Dalton James Patrick McGuinty, Jr., (born July 19, 1955) is a Canadian retired politician who served as the 24th Premier of Ontario from 2003 to 2013. He was the first Liberal leader to win two majority governments since Mitchell Hepburn nearly 70 years earlier. In 2011, he became the first Liberal premier to secure a third consecutive term since Oliver Mowat (1872–1896), after his party was re-elected in that year’s provincial election.
McGuinty was born in Ottawa. He studied science at university but ended up taking a law degree and practised law in Ottawa. His father was a professor and served as a provincial politician from 1987 to 1990. In 1990, his father suffered a heart attack while shovelling snow and died. A provincial election was called for later that year and McGuinty decided to run in his father’s place. He was elected as a Liberal Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) in an election in which the Liberal government was defeated unexpectedly by the opposition Ontario New Democratic Party (NDP). He served in opposition for the next five years.
In 1995 he was re-elected but remained in opposition since the Progressive Conservatives won the election. The leader of the party, Lyn McLeod, was blamed for the loss as most polls pointed to a Liberal win. McLeod resigned as leader in 1996 and McGuinty put his name forward for the party’s leadership election. Although Gerrard Kennedy was the front-runner in the race, McGuinty who came fourth on the first ballot ended up winning the leadership on the fifth ballot. Critics called McGuinty ‘Harris-lite’, but his supporters argued that a right-leaning leader like McGuinty was necessary to compete against the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario (PC Party) of Premier Mike Harris. McGuinty lost the 1999 election but won a resounding majority in 2003 when Ontario turned against the governing Tories.
From 2003 to 2007, McGuinty’s government increased spending for health and education. He won another majority in 2007 against new PC leader John Tory. Although McGuinty suffered in the polls, his opponent mis-stepped badly by promoting a policy of public funding for private religious schools, a position that was not favoured by the voters. McGuinty’s second term was deeply affected by the 2008 financial crisis which saw government revenues plummet. In addition a scandal developed around a new plan to update health care records called eHealth Ontario. Just prior to the 2011 election another controversy developed around the construction of gas powered electrical plants that were widely opposed by local residents. The gas plants happened to be located in key Liberal ridings and just before the election, McGuinty cancelled the projects. The cost to cancel the projects was close to $1 billion and the move was seen as pandering to the electorate in a few electoral districts. These issues dogged McGuinty through the election campaign. The Liberals won but were reduced to a minority.
In the new government, the PCs under leader Tim Hudak were the opposition party with NDP leader Andrea Horwath holding the balance of power. McGuinty continued as premier for another two years but the continuing gas plant issue refused to go away. He prorogued the legislature early in October 2012 and stepped down as premier. He was succeeded as Liberal leader by Kathleen Wynne in February 2013 and he resigned his own seat in June 2013. Shortly after leaving the legislature he was named a senior fellow at Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.