David Ramsay (Ontario politician)
|MPP for Timiskaming—Cochrane
|Preceded by||Ed Havrot|
|Succeeded by||John Vanthof|
|Born||April 23, 1948
|Political party||New Democrat → Liberal|
|Residence||Belle Vallée, Ontario|
Early life and career
Born in Australia, Ramsay moved to Canada with his parents at age one after having been adopted in Sydney, and was raised in Oakville, Ontario. He attended Concordia University in Montreal, and after graduation worked as a farmer in New Liskeard and a clerk-treasurer in Casey Township, in northern Ontario. In 1977, he briefly joined the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario to support a friend's bid for the party's nomination. He later served as president of the Timiskaming Federation of Agriculture in 1984-85, was a founding member of the Timiskaming Grain Growers Board, and served as chair of the Timiskaming Hospital Board for a time.
Election as a New Democrat
Ramsay was first elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in the 1985 provincial election. He served as Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) as part of the Ontario New Democratic Party caucus, representing the riding of Timiskaming. He defeated incumbent Progressive Conservative Ed Havrot by almost 3000 votes, as the once-powerful Tory machine in northern Ontario began to lose its support base.
Becoming a Liberal
On 6 October 1986, Ramsay crossed the floor to join the governing Liberals, claiming that Northern Ontario needed greater representation in government. (Ramsay also seems to have disliked the Toronto leadership of the NDP, describing it as of touch with his rural/populist base.)
Despite an intense effort by the NDP to defeat Ramsay in the 1987 election, he won re-election by over 4,000 votes and was appointed to Liberal Premier David Peterson's cabinet. On 29 September 1987, Ramsay became Ontario Minister of Correctional Services. Following a cabinet shuffle on 2 August 1989, he was named Ontario Minister of Agriculture and Food. Ramsay kept his seat in the 1990 election that defeated the Liberal government and brought Ramsay's former party, the NDP, to power under Bob Rae.
He ran for the leadership of the Liberal Party in the 1992 Ontario Liberal leadership convention, but placed last in a field of six candidates. Like fellow candidate Greg Sorbara, his campaign included both right-wing and left-wing elements. He supported tax reduction (including lower gasoline taxes, a reduction in the Provincial Sales Tax and a one-year moratorium on the federal Goods and Services Tax), and favoured open Sunday shopping and allowing corner stores to sell beer and wine. He also supported pay equity measures, and described himself as pro-choice on abortion.
In the provincial elections of 1995 and 1999, Ramsay's primary opposition came not from the New Democrats but the Progressive Conservatives, whose leader Mike Harris represented a neighbouring riding. He won by a clear margin on both occasions. In 1996, he endorsed Dwight Duncan's bid to lead the Ontario Liberal Party.
Ramsay served as chair of the caucus from 1993 to 1994 and again from 1999 to 2003.
With the victory of the Liberals under the leadership of Dalton McGuinty in the 2003 election, Ramsay returned to cabinet as Ontario Minister of Natural Resources on 23 October 2003. He was also given responsibility for Aboriginal Affairs on 29 June 2005. In June 2007, Ramsay was appointed Ontario's first Minister of Aboriginal Affairs.
In the 2007 provincial election, Ramsay won by an uncharacteristically narrow margin of just 634 votes over New Democrat candidate John Vanthof. Ramsay expected to continue as a minister but was dropped from cabinet and appointed as Premier Dalton McGuinty's Parliamentary Assistant.
- Windsor Star, 26 June 1996.
- "Ontario Liberal David Ramsay to retire from politics". Globe and Mail, January 13, 2011.