McKenna getting the hang of the job and having the time of her life. Give her a year and we will see if she develops into a great MPP.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON February 28, 2012   Jane McKenna, Burlington’s member of the provincial Legislature is settling into her new digs on Brant Street just fine.  Her tasks as the political representative for the city and her role as a “player” in the Progressive Conservative political scene in the province are coming together quite well for her.

The “official” opening of the office and her co-chairing  the Progressive Conservative party’s Annual General Meeting have had her jumping and seeing very little of her household but, except for two of her children the place is pretty quiet.

She learned very quickly how to listen. She has enough executive capacity to get things done. The next year will tell us if she has the making of a good MPP.

Lady Jane, as we have chosen to call her, is still close to enamoured with Tim Hudak, her party leader, who got a pretty stern  message from the party membership on the campaign that was run during the provincial election.  The sense seemed to be that if the “real” Tim Hudak had been allowed to come out the Progressive Conservatives would have formed the government.

I think the public saw the real Hudak and took a pass.

While the Liberals still hold power at Queen’s Park, given the state of the economy, I think everyone in the province is going to take a haircut.  The demographic shift of the population to the western side of Canada; the  significant shift in manufacturing out of the province and the demands the health care system is beginning to make on the public purse are all coming together and will result in a significant change in what Ontario is going to be.

The province doesn’t have the revenues it used to have and the economy is sluggish at best and is going to remain that way for as long as this government is in office.  It is going to be tough.

Some of the deep thinkers see the province’s role as the “engine of the Canadian economy” coming to an end. Ontario is no longer the province that manufactures the tractors and the combines that are used to harvest western crops.  Technology is also in the mix changing everything.  McKenna is convinced Premier McGuinty made a critical mistake on the deal he made with Samsung for wind turbines.  That one hasn’t proven itself yet and one isn’t sure if McKenna arrived at that conclusion on her own or if she is spouting the party line.

In our half hour interview with the MPP, we did see a woman in the process of getting a good grip on the job to which she brings impressive energy and enthusiasm.  This is the best paying job Jane McKenna has ever had and she is being treated by her political party as someone to watch.  Standing before the 1600 delegates at their convention was a huge highlight for her. She actually got them to swing and sway to the beat of some “big sound” music.

In the close to six months she has been at the job, the Lady Jane has gotten out to dozens of “official” openings and has held at least one public workshop for Seniors where she arranged for people from a broad spectrum of service groups to explain what is available to them and how different services work and can best be accessed.

What Lady Jane has to determine for herself is if she is going to be a lightweight MPP who gets her picture in the paper at every opportunity or if she is going to buckle down, do the hard work and the studying and ask hundreds of questions and read much more than she has ever read in her life – and become an MPP that will make a difference.

She is currently the Vice chair of the Ethnic Outreach Committee for the Progressive Conservative party and the Children & Youth Services Critic for the opposition in the Legislature.  She has had responsibilities for tracking the Children’s Aid Societies for the PC’s.  And, as one politically astute observer noted, “Jane has one of the best seats in the Legislature, the camera will rarely miss her.”

The biggest provincial issue in this city is of course the re-development of the hospital but McKenna is sort of out of the loop on that one.  The hospital people need someone within the government to press their case and they rely on Ted McMeekin to take their arguments to the right people at Queen’s Park.  Ted, who was a Minister in a previous term of office and then was no longer a Minister but then was made a Minister again when the existing minister lost her seat.

She has energy, enthusiasm and more than enough chutzpah for the job. Can she bear down and do the reading and studying to become a truly effective MPP. Burlington wants to hope so.

Now that Ted, who is a very accomplished politician and very tight with the hospital people they see no reason to involve the Burlington MPP.  Joyce Savoline, didn’t do much for the hospital in her time as the MPP.  The one thing the hospital has to have is an advocate that will argue their case.   That Burlington has to rely on the Member of Legislature from a neighbouring constituency says something about the way politics is done in Burlington.

As an opposition MPP neither McKenna or Savoline were able to do very much.  McKenna can, if she chooses,  create opportunities to stand up in the Legislature and ask questions.  She’ll have to get on very good terms with the party whip; but if she’s any good at asking tough questions and fast on her feet with follow up questions, she will be given lots of time.

If you see the Lady Jane standing in the Legislature with a piece of paper in her hand reading a question, that is a sure sign that she can’t go with the flow and go up against the best of them.  Too early to tell if that talent is within her..  She certainly has the “cahonies” to pull it off.

The Burlington Progressive Conservative Association now has new leadership and has gotten away from the dreadful leadership Bert Radfordd  brought to the organization.  With a new executive in place they could develop a strong association that will keep the city blue for the next decade.

Burlington has managed in the past to elect representatives who made it into Cabinet and both ran afoul of the system, when they did things that were no no’s.  Should the PC’s form a government – is McKenna Cabinet material?  Not today – but who knows how she will develop; it’s up to her.  If she makes it into Cabinet the trick will be to keep out of trouble and stay very close to that ethical line.

It is going to take some time for Jane McKenna to create her own political profile in Burlington.  She brings the energy and enthusiasm that always helps in politics but it is going to take much more than a great smile to be truly useful.

The process of nominating her was a true political travesty but she didn’t make that happen.  The association just asked her to be the candidate for a political party she wasn’t even a member of at the time and she said yes..  When you ask McKenna if she would have even dreamed of being where she is today she will quickly say – “never” but she is the MPP for Burlington and she is working at doing the best job she can.

Time may show that Keith Strong and Ron Foxcroft are much better talent scouts than anyone realized.  Strong has a discerning eye and is very good at sizing up situations. McKenna was never a basketball player – so who knows what Foxcroft saw.



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