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  • Writer's pictureOLIP Interns

Meeting with David Peterson, Former Premier of Ontario

On March 12th, we had the privilege of meeting with the 20th Premier of Ontario, the Honourable David Peterson. Mr. Peterson was Premier from 1985-90, a period he described to us as one of the busiest in Ontario’s history which saw reforms in physician billing, pensions, Catholic school funding, and labour negotiation laws. He was also famously the first Liberal premier of Ontario after 42 years of Conservative rule.

When he took over the Liberal Party, Mr. Peterson recalled to us, he faced an uphill battle with a party low on funds and supporters. He described a long process that involved seeking out people who believed in his vision, and benefiting from a combination of luck and many long hours of preparation. He mentioned that having a vision for what alternatives to the status quo would look like was key during his time in opposition.

Mr. Peterson discussed with us his proudest accomplishment as premier: increasing diversity at Queen’s Park and creating a collaborative and positive relationship with the Ontario Civil Service. He also talked to us about his efforts negotiating the Meech Lake accord, and the challenges that come along with opening up the Constitution. Our conversation about Meech Lake led us down the path of a fascinating conversation about the decentralized nature of Canada’s federation, and the challenges and opportunities this poses for governing at the provincial and federal levels.

We also chatted with Mr. Peterson about healthcare. He argued that much of our current healthcare systems focus on treating illness after it has already occurred. A much more cost effective strategy would be to focus on prevention and limiting the incidence of chronic disease, especially as our population ages.

We are so grateful to Mr. Peterson for taking the time to meet with us; he even sacrificed part of his lunch break to make sure we had time to ask all of our questions! We all left the meeting with our brains full of interesting questions to ponder.

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