Dalton McGuinty may be casting himself as the champion of all-day kindergarten, but apparently he wasn’t the first Ontario premier who was keen on early learning.

Former Conservative premier Mike Harris was also enthusiastic about investing in early childhood development, said his former education guru.

Dr. Fraser Mustard, a Canadian pioneer on the subject, said Harris asked him to draft a proposed program on early development that would be part of a larger government initiative.

Mustard went on to co-author a seminal report in 1999. But the premier’s affinity for the project couldn’t sway his male colleagues, he said.

“He liked the report,” Mustard said in an interview. “His male caucus couldn’t understand it.”

The men in the Tory caucus, which would have included current party leader Tim Hudak, apparently found it difficult to grasp the concept that people are essentially products of their childhoods, he said. They also couldn’t see how the initiative would win them any votes.

It did win the support of most of the women in the Tory caucus, with one or two exceptions, Mustard said.

“They all understood it ... but they couldn’t force it through,” he said.

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