Originally posted on National Post | Full Comment:
In his last days as Premier, Dalton McGuinty held a press conference this week and offered this opinion: “Any objective observer would have to conclude that when it comes to the big things, we got those right.”
I guess I’m not objective. You’d expect any politician who has held office as long as Mr. McGuinty to have something to show for it, since even the worst of premiers can’t get everything wrong all the time. And there have been some moderate improvements on his watch: wait times for some medical procedures have declined somewhat, classrooms aren’t as crowded as they once were, and some schools have introduced all-day kindergarten. As a legacy, though — a major achievement to point to as symbolic of a successful career — I’m stumped.
Even Jean Chretien, who spent slightly longer as prime minister than Mr. McGuinty will have as premier, had a big accomplishment. If not for his willingness to take the heat and back Finance Minister Paul Martin, Canada might never have undertaken the wrenching restructuring that turned around the economy in the 1990s. True, Mr. Chretien never faced an effective, united opposition that could threaten his hold on power, but nevermind that. He could easily have used that certainty to coast along piling up deficits, as Mr. McGuinty has done.