Successive Lieutenant Governors have established personal themes or priorities while in office, allowing them to focus time and attention on areas in which they have experience or a personal connection.
In her installation address, Ms. Dowdeswell indicated that rather than immediately declare an overarching theme or area of focus, she would spend the beginning of her mandate engaging with Ontarians and seeking to learn what resonates with them. In the time since, Ms. Dowdeswell has noted a positive response from Ontarians to the ideas of storytelling, sustainability (including its three interrelated components of inclusive economic prosperity, environmental stewardship, and social cohesion), and Ontario in the world.
Upon taking office, Ms. Dowdeswell sought to listen to Ontarians and learn what resonates with them, as well as what gives them pride and what they find challenging. In reporting back to the people of Ontario during hundreds of engagements in all corners of the province, she noted a number of common themes—the importance of place, generosity, community building, diversity, and ingenuity—while also remarking that Ontarians were all too often not aware of these commonalities and of each other’s stories.
Informally declaring herself Ontario’s “Storyteller-in-Chief”, Ms. Dowdeswell has set out to engage with Ontarians through multi-disciplinary roundtables and a varied program of community events, encouraging people to listen to each other and to engage in meaningful dialogue. In doing so, Ms. Dowdeswell has pointed to the capacity of stories to give meaning to life experiences, through which personal, family, and community identities are formed.
Ms. Dowdeswell has hosted two major art exhibitions in the Lieutenant Governor’s Suite as part of an exploration of identity and storytelling in Ontario:
Inclusive economic prosperity
Ontarians are fortunate to live in a comparatively prosperous country in which a vast majority of the population has seen rising standards of living over the past 150 years. Yet not all have benefitted from equal access to prosperity, notably Indigenous people, racialized persons, women, and people employed in traditional economic sectors. Ms. Dowdeswell has regularly held roundtables focusing on social and economic concerns during engagements throughout the province. When reflecting on these discussions, she has noted two recurring questions: “Where will our future prosperity come from?” and “Are we keeping place with the world?”
The concept of inclusive prosperity understands that resources are not always fairly distributed in today’s complex and changing world, and recognizes that economic uncertainty has a social cost and that the road to prosperity may be different depending on one’s lived experience, community, or region. It challenges Ontarians to consider the sources of future prosperity and the ways in which as many people as possible have a chance to meaningfully participate in economic and social spheres.
Ontarians often demonstrate concern for Ontario’s natural landscape, expressing a desire to do what they can in their own communities and beyond to act as stewards of the environment. Noting the many dimensions of environmental stewardship, including air and water quality, conservation, and innovation, Ms. Dowdeswell has emphasized the importance of interdisciplinary and systemic approaches to addressing environmental pressures. She has challenged Ontarians to consider the economic effects of an ailing environment and has encouraged people and institutions to consider the voices of Indigenous people and other underrepresented communities when taking environmentally related decisions.
It has been said that truly successful communities are greater than the sum of their parts. In short, this is what is meant by social cohesion. How are we to be secure in our identities and at home in our communities? How do we articulate and work to achieve collective aspirations? To what extent are we able to accept diversity as a strength and work to ensure that everyone has a meaningful opportunity to contribute? Throughout her many engagements, Ms. Dowdeswell has encouraged Ontarians to reflect on these questions.
Ontario in the world
Ms. Dowdeswell has challenged Ontarians to dare to think deeply about their role not only as residents of a province within Canada, but also as global citizens. Recalling that the world is more complex and interconnected than ever, she has emphasized that Ontarians have much to contribute to the world, yet also much to gain. To this end, Ms. Dowdeswell regularly attends events paying tribute to Ontarians fostering international dialogue and action.