If you were to believe Dalton McGuinty’s son — and most people do on this — the premier gave himself the nickname “Premier Dad.” On Friday night at Maple Leaf Gardens, the Liberal Party of Ontario celebrated “Dad” first and “Premier” second.
Inside the convention, the tribute began with an introduction by two of his children, who laughed about the family nights and golf games they shared with their dad, far away from Queen’s Park. Later there was a slideshow featuring photos of a young, shaggy-haired McGuinty teaching kids to water ski, followed by photos of the polished politician holding babies, and finally of the silver-templed premier gamely pouring coffee with a laughing Tim Hortons worker. When McGuinty finally faced his audience at the end of the night, he was the first person to mention legislative issues and only vaguely alluded to improvements in education, health care and the environment.
Outside, hundreds of teachers assembled for a tribute of their own. Chants of “What’s disgusting? Union Busting!” greeted Liberal delegates. The teachers are protesting Bill 115, a bill that severely limits teachers’ ability to strike, which was passed and then repealed by the Ontario Liberal Government. Teachers say they will protest all weekend so the next premier knows exactly what to expect. The bill has come to represent the souring relationship between teachers unions and the provincial government, a dispute that many believe prompted McGuinty’s surprise resignation in October.
Rob Millard, a teacher at West Humber Middle School, said he and his fellow teachers braved the cold to have “one last talk” with McGuinty. “All we want is a chance to negotiate with our employer, same as anyone else, and bill 115 took that away” he says. “So this is our tribute.”