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Michael Bryant (Fred Lum)
Michael Bryant (Fred Lum)

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Michael Bryant: "I will keep my trap shut' Add to ...

Talk about learning fast: As part of the promotion for his upcoming Invest Toronto post, he was persuaded to pose for Hello! magazine with his wife, entertainment lawyer Susan Abramovitch, and their children, six-year-old Sadie and four-year-old Louis, who both attend tony, public-but-as-good-as-private Brown School. He and his wife met at the Supreme Court of Canada as law clerks, the most prestigious internship available to law's best and brightest. When they married in 1997, he pledged to raise their children in her Jewish faith.

While he occasionally shows up at the Temmy Latner Forest Hill Jewish Centre, he chooses to hold on to what he calls his Protestant guilt. So at the personal level, at least, he knows how to yield - even if it means that Sadie will say, in the middle of a Hebrew conversation, "Don't forget, everybody, Daddy's not Jewish."

In public life, the slow and delicate art of compromise seems to have become more of a challenge. His provincial Liberal colleague and parliamentary assistant to the attorney-general David Zimmer notes that Mr. Bryant "is definitely a high-energy guy. He's the kind of person who can see every side to an issue in a nanosecond, so he becomes very impatient when things bog down - you can see his feet vibrating on the floor when things aren't moving fast enough."

How long can a man like this last in politics? "I'm going to miss a lot of what I've been doing for the last 10 years," says the Harvard-educated lawyer who was first elected as MPP in the midtown riding St. Paul's in 1999 and became a hyperactive attorney-general at the age of 37. "But I'm really looking forward to executing a strategy without being limited by the need to hit certain political points along the way. At Invest Toronto, I'm the first employee, and I'm going to run a shop we can create from the ground up. There's a measure of independence with this that you just can't get in politics. It's accountable to its board and to the Mayor, but there's an opportunity to try different things, to innovate without limitations."

And if he's not the best team player? "Michael's got exactly the kind of temperament we want," says Toronto councillor Joe Mihevc, who worked alongside Mr. Bryant on controversial projects like the Wychwood Barns and the rebuilding of the St. Clair streetcar line. "He wears his heart on his sleeve, and he's a quick actor who knows how to intervene the moment it's needed."

Politics isn't the preferred profession for people who prize their independence, which is what made the Mr. Bryant such an anomaly within Mr. McGuinty's highly centralized administration; first as a camera-loving attorney-general crusading against pit bulls and other law-and-order targets, later as a minister for aboriginal affairs cleaning up after the Mike Harris government before he was handed the economic development portfolio when the recession broke.

He'll have encouragement to talk this way at Invest Toronto, an arms-length public agency that will allow him greater leeway in asserting his personal style. But the greater freedom to speak his mind comes with a trade-off: It slows down his rapid political ascent.

"I'll be done as a politician," he says with what sounds like finality. "So when people ask me questions about bike lanes on Jarvis Street - I've had people come up to me and say, 'Let's talk about economic development and Jarvis Street' - I'm like, 'Talk to the hand, or talk to the Mayor.' I'm not in that business any more. I'm sure there'll be moments when I find it difficult to keep my trap shut. But I will keep my trap shut."

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