The slow and slithery transformation of Dalton McGuinty:
And we learn that Mr. McGuinty, upon entering politics after his father’s death, was widely seen as cut from the same cloth: “the odd duck from Ottawa South with the socially conservative views [who] could have fit quite comfortably into the [Progressive Conservative] caucus,” as Mr. Coyle puts it. He was the guy who voted against same-sex spousal benefits in 1994, bemoaned Ontario’s soaring debt levels and preached self-reliant smaller government.
“Too many people today have come to view government as the first resort instead of the last resort,” he wrote in a 1994 op-ed. “Most forget that our first schools, universities, hospitals and all forerunners to our modern social programs were not run or even funded by government. These services were provided by individual volunteers and charitable organizations.”
What politics does to a man. At least a certain type of man. We learn from Chris Shelley's piece that Dalton McGuinty's father, Dalton Sr, resigned from the Liberal Party when it liberalized abortion and scrapped anti-homosexuality laws. Can you imagine Dalton Jr resigning over a matter of principle? Any principle at all? He leaves office now, having added a hundred billion to the provincial debt, out of political necessity. Just shy of a majority government and with little chance of obtaining one in the foreseeable future, his time has run out.
There is a recurrent theme in Dalton McGuinty's political career. It can be summed up by one word: Cowardice. Through out his time in office the Premier has avoided making the tough decisions. Whether it was public funding for private religious schools, dealing with teachers unions or coming to grips with the province's fiscal crisis, the Dalt has been MIA. Bill Davis, the man who McGuinty is so often compared to, was fond of saying that the buck stopped with him. Nothing could be further from the truth with his successor.
To casual observers of politics the transformation of Dalton McGuinty from a so-con sounding pol into a progressive squish seems like an astonishing volte face. The reason for the shift is easy enough to explain: He's a wimp who wanted to be a big shot. Men with even a modicum of integrity do not conduct themselves as Dalton McGuinty has. Shrewd politicians often have to be evasive and cynical. They understand that even the best ideas need to be sold in a certain way and at a certain time. There is the ordinary pragmatism of those who seek office, then there is the ultra-pragmatism of Dalton McGuinty. If the typical pol has convictions made of Jello, the Dalt's convictions are made of the stuff used for those old Stretch Armstrong dolls.
He has been the useful man. A vessel into which this province's rent seekers and low grade ethnic wardheelers could pour their aspirations. Perhaps this is the truth behind the mystery of his career and his odd success. There is no Dalton McGuinty. He is a figment of our collective imaginations. The Left conjures him up as a respectable and inoffensive cover for their operations. The Right perceives him as the human embodiment of the modern day Canadian Leviathan. Not a terrifying monster intent on destruction. Not even a Big Brother. Just a nebbish creature with an awkward gait and vaguely positive intentions.
This is how Ontario ends. Not with a bang but with a McGuintyesque smirk.