Former MP and MPP for Parkdale-High Park Gerard Kennedy announced his bid for the Ontario Liberal leadership Monday morning.
Kennedy, Ontario’s minister of education from 2003 to 2006, said Premier Dalton McGuinty’s decision to step down creates an opportunity for change not just within the party, but for all Ontarians.
“This is a great opportunity for people in Ontario to have more say in government,” said Kennedy, whose firm, Enterprising for the Public Good, works with private companies and charitable organizations on innovative ways to improve services to the public. “I really am concerned about the lack of quality interaction with the public.”
Kennedy called McGuinty’s resignation a “sacrifice” on the premier’s part because it forces a refocusing of the Liberal Party and of the provincial government.
“There is too much power in the leader’s office in all political parties,” said Kennedy, whose concern is “first and foremost giving Ontarians more say in the political process.”
Kennedy will soon kick off his leadership campaign in London, Ont. and its surrounding communities.
“I think politics is something everyone should be involved in and have access to. Let’s not just replace one person; let’s do it with a movement of people who want to change politics,” Kennedy said. “Public service is a privilege. The political system can change. This is a real opportunity to do better.”
According to Kennedy, both the party and the province need new approaches. He said he’d like to give the members of the Ontario Liberal Party more say, to call their leader to account, when need be.
As one-time provincial education minister, Kennedy addressed the current atmosphere among teachers brought on by the Liberal government, particularly Bill 115, which freezes wages for most union members while allowing newer teachers to move up the pay scale.
“I don’t need legislation to get a deal for teachers and students,” he said, adding that the issue is broader than benefits and wage increases. Kennedy pointed out that he wasn’t at the table when these decisions were made. He said he would bring his experience working with the not-for-profit sector to bring both sides of the political spectrum together to rid the “poison that seems to permeate Queen’s Park.”
No stranger to leadership races, Kennedy first pursued the provincial Liberal leadership, but lost to McGuinty on the final ballot. He would run for federal leadership in 2006.
Kennedy taught at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Business in 2007-2008. Before entering politics, he ran Toronto’s Daily Food Bank from 1986 to 1996.