One-On-One With Steven Del Duca

Vaughan’s recently re-elected MPP has found a new position as Ontario’s minister of transportation — a role that comes with a $29-billion responsibility. We caught up with Steven Del Duca to discuss his budding career, family life and love for presidential biographies

City Life: Not too long ago you were walking the neighbourhoods of Vaughan, knocking on doors to generate support. Now you’re heading a $29-billion transit and infrastructure program for the province. Looking back, did you ever think that all that groundwork would lead to your first cabinet position at Queen’s Park?
Steven Del Duca:
During the course of my bi-election campaign and also during this past election campaign that finished up on June 12th, and really as a candidate, you are focused on getting out to the doors and talking to people in your community, telling them your story and telling them why you think you would be the best ambassador, the best champion or advocate to represent them, their neighbours, their family at Queen’s Park. So during that 35-day election campaign, I was really focused on talking to people about why I thought I would do a good job for the community. It’s like an extended job interview, when you think about it that way.

CL: An interview with a few thousand potential bosses.
Exactly, and as it should be. So having any other thoughts about what assignment you might receive, that’s all secondary. It really is important to make sure that not only are you telling your story and that you’re asking for support but that you’re listening as well, to hear what people are motivated by, what people are nervous about, what they’re excited about, what they’re looking for in terms of the kinds of results they want you to deliver for their neighbourhoods. So that’s what I focused on.

CL: What was your initial reaction when you found out you were to be named minister of transportation?
I was excited. I was extremely humbled when the premier called and asked me to take on this assignment. There’s no doubt that there’s a fairly large, substantial job ahead of our government. Generally speaking, we have a very thoughtful and ambitious program, not just for transportation and transit, but across all of the different policy areas. So it’s a phenomenal team, the premier is an exceptional leader and we’re all just excited about getting our sleeves rolled up, digging right into it and actually getting on with the work that people have asked us to take on.

CL: Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua was a former member of parliament. Has he ever given you any advice for your new role?
Well, he’s never given me hairstyling tips. But beyond that I would say the best piece of advice is: you’re never going to go in the wrong direction if you’re doing something for the right reason. Those are my words, not his, but that’s essentially what it is. If it’s about community service, if it’s about giving back to the community and you always keep that as the primary focus of what you’re doing, you’ll be fine in the end.

CL: You live in Woodbridge with your wife and two daughters. If you were to take them out for a meal, what restaurant would we find you at?
Well, we are very, very blessed. And I say this as someone who has lived here for a little while, 27 years. There was virtually nothing or nowhere to go when I think about back then — for example, no movie theatres in Vaughan. It really has changed so dramatically over the last 27 years. My girls, they like Turtle Jack’s. It’s a good atmosphere there; it’s a lot of fun. But there are lots of great restaurants here.

CL: Your house is on fire. Your family is already safe. What are the three things you try and save?
Well, we have a dog. Wow, that’s a great question. Three things? The dog is number 1. I have a lot of books and I love to read, so I would try to take as many of the books as I could possibly take with me. And photos. My wife has done an extraordinary job of putting up throughout our house a ton of pictures that show, for example, the day that I proposed to her on Prince Edward Island. We have the picture we took right there as I made the proposal. And pictures of the girls when they were young and as babies. So there you go: books, pictures and the dog, I think, would be the three things that I would grab.

CL: You mentioned books: any authors or genres in particular that you like to read?
A lot of people I know tease me because I don’t read any fiction — or at least it’s been a long time since I’ve regularly read any fiction. But I really and truly love American presidential biographies. I know it sounds very exciting [laughs], but it’s the thing that I think is great.

CL: What are you reading right now?
You’re going to laugh. It’s Stress Test by Timothy Geithner, who just finished serving as [U.S.] President Barack Obama’s secretary of the treasury. I’m about halfway through it. It was about his experiences, how he got into that position and then how he and the rest of President Obama’s team dealt with the fallout from the 2008 global economic crisis. You’re thinking this guy is quite the nerd, I can see it on your face.

CL: No, not at all!
But it’s a great book. It’s fascinating because I don’t think most people understand how close we were as a global economy in 2008 to having a real sort of pure meltdown and the fact that [Timothy Geithner] had a front-row seat into how they stopped the crisis and how they moved the crisis forward — it’s a fascinating read.

CL: Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne was once the minister of transportation back in 2010. You’re now sitting in that same chair. Do you have similar aspirations for the future?
My primary responsibility, and I never forget this, is to be the MPP for this community. I have a ton of faith in what we’re able to do here in Vaughan when we work together. We have enormous positive energy as a community that when it’s harnessed the right way can produce phenomenal results. So I am deeply, deeply honoured to have that as my primary responsibility and I try never to forget that. I have a new assignment now, obviously, to work on behalf of our government and people right across this province to deliver on our transit and transportation plan, and that’s what I’m going to work hard to do. But the most important thing for me is to remember I’m the MPP for Vaughan at the same time as remembering I’m a father, I’m a husband, I’m a son, I’m a brother, and that’s what it’s all about for me.

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