Next steps

Moving on from Ontario politics

There are few experiences in life to match announcing a milestone like a hospital expansion in your own neighbourhood, and knowing you played a role in getting the money and the mandate to build the facility. Thinking as one walks through the completed structure, “I helped do that” is a feeling that’s hard to top.

In December, 2020 after more time to reflect on my own wishes and aspirations within the Ontario Liberal Party, and for the northwest Mississauga community I served for 15 years in the Ontario Legislature than I expected due to the COVID-19 stay-home regime, Andrea and I came to the conclusion that I would not stand again for nomination as the Ontario Liberal Party’s candidate in Mississauga-Streetsville.

Back in the 1970s, a friend gave me a book called The Courage to Create. It begins by saying that the first act of creation is an act of destruction. This means that to do something new or innovative, you normally have to let go of something old or familiar. And now I have done that. The time since the 2018 election for us, like so many other Members who had the privilege of serving in four consecutive Liberal governments, was a time to re-learn the simple pleasures of home, community, friends and life, and to examine other opportunities and horizons that beckoned beyond provincial politics. I neither submitted nor requested nomination papers from the Party for the next election.

My journey with the Mississauga-Streetsville Provincial Liberal Association (then “Mississauga North”) began at the Riding Association’s 1996 Annual General Meeting, when a recommended list for the Riding Association’s Executive was acclaimed. Nearly 25 years later, and through three riding redistributions, six elections, four consecutive victories, and 15 years as the Member of Provincial Parliament, it is time to move onward. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of Ontario party politics, and would not have missed a day of my adventure in the community and the Legislature. However, simply put, it was enough of a good thing.

I slept soundly the evening of the announcement, and woke up rested and certain that I had made the right choice.

A proud legacy

The moments to remember and the accomplishments to celebrate from my years in public office are many, and ones to be proud of. Politics being often defined as ‘the art of the possible,’ you can never be certain where the process will take you. An election campaign is about learning something new all the time. In realizing how morning traffic jams along our west-to-east roads were caused by commuters flocking to crowded GO trains at Meadowvale and Streetsville, I learned about railroad management and lobbied the daylights out of our government ministers, GO Transit and the Ministry of Transportation and Highways. Together with Mississauga Ward 9 Councillor Pat Saito, we got the Lisgar GO station build. Indeed, it came in seven weeks ahead of schedule and under budget, partly because we watched the project so closely, and resolved issues before they could become show-stoppers.

Over the years I was elected, five trains of eight cars each morning and evening became ten trains of 12 cars each. Each of our GO stations was upgraded and new parking added over the years our government served.

Coming home from Queen’s Park on the train, sometimes Andrea would pick me up at Lisgar. I always got a personal thrill hearing the train staff call out, “Lisgar next stop, Lisgar!” I’d think to myself, “I did that!”

We needed a hospital expansion at Credit Valley. Then hospital president Wayne Fyffe invested time and effort in teaching me hospital issues, financing and administration. He introduced me to the doctors and nurses who regularly took me on the floor to learn how a hospital worked. When I got to announce the Credit Valley Hospital Phase 2 expansion, on a day that was coincidentally my birthday in August of 2005, I needed to step back as the capacity crowd that was present cheered the announcement because it literally took my own breath away. Together, we got Phase 2 and Phase 3 built, and increased base funding, bought new beds, put in an ambulatory surgery centre and much more.

After my first election in 2003, I had no Constituency Office to inherit. The first people to come and see me in my cold ex-campaign office that we used for the first few weeks were families of autistic children. It was an issue I knew little about, and visited ErinoakKids to know more. In 2007, I promised that “so help me God,” we would get a new ErinoakKids facility built. I didn’t know exactly how we would do that when we set out on this quarter-billion-dollar quest. It took longer than I thought, and again when I got to address the folks present in 2018, when the new ErinoakKids facility opened in Mississauga, I felt the emotion it took in the years-long quest to get the funding and mandate for ErinoakKids to open its state-of-the-art facility.

I served in a government that delivered a bright future and a compassionate today to so many Ontarians. It is a precious memory, and a solid foundation for the next steps in life.