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Robert Silver

Bryant quits, life goes on Add to ...

There are four things about the McGuinty government that in my opinion don't get enough attention:

1. How disciplined the party has been in power. In five and a half years, you can count the number of caucus leaks on one hand - a truly remarkable, if not unprecedented fact for a government with a large, diverse caucus. There hasn't been, to the best of my knowledge, a single leak about a cabinet discussion.

2. The recognition of who the leader is. There are lots of ambitious cabinet ministers in the McGuinty government. Dwight Duncan, George Smitherman, Chris Bentley - just to name a few - are extraordinarily talented ministers and politicians. All of them are more than capable of becoming Premier and leader one day. That having been said, for a government that has been in power this long, and that has had the same leader for 13-years now, there is next to no leadership wrangling.

Do some hacks speculate about who's the next leader over beers? Sure, sometimes, maybe. But it's all nonsense - there is no real organising going on, which is how it should be. The decision to stay on as leader through the 2011 election was entirely Dalton McGuinty's to make with absolutely no pressure from his cabinet to do anything other than stay on. If he wins in 2011, I would expect that he would again have no pressure to do anything other than stay on as leader heading into the 2015 election. That's as it should be but again, is remarkable.

3. The McGuinty government has the only ground organization in Ontario and its a good one. Just as Jean Charest has a big red machine in Quebec, the Ontario Liberal Party has the only strong ground organization in Ontario politics. It is not only strong, it is united behind the current team and leader. The strength of the organization is an enduring legacy for the Ontario Liberal Party since they now have the advantage heading into every election that the Big Blue Machine once held.

4. Dalton McGuinty is a vastly underrated politician. If you had a debate about the smartest political minds right now in Canada, how long would you have to wait before somebody mentioned Premier McGuinty? He is the most successful Liberal politician in Ontario political history, has positioned the party to own a large swath of the centre that leaves little room for his political opponents, has the party in financial health, has steadily improved his personal brand with the public over the last 13-years and has redefined the place of Ontario in national politics. And there's no reason to believe he's even close to leaving politics. Ya, I am biased but I think the Premier deserves more credit as a politician and political strategist than he receives.

So what does all of this have to do with Michael Bryant's decision to leave politics? It's that political parties and governments are big organisations. The successful ones are set up to be able to sustain the loss of ministers, staffers, bureaucrats and volunteers. The successful ones don't only carry on after losing talent, they see losses such as today's as a chance to rejuvenate themselves and bring in new talent. I have a funny feeling that's what you will see at the pink palace.

There is no doubt that Bryant is a very talented guy who will do well at anything he puts his mind and energy towards. As for his new job, it should come as no surprise that the creator of the, um, interesting doctrine of "Reverse Reaganism," defined in his now infamous speech as "government choosing winners and losers ... this is the business that we are in" is now working for David Miller who shares a similar ideological view of the economy and state.

UPDATE: A couple of Ontario Liberal political historians (there are, by all accounts, two such people in the province and both of them are regular Silver-Powers readers) have emailed me privately to point out that Sir Oliver Mowat is, without debate, the most successful Liberal politician in Ontario history.

They are of course right. Mowat served as premier for 24-years and is without doubt the Cy Young of Ontario Liberal Premiers. So despite the fact that he "pitched" in a different era, he still holds the title and I should have qualified my compliment about Premier McGuinty with "in the modern era" or "in the last hundred years".

If anyone from the Mowat family took offence to my slight, I apologize.

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