Liberal leadership race candidate briefing: Gerard Kennedy

Credentials:

  • MPP for the riding of Parkdale—High Park from 1999 – 2006 and for the riding of York South from 1996 – 1999
  • Member of provincial cabinet from 2003 – 2006 (Minister of Education)
  • Federal MP for the riding of Parkdale—High Park from 2008 – 2011

If elected, Kennedy would:

  • Use negotiation and bargaining, rather than legislation, when it comes to new teacher contracts. Kennedy is the only candidate who has called Bill 115 a mistake.
  • Kennedy has the advantage of being able to distance himself from the McGuinty government, since he has not worked for them for six years, but he stands behind its full-day kindergarten initiative and the rurally-unpopular Green Energy Act.

Supporters:

  • Former MPP George Smitherman
  • Former MPP Steve Peters

Odds of victory:

  • When it comes to winning leadership races, Kennedy certainly has his own record against him. He lost the Ontario Liberal leadership to Dalton McGuinty in 1996 and the federal Liberal leadership to Stéphane Dion in 2006. Third time’s a charm?

Photo sourced from the Waterloo Record.

More information available on Kennedy’s campaign website: http://www.gerardkennedy.ca/

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Liberal leadership race candidate briefing: Kathleen Wynne

Today: Kathleen Wynne

Credentials:

  • MPP for Don Valley West riding since 2003
  • Member of cabinet from 2006 – 2012 (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and Minister of Aboriginal Affairs from 2011 – 2012, Minister of Transportation from 2010 – 2011 and Minister of Education from 2006  – 2010)
  • Former public school trustee for Toronto’s ward 8

If elected, Wynne would:

  • Repair the government’s relationship with teachers’ unions, which was soiled by McGuinty’s controversial back-to-work legislation this fall
  • Continue the government’s plan to reduce Ontario’s $14.4 billion deficit
  • Use her ability to “seek common ground on difficult issues” to avoid polarizing partisanship

Supporters:

  • Attorney General John Gerretsen (Kingston and the Islands)
  • Labour Minister Linda Jeffrey (Brampton-Springdale)
  • Liberal MPP David Zimmerman (Willowdale)
  • Liberal MPP Mario Sergio (York West)
  • Liberal MPP Reza Moridi (Richmond Hill)
  • Past Liberal candidates Christina Bisanz, Lori Holloway, John O’Leary, Gloria Rezler and Fred Larsen

Odds of victory:

  • Not bad. Wynne has strong support within her caucus and NDP leader Andrea Horwath’s recent rise in popularity may make delegates favour electing a female leader.
  • On the other hand, as Education Minister for four years, Wynne has been very close to teachers’ unions in the past. Now that the Liberals are in their bad books, the unions could use their influence to knock her out of the race.

Etcetera:

  • Wynne has been known as a very left-of-centre member of the provincial Liberals, but in this campaign she is painting herself as an eager centrist willing to listen to both sides of the table

 

Photo sourced from Wynne’s campaign website: http://kathleenwynne.ca

Liberal leadership race candidate briefing: Glen Murray

The Ontario Liberal leadership race continues to make headlines as more candidates toss their hats into the race (Eric Hoskins became the sixth candidate to enter yesterday).

Over the next few weeks, Queen’s Park Today will bring you detailed briefings on each of the candidates, analyzing their platforms, supporters and the odds they will replace Dalton McGuinty.

Today: Mr. Glen Murray

Credentials:

  • MPP for the riding of Toronto Centre since 2010
  • Member of cabinet from 2010 – 2012 (Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities and Minister of Research and Innovation)
  • Mayor of Winnipeg from 1998 – 2004

If elected, Murray would:

  • Institute a “no-money-down” plan for college and university tuitions that would allow a greater number of students to borrow for their education
  • Create a 12-month interest-free repayment period for student loans and introduce tax incentives to encourage employers to assume students’ debts
  • Add a tax cut for the middle-class: Murray’s proposed plan would give a $500 tax rebate to families of four earning $70,000 annually, or a $200 tax rebate to single parent families with a young child in daycare earning that $35,000 annually.
  • Replace provincial RRSP and childcare deductions with grants that would save the province money but provide the same incentives to taxpayers

Supporters:

  • Techvibes.com’s Dan Verhaeghe endorsed Murray as Ontario Liberals best choice for premier in order to improve technology and education in the province.
  • Former minister George Smitherman and former Research in Motion CEO Jim Balsillie attended Murray’s leadership announcement, but neither formally endorsed him.

Odds of victory:

  • Probably not great. Murray has spent less time as an MPP and as a member of the Ontario Liberal Party then any of the other candidates and is currently lacking any big name endorsements.
  • Murray’s platform lacks substance and does not account for how the province would finance his proposals, particularly the tax cut for the middle-class, or how he will deal with the larger problems facing the Ontario Liberals.

