The Inside Agenda Blog

The Champion of Public Education

by Steve Paikin Friday May 4, 2007

Last night, I attended the annual fund raising dinner of an organization called The Learning Partnership.

The brain child of Veronica Lacey, a former Ontario deputy minister of education, TLP is a national effort by a non-governmental organization to improve the public education system.

Three men were honoured for their contributions to public education.

But with apologies to Purdy Crawford and William Hogarth, who were very worthy recipients, the man who stole the show was a former politician who first got elected when Leslie Frost was premier of Ontario.

William Davis has arguably done as much, if not more, for public education in Ontario than anyone in history.

He was John Robarts’s education minister in the 1960’s when he was at the helm for the creation of the community college system --- a system that today is indispensable in preparing students for the workforce.

He was premier of Ontario in 1984, when he extended full public funding to the separate school system.

And, if you’ll permit a rather self-interested observation, he was also the premier in the 1970’s who decided to create TVOntario, which has produced award-winning educational programming for more than 30 years.

In July, Premier Davis (everyone still calls him “Premier,” including Dalton McGuinty, who was there last night) will celebrate his 78th birthday.

Nevertheless, he can still knock ‘em out of the park.

Last night’s address was a barn burner that earned Davis a standing ovation, and why not with a last line like this one:


“I have known a lot of good doctors in my time. I have known good lawyers too. Not a lot, but some good ones. And I dare say everyone of them can owe their success to having had a great kindergarten teacher along the way.”


Nearly 50 years after winning his first election, Bill Davis is still championing good teachers and a good education.


Extra Notes:

I think you'll quite enjoy tonight's interview with Pier Giorgio di Cicco. Originally from Italy and then Baltimore, Pier Giorgio recently became Toronto's poet laureate, championing the arts and multiculturalism.

He's got a wonderful way of communicating and is a real renaissance man.

If you're wondering why this immigrant didn't anglicize his name when he left Italy, click on the link below for an answer that might surprise you.

Web-Exclusive Pier Giorgio Di Cicco Bonus Footage: video button