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Former premier Dalton McGuinty to lobby Queen’s Park

Former premier Dalton McGuinty, shown after answering questions in June about two cancelled gas plants in Ontario, was barred from lobbying the government for a year after leaving office.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

Premier Dad is back in the game.

A year and a half after stepping down, Dalton McGuinty has signed up to lobby the government he used to lead, on behalf of a company that received a multimillion-dollar provincial grant when he was premier.

Dated Aug, 26, an entry in the provincial lobbyist registry for Mr. McGuinty gives his business address as a house in a residential Ottawa neighbourhood.

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He is lobbying on behalf of Desire2Learn, a Kitchener company that makes Brightspace, an educational software system that allows students to work together over the Internet.

His registration indicates he will be lobbying unspecified MPPs, as well as the Ministries of Education and Training, Colleges and Universities. His aim, it says, is to get Desire2Learn's technology into more schools and postsecondary institutions.

The government gave Desire2Learn a $4.25-million grant in January, 2011, to help the company expand its operations. Lobbying records show the company also received $3-million from the education ministry and $14,000 from the transportation department in the last fiscal year.

In a statement, a representative for the former premier said Mr. McGuinty organized a meeting between Desire2Learn and "senior education bureaucrats," which was subsequently cancelled by the company.

"Mr. McGuinty acknowledges that arranging such a meeting constitutes the need to register," the statement said. "Mr. McGuinty, as a private citizen and business person will always ensure that he conducts himself in a transparent and forthright manner."

The statement said the former premier is working as a part-time senior advisor to the company.

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Liz Sandals said she had not met with Mr. McGuinty as a Desire2Learn lobbyist.

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"That being said, we partnered with this organization well before Mr. McGuinty began this role. We look forward to continuing to work with Desire2Learn," Lauren Ramey wrote in an email.

A spokesman for Training, Colleges and Universities Minister Reza Moridi said the minister had not been lobbied by Mr. McGuinty.

Ontario rules prohibit politicians from lobbying the government for a year after leaving office; Mr. McGuinty has been out of that window for several months.

During his time in office, Mr. McGuinty drove a hefty education agenda, including creating a full-day kindergarten program and boosting the province's test scores and literacy levels. He also created a Research and Innovation cabinet portfolio, which he took on himself.

Mr. McGuinty left office under a cloud in February of last year. He was pilloried in the legislature for cancelling two gas-fired power plants in the Toronto suburbs at an estimated cost of a billion dollars. Austerity measures had also damaged his relationship with the teachers' unions, which had withdrawn extracurricular activities and campaigned against his party in a by-election.

His former chief of staff was also revealed to be the subject of a police investigation, accused of bringing in an outside information technology expert to wipe computer hard drives.

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Mr. McGuinty has repeatedly denied knowing anything about the alleged destruction of records in his office. His chief of staff has also maintained his innocence.

For more than a year after he departed the premier's office, Mr. McGuinty was rarely seen at the legislature. Last fall, he took up a post as a senior fellow at Harvard University's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.

After his successor, Premier Kathleen Wynne, scored a majority victory in last June's election, he attended the Speech from the Throne opening the new parliament. Speaking with reporters afterward, Mr. McGuinty referred to the opposition parties' attacks over the gas plants as "name-calling and muckraking."

"It's great news for me personally," he said of Ms. Wynne's victory.

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