Unless you are a self-confessed political nerd, Greg Sorbara’s recent book is hardly a ground-breaking read. While this book is not salacious or filled with never-before-told secrets kept in Queen’s Park from a man who has probably seen it all, it does provide us with a window into how government has run since the mid-1980s.
Anyone who takes the time and effort to write an autobiography is deeply concerned with his legacy. Sorbara is no different. He was accused of conflict of interest and was forced to leave cabinet until he was finally exonerated. His primary goal, it would appear, was to demonstrate that his long years in office were not lost. He makes a good case for good governance during his time in power.
The question worthy of asking is what can we learn from a man who has dedicated much of his life to provincial politics? Sorbara’s narrative follows the usual trajectory of a politician who gets involved out of idealism and then finds himself in a position of power and influence. His lesson for us as public educators? If you want to win or achieve anything in the political arena, you must commit to the long game and you must be pragmatic. You must make many political allies and be prepared to make sacrifices. Sorbara is particularly proud of his work to extend the subway to York University, the effort and time it took to make this dream a reality and all the political connections and sacrifice it took to achieve this.
In the last chapter of the book, he does set out what he believes should be the work of future governments. As a Catholic and a member of the government that extended full funding to the separate school system in the 1980s, he is surprisingly now calling for one public system. Really it should not be a surprise, because it reflects his pragmatic approach to managing costs and providing excellent programs.
If, as public educators, we are to learn from Sorbara’s life in politics we must balance our idealism with the pragmatic realities presented today. Can we revolutionize how public education is organized in this province?