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Gerard Kennedy answers 5 Q’s on what he’d do if elected Ont Liberal leader/Premier

This took longer then I thought it would initially, but Mr. Kennedy and his team have sent through their response to my 5 questions about his wanting to be Ontario Liberal leader/Premier. I thank them for sending it in. As with the others (Pupatello, Sousa, Wynne, and Hoskins), all answers are his verbatim, with no commentary on my part.

There only remains one outstanding candidate, Harinder Takar (since Murray dropped out), and I’d not known who to reach to send him these questions. He did start following me on Twitter, and I did send him a Twitter message asking him a couple of days ago if he’d like to participate, but no response as of yet. I won’t blame him though for a non-answer with so little time til the convention.

Back to the “no commentary” procedure I’ve been following with all of the candidates who’ve replied, my thoughts on the various answers they’ve sent in you should finally see in a blogpost Pre-Convention, either before or while I’m at it covering it (assuming I’m accepted, and assuming the OLP can actually get the accreditation forms out to the bloggers on time, but that’s another story).

Anyhow, on to Gerard Kennedy’s responses:

1) There are many candidates running to be the Ontario Liberal Party leader. What do you feel makes you best qualified to be the leader/Premier?

With the greatest of respect for all of the skills, dedication and talent my colleagues bring to this race, I believe I am the right choice for leader at this time because I have the most experience and the strongest track record for the job at hand. I know how to bring people together to solve big problems, because I’ve done it repeatedly.

As Education Minister, I led the turnaround in education getting all of the education stakeholders to work together. The result was a drop-out rate cut in half, four years of labour peace, plus reduced class sizes and improved test scores. At the Daily Bread Food Bank, I brought together corporations, community groups and the public – volunteers and donors – to help feed 150,000 people every month. We did it all without government funds. That was a $30 million a year operation that is still today one of Canada’s leading non-profits, having helped millions of people over the years. And finally, as a former MP I understand how to get things done in Ottawa, and we need to work with the federal government to get Ontario working again to its full potential.

I also think that if the Liberal Party is going to win back the confidence of Ontarians, we can’t just put a new face on the poster. The only way we will regain first the full confidence and enthusiasm of our members, and then that of the public at large is to restore the balance of power between our leadership, our members and our elected representatives. I’ve put forward my plan for change and made a very public commitment as leader to be more accountable, more accessible. These changes will put us on the road to becoming the most democratic and responsive political party in North America.

2) What would be your first priority upon being elected Ontario Liberal leader and Premier?

Clearly the situation in education needs the new leader’s attention at the earliest opportunity. We need peace in our schools and goodwill among all of the stakeholders to turn things around and I have done that before. My priority as Premier will be to move quickly to get our legislature back to work so we can start to unleash our Province’s full potential. We have avoided the worst of the recession, but we need to get Ontario really working again.  That’s why I will implement the Drummond report in a truly Liberal way. We need government to be as enterprising and creative as the private sector. We need business to come to the table to help get our young and newly trained people to work so we can be capitalizing on their expertise and ingenuity. And as Liberals, we cannot succeed unless we re-engage Ontarians around all of the good a Liberal government can do.   And for that we must be willing to be held accountable for past mistakes.

I would also prioritize a number of the Drummond Report recommendations. 

1. I think we can use the example in healthcare, the deal done with doctors, to come to a mutual solution to save money – they were part of the solution.

2. In education, negotiate a settlement. We can renegotiate the contracts and save $200-$300 million around the management of benefit plans. In all the areas, we need to identify exactly where and how we can find those transformations Drummond talks about so that we are delivering better services to people and addressing the deficit at the same time.

3. To do that we have to engage both the public and the people in the public services at a time of challenge – the only way it will happen is if we have and embrace a totally different way of operating – a new approach.

3) What policy(s) or changes in style would you bring to the Ontario Liberal Party that differ from the current government (if any?)

I believe in a power-sharing approach to Party renewal and leadership.  As leader, I would focus on more effective listening to Ontarians, with stronger voices from Liberal members and MPPs, including regular accountability sessions with votes that will confirm Leader or set up a recall process.  
I’ve also pledged to:
– Restore peace and performance in Education without the use of Bill 115.
– Target new jobs in key industries and first jobs in their fields for young graduates. 
– A New Deal for the North bringing together social, education and economic strategies with targets for initiatives such as Ring of Fire. 
– Government transformation through an enterprising and more effective management in government.
– One example would be transforming government social programs into “potential realization” programs that remove barriers so that individuals can make their maximum potential contribution to society.

4) It is said that the Ontario Liberal Party has become increasingly an urban party. Is there anything you would or could do to make the party more attractive to rural Ontario?

Absolutely there is. I grew up in a town of 6,000 people. I understand that we moved without listening to people in rural Ontario and I’ve made a commitment to review decisions that we took that didn’t consider properly the input of people across the province. I’m prepared to make sure that every region of the province is heard before we make those kinds of decisions. As the new Leader I will appoint a Senior Rural Adviser to ensure cross-Ministry compliance with departments as well as implementation of specific rural policies including food sustainability for the province. We need to earn back the respect of people across the province so we can work together to move this whole province forward.

5) You face a minority legislature very hostile to your government right now. Is there anything specific you would do to try and work with one another?

We’re at a very important time in our recovery as a province and we need to work together to move things forward for the people of Ontario.  This is no time for posturing or petty political grudges.  Too much is at stake for us all. Public sector and private sector, liberal, democrat and conservative – all of us must work together as one to tackle the tough financial problems we face.  As Premier, I will bring a fresh perspective to finding consensus. I know it will take the creativity and commitment of not only the public sector, but businesses and not-for-profit too. I want to believe that we all care about getting our young people working, to use one example. I have a track record of bringing people together to meet tough challenges. It’s that approach I would take to get us working for the people of Ontario again.


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