Which U of T alumni have a seat at the Ontario cabinet table?

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Five ministers among the 15 alumni elected

–When Premier Kathleen Wynne looks around the table during a cabinet meeting she will know she has something in common with five of her ministers – they are all U of T alumni.

Wynne, fresh off winning a majority government in the June 12 provincial election, announced her cabinet on June 24. She obtained a master’s degree in linguistics from U of T in 1989 and in 1995 received a master’s degree in education and counselling psychology at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.  

“U of T was always very important in my family: My great-uncle Arthur Wynne was head of biochemistry from 1951 to 1960 there, and my dad and granddad both graduated from medicine there, and I always thought of it as a place where excellence was valued,” said Wynne. “I have two masters degrees from U of T – one in linguistics and one in adult education from OISE – and my studies helped influence the way I think about how opportunities are afforded to people, through language and education.

“Two professors, Jack Chambers and Ivan Kalmar, really helped me make the link between the science of language and its practical application. When I became minister of aboriginal affairs and then education, my work at U of T made me acutely aware of putting policies in place that would lift people up and realize their potential.”

The U of T alumni in cabinet with Wynne are: Associate Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Dipika Damerla; Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure Brad Duguid; Associate Minister of Finance Mitzie Hunter, who is responsible for the proposed Ontario Retirement Pension Plan; Minister of Community and Social Services Helena Jaczek and Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca.

They are part of a group of 15 U of T alumni across Ontario elected on June 12, including 11 Liberals, three Conservatives and one NDPer – Cheri DiNovo in Parkdale-High Park.

"The University of Toronto is the top university in the country, and I'm very proud to be an alumnus,” said Duguid.  “Much of my success can be credited to the strong educational foundation that I received at the University of Toronto.  U of T provides a world class education for so many students, preparing graduates to compete in a globally competitive economy."

Damerla, who represents Mississauga East-Cooksville in the Legislature, received her MBA from Rotman School of Management in 1995. She said in an interview that her MBA “opened doors for me more than for other people because I was an immigrant.” She came to Canada in 1991 and was given a “tremendous hands up” from Rotman. “I would not have gotten into the banking field without Rotman,” which led to her election in 2011 and her subsequent elevation to cabinet.

The provincial budget will be released on July 14 and the government has already announced that it will be a carbon copy of the one tabled in May, just before the election. It contains several commitments with regard to postsecondary education, including:

  • Continuing with the 30 per cent off Ontario tuition grant program.

  • Improving the credit transfer system so that students can take their credits with them when they move between postsecondary institutions.

  • Investing $42 million over three years to implement Ontario Online, a new Centre of Excellence for Online Learning.

  • Increasing co-op, work placements and experiential learning for students, as well as supporting young entrepreneurs so they have skills and experience needed to secure jobs or start their own businesses after graduation.

Hunter will be responsible for implementing one of the more contentious policy decisions made by the Liberals – a new mandatory provincial pension plan to complement the Canada Pension Plan. It is intended to expand coverage for three million working Ontarians who now rely on CPP, Old Age Security and their own savings for retirement income.  It would be funded by equal contributions shared between employers and employees who do not have workplace pension plans.

There is one more connection between U of T and the provincial cabinet. New health minister Dr. Eric Hoskins is married to Professor and author Samantha Nutt.  They founded War Child Canada in 1999.

Wynne joins three other U of T alumni who were elected as premier of Ontario: William Davis, premier from 1971 until 1985 and now a senior fellow at Massey College; David Peterson, the former chancellor of U of T who was premier from 1985 until 1990 and Bob Rae, premier from 1990 until 1995 and now a distinguished senior fellow at the School of Public Policy and Governance. 

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