactful way to separate themselves from the pack or a damaging defence of their current profession, it does nothing to remedy the negative public image of politicians. That image, in my mind, has consistently improved since the start of the internship. After countless hours of observation and interaction with the Members of the Ontario Legislature, I have found that they are true public servants in every sense of the term.
However, no one is more vulnerable to developing an unfavourable image than a political leader. In our meetings with former Ontario premiers, the pervasive theme of leadership and the responsibility that accompanies governance has consistently been a topic of discussion. Our meeting with former Premier Dalton McGuinty was no different.
In our meeting, Mr. McGuinty discussed major changes to today’s political landscape, such as the march of globalization and a decided descent into partisanship. While he admires the collision of ideas in the legislature, he urged politicians to not attack their own category and to remain collegial with one another. Drawing from his experience as leader of a party and of a province, Mr. McGuinty advised us to view leadership as service to others. His parting words of wisdom were for us to always value character more than our reputation, and to always act with conviction instead of doing what is convenient.
We would like to thank Mr. McGuinty for carving out time to meet with us and answer our many and varied questions. For me, the most notable element from our meeting occurred as we escorted him to and from our meeting room in the Whitney Block. As we walked the halls, Mr. McGuinty stopped on two occasions to talk with security guards. To watch the former premier enthusiastically greet the two guards and to watch them talk with such familiarity and reverence was very heartening to see. It was an exchange, Mr. McGuinty, that if I may say showed great character!