I always look forward to interviewing politicians, especially if they are new to the political arena. This week, I had an opportunity to sit down with the newest MPP for Durham Region, Mr. Todd McCarthy.
Whenever I have conversations with politicians, I do my best to put my personal political views on the back burner, in order to learn about new policies, concepts and the story behind the person.
Quite often, a new politician takes time to get their feet wet; however, that is not the case with Mr. McCarthy. Having only been in this job for a year, he has already taken on the roles of Parliamentary Assistant to the President of the Treasury Board, Member of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts and Deputy Government Whip. Todd was quick to point out his most important job is being the Member of Parliament for Durham.
Originally from Scarborough, Todd was one of three sons, born to Mary and John McCarthy. During his high school years, at Senator O'Connor College School, he was very active in sports, as well as theatre. "It was a great mix in my family," Todd explained. "My dad was a real jock, and my mother was a lover of the arts."
Along with hockey, baseball, football, golf and tennis, Todd also participated in all the musicals performed at his school, including a soprano role in South Pacific.
The next leg in his life's journey took him to St. Michael's College at the University of Toronto and then to Osgoode Hall Law School. Upon being called to the bar, Todd joined a small firm in Toronto, but when the late Jim Flaherty, former Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance, opened a branch office in Durham, Todd was accepted to join the firm, Flaherty, Dow, Elliott.
In those early days, Todd was involved in everything from duty work and legal aid, branching into insurance litigation, a specialty of the firm. With Flaherty's full-time involvement in politics, Todd stepped up to the plate and was heavily involved in jury trials, appeals and arbitrations. Todd has personally been involved in 125 jury and non-jury trials during his 30-plus-year career.
Todd McCarthy has the privilege of being one of the youngest Certified Specialists in civil litigation. I asked what that meant, and Todd explained. Ontario stopped appointing King's Council (formerly Queen's Council) in the late eighties. This form of recognition, for members of the Law Society of Ontario, has been replaced with the honour of being a specialist in their field, and Todd McCarthy, after only seven years in practice, was awarded this distinguished honour.
Todd became involved in community service back in the 1990s by becoming a school board trustee. He was also appointed a deputy judge of the Small Claims Court. This position gave him great insight into issues facing the average public. "It was quite an honour for me, and I felt it was important to make sure the defendants were given a fair opportunity. I was, in that role, after all, a public servant."
I asked Todd how he balanced his family and career life, as he is extremely busy. The riding of Durham includes North Oshawa, Clarington and, of course, Scugog, which means a great deal of travel time. Todd gratefully acknowledged the support of his wife, Kathy, as well as his three children.
When Todd was a trial lawyer, he was travelling all over Ontario, so he has had a lot of experience in balancing his life. As Assistant to the President of the Treasury Board, trips to places like Timmins and Sault Ste. Marie, are part of the job.
Most newly elected politicians tend to sit back and slowly ease into the position. Todd, on the other hand, came out of the gate running. After the throne speech, the first person to speak was Todd McCarthy. "That was a very special honour, which was re-enforced with a very complimentary note from the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly," Todd explained.
One of the best elements of being in public service, especially at this level, is the excitement and diversity of the position. Todd referenced a quote by the late Bill Davis, who said, 'The most exciting day in the practice of law, is still not as exciting as the most boring day in politics.'
I enjoyed my interview with MPP McCarthy and found him to be enthusiastic, professional and someone who will deal with each problem directly, which is what we need in government. You can see my TV interview with Todd McCarthy on Rogers TV and YouTube, starting June 18th.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award-winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. His show, 'The Jonathan van Bilsen Show,' on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube, features many of the people included in this column.