Ontario Minister of Finance Greg Sorbara (BA ’78, Glendon and LLB ’81, Osgoode) spoke to a packed hall at Glendon’s Senate Chamber on Jan. 26 on the topic of “My Life After Glendon”. While the presentation contained ample amounts of the newly elected provincial Liberal government’s major issues and intentions, it also represented an opportunity for Sorbara to take a tour down memory lane at his alma mater.
Right: Greg Sorbara
A mature student, Sorbara decided to return to school at the age of 30. He wanted to complete his BA and applied to York’s Glendon College. He chose Glendon for a variety of reasons including the opportunity it offered him to become functionally bilingual.
“It changed my life,” said the new provincial minister of finance. “This was the place where I learned in an academic setting about Canada’s government and the underpinnings of this country. Glendon had and continues to have three major advantages. These advantages include the opportunity to learn a new language, Glendon’s program excellence and its size.” Following his studies at Glendon, Sorbara attended Osgoode Hall Law School and earned his law degree.
Above: Ontario Minister of Finance Greg Sorbara spoke to a capacity crowd at Glendon College.
After providing a brief overview of his public career in fluent French as well as English, Sorbara stated that as Finance Minister his number one priority is education. The ensuing question period covered the issues of rapidly rising tuition fees and the provincial deficit. Important election promises – concerning education, health care and the protection of the environment – and the difficulties faced by large urban centres were also covered in the lively exchange.
Sorbara deplored what he called “the war against teachers waged by the previous provincial government. It was unjust, unseemly, unnecessary.” He confirmed his government’s intention to repair the damage that was done and to inspire schools to reach their best potential.
The finance minister insisted that there are no simple answers to the complex issues faced by the new government. He explained that a tax increase would not solve problems for a number of reasons – the government has already increased taxes to a certain extent and Ontario’s tax rates must remain competitive with the rates of the other provinces and the US.
Tax increases would send businesses and the best-qualified individuals out of Ontario for greener economic pastures, said Sorbara. He pointed out that it is the finance minister’s difficult assignment to keep the balance between sufficient revenue for the government to do its work, and maintaining a reasonable level of taxation.
Similarly, in the issue of health care, money and good intentions are not sufficient for managing it successfully. Sorbara explained that there is a convergence of factors such as rising pharmaceutical costs, a large cohort of aging population, increasing longevity and decreasing public revenues that are affecting the state of health care in Ontario.
Other major concerns, such as the new current value assessment on personal property and Toronto’s poorly funded public transit system represented equally complex challenges for the new government to solve. Sorbara explained to audience that all changes would require time and the government was dedicated to improving the difficulties faced by Ontario.
Sorbara’s public career began when he was elected MPP in York North in 1985, and was re-elected to the newly-created riding of York Centre in 1987 and 1990. He was appointed to cabinet in 1985 and held a number of portfolios in the Liberal governments of 1985-90, including mnister of labour, minister of colleges and universities, minister responsible for women’s issues and minister of consumer and commercial relations. He became MPP for Vaughan-King-Aurora in 2001, and was appointed minister of finance when the Liberals returned to power in 2003. In 1999, Sorbara was elected president of the Ontario Liberal Party, a position he continues to hold. In 2003 he also served as the party’s campaign Chair.
Glendon’s Principal, Kenneth McRoberts, brought the session to its formal close with the comment that Sorbara represents what is best in the Glendon ideal: a dedication to public office, command of Canada’s two official languages and the intention of improving the lives of the citizens while working towards preserving our environment.
This article was submitted by Marika Kemeny, Glendon’s public relations and communications advisor.