By Asma Amanat
While we knew that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s will resign before the next Ontario elections, it was the timing of his resignation that was a shock and a surprise for Ontarians especially the South Asian community.
I had met Ontario Premier at South Asian Generation Next’s office in August 2010 for the first time. He had come to our office as a result of an interview request. When he entered our office, he asked everybody her/his name and a little about what he/she does. Upon his return, he shook hands with everyone wishing them best of luck in their future endeavors. He had cared enough to remember what each of us strived for.
Over the next few weeks and months, I had met him again for another exclusive interview. His focus in both of these interviews to Generation Next was education, healthcare, welfare of immigrants and green energy initiatives.
Mr. McGuinty realized the potential South Asia offered to Ontarians. He had visited India twice, saw the potential it offered to Ontario and Canada. He had also visited Pakistan once in 2007.
He had said in interview to Generation Next “We don’t do enough trade with India; India is a powerful growing economy with tremendous opportunities and challenges. Infrastructure is an incredible struggle for India, educating all their children is a huge struggle for India..I want to be able to go [to India] and say, I have thousands of Indo Canadians living here, and I want to work with them to do business with you.”
Mr. McGuinty’s contributions and vision of better bilateral trade between Canada and India has not gone unnoticed in India.
Applauding the role of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty in taking two trade delegations to India, Dr. Shashi Tharoor, MP from Indian state of Thiruvananthapuram said in an interview to Generation Next “we are frustrated” with very modest trade between India and Canada. “We’d like to see much more happening. We think Canadians ought to buy more and better goods from India and they should also deal with broader sectors of the Indian economy. Canada with $800 billion plus trade volume should not just be spending half of one per cent in trade with India. Canada can help India develop affordable Green Energy.”
Ontario Premier has given Ontarians an opportunity to see India first hand during 2011’s IIFA events throughout the Greater Toronto Area. To Mr. McGuinty having IIFA in Toronto is a testament as to “how our diversity works, how our Indo Canadian community gives us a competitive advantage..We play that advantage..we play our Indo-Canadian connections and their love of cinema.”
When the federal government cut its funding to settlement agencies operating in Ontario, Ontario Premier was very vocal in his criticism of the Harper Tories for treating Ontario unfairly.
His commitment to communities has been clear in his visits to gurdwaras, temples, mosques and other South Asian community events. His message has never faltered and remained the same, even after last year’s elections, “Forward. Together.”
Although Mr. McGuinty’s leadership had seen various scandals such as ehealth, ORNGE, cancelling of the gas power plant in Mississauga, and most controversial of all prorogation of Ontario legislature, there is much for which Mr. McGuinty has to be admired and lauded for in the South Asian community.
After his resignation and prorogation of Ontario legislature, Generation Next asked several South Asian organizations to comment on their experiences with Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and what his legacy is for the South Asian community.
Some organizations chose not to respond to protect their vested interests in the face of the controversial prorogation decision, a few did not want to criticize Mr. McGuinty and indicate their support for the Progressive Conservatives, and still some thought that the next Liberal leader will have his or her work cut out for him/her as the South Asian community is increasingly shifting its support from Liberals to Conservatives or New Democrats.
Here’s what some organizations had to say: