McGuinty’s testimony shows him at his best and worst – by Adam Radwanski (Globe and Mail – May 8, 2013)

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Premier Dad was in vintage form.

Testifying about the expensive cancellation of gas-fired power plants, Dalton McGuinty offered his old chestnut about it never being too late to make the right decision. He spoke of government officials as “people with all their noble strengths and human frailties.” He cited advice that his mother gave him on his wedding day. Recalling his prorogation of the Ontario Legislature as a necessary “time out” that would allow everyone to “cool down,” he stopped just short of reaching across the table and patting opposition MPPs on the head.

It was an assured performance before the legislature’s justice committee, and a reminder of the political skills that allowed Mr. McGuinty to spend nearly a decade in his province’s top job. It was also a reminder of why he finally wore out his welcome.

Looking less jittery than Kathleen Wynne a week earlier, Mr. McGuinty did his best to absolve his successor of responsibility by reiterating she hadn’t been in the loop on the cancellations. For that, and for avoiding making much other news about the controversy, his fellow Liberals were surely grateful.

Where he was less successful was in defaulting to a familiar father-knows-best defence of his policy choices – one that rang hollow because the cancellations stand as the best evidence of him allowing his own interests to overtake his concern for those of the public.

Yes, he conceded, power plants should not have been sited in Oakville and Mississauga, and the government waited too long to cancel them. But it was okay that he had ultimately scrapped them, because it was all about keeping everyone safe.

“We’ve spent a lot of time in this committee talking about those costs,” Mr. McGuinty said of the estimated combined price-tag of nearly $600-million. “But I think parents attach a pretty high price to the health and well-being of their children.”

For much of his time in office, Mr. McGuinty’s political interests seemed to genuinely intersect with his views of what was right and good – on full-day kindergarten, or expanding green-energy production, or even a silly campaign sop like Family Day.

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