Etcetera:

  • Murray says that if he wins the leadership he will recall the Legislature on February 19, 2013 — the day the spring session begins on the Parliamentary Calendar.

Visit Murray’s campaign website: http://www.renewliberal.ca for more.

Wynne, Murray and the politics of sexual orientation

On Monday, Don Valley West MPP Kathleen Wynne became the second person to enter the Ontario Liberal leadership race. In doing so, she also became the second openly gay person to enter the Ontario Liberal leadership race.

Toronto Centre MPP Glen Murray, also an openly gay politician, formally entered the race Sunday.

Although more candidates are expected to throw their hats in the race, there is a real chance that Ontario’s first openly gay premier will be elected on January 25.

Ontario’s first openly lesbian MPP, Wynne was first elected in 2003 after serving as a trustee on the Toronto District School Board. Wynne served as the minister of aboriginal affairs and municipal affairs and housing in Dalton McGuinty’s cabinet until she resigned last week in anticipation of running.

These candidates’ personal lives are not likely to trump the politics of the election, and that is a good thing, but a politician’s sexual orientation can still affect expectations of their policies.

In an interview with LGBTQ newspaper Xtra, Murray was asked whether or not he would challenge the public funding of Catholic school boards. The Catholic school system has been under fire by the LGBTQ community since its public opposition of Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act, last spring. The bill, one of the few pieces of legislation that passed during the last session of Parliament, gives students the right to form Gay-Straight Alliances in schools. It was supported by all parties.

The Catholic school boards’ heavy opposition to the bill led some to question the continuation of public funding to the Catholic school system, which is ingrained in Ontario’s constitution. Murray told Xtra that he will not be quick to impose change on the school system.

“We as gay and lesbian people, even though we disagree with some of the ways Catholics are using their constitutional rights, we should be loathe to undermine them.”

Murray said he fought hard for gay and lesbian rights since he was a teenager and that he sees the erosion of anyone’s rights as dangerous.

Murray also said that now that he is no longer in cabinet, he is free to speak up more about the treatment of gay and lesbian youth by Catholic schools, and that he intends to do so.

Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner is one of the few politicians that is a vocal opponent of the Catholic school system, although his qualms are more fiscally-based. Schreiner does not hold a seat in the legislature.

Wynne also expressed no interest in reforming Ontario’s divided school system, saying instead that she would work to improve relations with teachers that were shattered with the passage of McGuinty’s Bill 115 earlier this fall. Even from within cabinet, Wynne was a vocal opponent of the bill.

In her leadership speech, Wynne spoke about the need for parties to seek consensus on issues and listen to arguments from both sides of the table.

“As leader of the party and as Premier I will continue to seek the common ground of the public agenda. It requires openness, transparency, honesty and good faith. I think I’ve demonstrated my commitment to those values in my public and in my private life,” Wynne said.

In his interview with Xtra, Murray was critical of the amount of attention his sexual orientation has received, particularly from Toronto media, in the past few weeks.

“The word gay, lesbian, queer has come up more in the last three weeks than it has in my entire political career and it’s interesting to me that the only people who have raised this are some of the folks in the broader Toronto media, which I found a little comical because generally those of us in Toronto think that we are a little more sophisticated and open-minded than the rest of the country and I’m not sure that’s true.”

Sexual orientation matters, not because it affects a politician’s ability to get elected or win a leadership race, but because of the set of political expectations it assumes. Reformation of the Catholic school system would not likely have come up within the first few days of this race, except that it is an issue that is important to people in the candidates’ broader communities.

If both of these candidates were from rural ridings, or French-speaking, or under 30, or of racial minorities, the media would be talking about that comparison and issues that matter to those implied communities as well.

When asked if he thought sexuality matters in the leadership campaign, Murray smiled and said: “Of course sexuality matters. Sexuality always matters; it’s one of the great things about being alive.”

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Charles Sousa and former cabinet minister Sandra Pupatello are both expected to enter the race. The deadline for entrants is November 23.

Check out Xtra’s full interview with Glen Murray here.

Former Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray to run for Liberal leadership

TORONTO — Toronto Centre MPP Glen Murray announced Sunday he will run for the provincial Liberal leadership.

Murray made the announcement at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens in front of media and supporters, including former provincial cabinet minister George Smitherman. Murray is the first candidate to formally enter the race.

The platform outlined by Murray includes tax cuts for small businesses and the middle class. Murray did not provide details for how Ontario will finance tax cuts while it faces record debt levels, but said he will release his proposal in greater detail in the coming days.

“I am the only candidate in the race who has ever led a government before and has a good record for reducing deficit and reducing taxes and I plan to bring that same experience.”

“I’ve been big city mayor. I have successfully led a large government through similar challenges as we face now,” he told reporters.

