Newcomers Are All Around McGuinty

by Claudio Muñoz

The relationship between Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty and newcomers is not new. And it didn't start because of his political career. Back in 1973, right after Pierre Trudeau established diplomatic relations with China, the first Chinese students arrived in Canada and all of them came to Ottawa. "Three of those students lived in my family's house with me, my nine brothers and sisters, my mother and father and two dogs," McGuinty remembers. "One of those nine exchange students, Lu Shumin, became China's ambassador to Canada until recently."

McGuinty is 53 years old now. He lives in Toronto and has formed his own family – he married Terri 27 years ago. The rest of the family are Carleen, the only daughter, Dalton Jr., Liam and Connor. Micki, their dog, is considered another member of the McGuintys.

He is the leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, re-elected as Ontario premier in October 2007. Before entering politics, McGuinty practised law in Ottawa – he has a law degree from the University of Ottawa and a science degree from McMaster University – starting his own practice after graduation. But public service was more appealing to him. Years later, after his father, Dalton Sr. died in 1990, he took his position and was elected to the Ontario legislature in Ottawa South.

Mr. Ontario goes to the movies

A day in the premier's life usually starts with orange juice and a bagel. "I also try to exercise before work. During the day, I make sure that I talk to my wife at least a couple of times and I phone each of my four kids every day too," he answers exclusively for CNMag readers.

According to a 2007 interview, "he aims for at least six and half hours of sleep a night but rarely gets that, and he usually stays up past midnight catching up on reading and preparing for the next day." Because of his work he spends numerous nights out, in ceremonies or meetings, so for him a great night off is actually staying home watching a movie or a hockey game on TV, or reading a good book.

As with any movie lover, he has trouble picking a favourite one; nevertheless he chose Field of Dreams, the 1989 film based on the book Shoeless Joe from Canadian writer W.P. Kinsella. He says it has been years since he saw a movie at the theatre (CasinoRoyale in 2006). He is planning on watching KiteRunner, mainly because he loved the book – "I thought the story was not only moving and well told but also interesting and I really learned a lot. I'll have to see that."

It makes sense that his favourite movie is about a baseball field; as a good Canadian, McGuinty loves sports. He is a passionate Ottawa Senators fan and his confessed "favourite sin" is "eating a whole bag of all dressed potato chips while watching a hockey game. Some might consider that gluttony." The premier also likes beer and whisky, but "not at the same time."

They call him Mr. Dalton

"You can't go anywhere without meeting immigrants," the premier explains. "Ontario receives the lion's share of immigrants who come to Canada. As a premier, I'm privileged to be invited to many community celebrations, but you don't need a special event to meet the many faces of Ontario. They're in our hospitals, schools and business. They work in my office. They're our neighbours."

He is often called "Mr. Dalton" by newcomers. "Just Dalton is fine," he says.

The premier thinks that as a politician, he can represent newcomer's aspirations because families from everywhere in the world share the same basic values and goals. "We all want good schools for our kids; we want them to get all the opportunities they need to succeed. We all need to be able to count on health care being there for everyone and their family; we want good jobs supported by a strong economy."

The Ontario government is responsible for several initiatives to assist immigrants, among them the Bridge-Training Programs, the Provincial Nominee Program, the Newcomers Settlement Program and the Language Training Program for Foreign Trained Professionals. The provincial government pays special attention to immigrants' need for jobs.

"I hear stories too often about newcomers who come to Canada and can't find work. Perhaps the most notable of those are foreign-trained doctors," McGuinty says. "We have worked hard to address this directly, by doubling the number of foreign-trained doctors working in Ontario, since coming into office in 2003. And we recently introduced legislation that would further reduce barriers for internationally-trained doctors so that they can practice sooner."

This is not the only achievement of his administration he likes to emphasize. One of the most important initiatives of McGuinty's era is the establishment in 2007 of the Fairness Commissioner, an important step to reduce barriers for all newcomers. "The Fairness Commissioner works with self-regulated professions to make sure there are fair ways of registering or licensing people who want to practice their professions here in Ontario," he explains.

These are some of the programs he most values. But not only programs for "first generation" are highlighted by the premier. "I'm proud of our commitment to public education. Making sure everyone gets quality education ensures that our kids have the opportunity they need to succeed and do well in life."

CNM