Murray served as the mayor of Winnipeg from 1998-2004.

Murray referred to the campaign as the Liberal Party’s chance for renewal, saying, “It is time to press the reset the button.” The idea of renewal is explicated in the domain name for his (not entirely functioning) campaign website, renewliberal.ca.

Yet Murray spent much of his stage time endorsing the McGuinty government’s achievements over the past few years, particularly its gains in education.

Murray also discussed his proposal for “no-money-down” university or college tuition, which would let students enter postsecondary school without having to come up with large amounts of tuition money upfront.

The other ideas forming the pillars of Murray’s platform include “cities and towns that work,” “government that listens” and “smart government.”

As a downtown MPP, Murray is likely to face challenges garnering the rural vote. If elected, Murray said he would sit down with rural communities to rethink the feed-in tariff program that is unpopular in these regions.

“We need to democratize and localize our energy planning,” Murray says. He did not say he would abolish the program or remove it from unhappy communities.

Murray submitted his resignation as the province’s Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Friday. Premier Dalton McGuinty ruled that members of his cabinet must step down from their portfolios in order to enter the leadership race. Government House Leader John Milloy will be sworn in to replace Murray’s portfolio early this week.

Don Valley West MPP Kathleen Wynne resigned from her Municipal Affairs and Housing and Aboriginal Affairs portfolios last week. Wynne will make her leadership announcement at Toronto’s Japanese Cultural Centre Monday evening.

by Allison Smith

McGuinty-level postsecondary attainment rate too high, analyst says

Governments and postsecondary institutions are caught in a higher education arms race with no grasp on when enough education is enough, education policy analyst Watson Scott Swail says.

“When I hear governors, premiers, prime ministers and presidents asking for more, more, more [postsecondary education], my first question is why. Please show me the evidence we need more,” Swail, president of the Educational Policy Institute, a Washington, DC-based non-profit, said during a talk at the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario’s (HEQCO) conference in Toronto Friday.

Swail criticized the U.S. Department of Education and other U.S. federal agencies that are pushing for a postsecondary attainment rate of at least 60 per cent in the United States, saying that quality of education needs to come before higher enrollments.

Since 2005, the McGuinty government has been funding its $6.2-billion Reaching Higher Plan and its goal of having 70 per cent of Ontario’s students completing postsecondary education, either at college or university.

According to a HEQCO report from earlier this year, Ontario already has a 61 per cent postsecondary attainment rate and is on track to reach 70 per cent before any other province.

“We are creating a lot of parchment in areas that we don’t need jobs [because] we don’t really have the connection or dialogue between labour, business, industry and education,” Swail says.

“By and large there is no conversation and that is insane, because higher education, whether you like it or not, is vocational.”

Swail is Canadian-born but spent the majority of his career in the United States, a country that, he says, is caught in an education crisis that will befall Canada in 30-40 years if postsecondary enrollment continues to grow without changing the way it prepares students for the workforce.

HEQCO’s conference “Learning to Earning: Higher Education and the Changing Job Market” brought together education stakeholders and policy-makers to discuss trends in the job market and the future of postsecondary education in Ontario.

HEQCO is an arms-length government agency of the Government of Ontario with a mandate to research and evaluate the postsecondary education system and provide policy recommendations to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.

Former provincial education minister Janet Ecker, who spoke in a panel alongside Swail, said talent and skill gaps between graduates and what employers are looking for need to be identified.

Ecker also said the future of Ontario’s depends on “more collaboration between the industry that needs good, skilled people and the colleges and the universities and the training institutes that provide them.”

“The fact that there isn’t more of this conversation going on in a way that makes sense for both sides is a gap.”

Swail is distinctly critical of the bachelor’s degree, saying that because of its prevalence and the lack of job skills it provides, it has become nothing more than a filter for employers.

“If you talk to employers, why do they ask for a B.A.? Because it shows proof that [the candidate] can do something, and there’s enough of them out there that you can use it as a filter. But here’s the worst part: It’s not the B.A. anymore; it’s the M.A.”

Swail gave an anecdote about a research assistant he employs at the Educational Policy Institute. The woman has two master’s degrees, but he only pays her $40,000 USD because of the extraneous number of resumes he receives whenever he posts a position.

“Every time I put out a call for a new position, I get more resumes than I can handle. So how much is enough [education]? I think the real construction question is what can they do? I want that skill assessment. I want that competency base in every degree, especially B.A.s.”

The Ontario government’s Reaching Higher expansion plan included the creation of 15,000 new graduate spaces by 2011-12.

Ecker is optimistic that university-run programs such as co-ops and work placements can go a long way towards producing graduates with hard-skills that are in demand in the workforce.

Swail says these programs useful but are lacking because of the challenges they pose to traditional universities.

“They’re difficult to do and time-consuming to set up, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t keep on pushing for them.”

by Allison Smith