|Irene R. Mathyssen
|Member of the Canadian Parliament
April 3, 2006
|Preceded by||Pat O'Brien|
|Ontario MPP for Middlesex|
|Preceded by||Doug Reycraft|
|Succeeded by||Bruce Smith|
August 16, 1951 |
|Political party||New Democratic Party|
|Profession||community activist, high school teacher|
Irene R. Mathyssen (born August 16, 1951 in London, Ontario) is a Canadian politician and a Member of Parliament in the Canadian House of Commons. She was previously a New Democratic Party Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) in Ontario from 1990 to 1995, and briefly served as a minister in the government of Premier Bob Rae.
Education and early career
Mathyssen was educated at the University of Western Ontario from 1970 to 1975, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Drama, and a Bachelor of Education degree. She subsequently worked as a high school English teacher. She was a member of the London Board of Education from 1981 to 1990, and was president of the Middlesex NDP riding association from 1989 to 1990. She is a prominent community activist, and has been involved in labour activism in the London region.
Provincial political career
She was elected to represent Middlesex in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in the 1990 provincial election, defeating incumbent Liberal Doug Reycraft by 520 votes (out of 38,382 cast). She served as government Whip from 1990 to 1991, and was a parliamentary assistant from 1991 to 1994. She was named a Minister without Portfolio, responsible for Culture, Tourism and Recreation, on October 21, 1994, near the end of the Rae government's term in office.
The NDP was defeated by the Progressive Conservative Party in the 1995 provincial election, and Mathyssen was personally defeated in Middlesex, finishing third behind Reycroft and Progressive Conservative Bruce Smith. She then returned to her teaching career.
She ran in the London—Fanshawe riding in the 1999 provincial election and placed third, behind PC candidate Frank Mazzilli and Liberal Peter Mancini. Mathyssen ran provincially in London—Fanshawe for a second time in the 2003 provincial election, and this time finished a strong second, losing to Liberal Khalil Ramal by fewer than 2,000 votes.
Federal political career
She ran for the federal New Democratic Party in the 1997 election, and finished third in the riding of London—Fanshawe, well behind Liberal incumbent Pat O'Brien. Notwithstanding her previous defeats, Mathyssen was considered to have a strong chance of defeating Pat O'Brien in the 2004 federal election. A late surge in Liberal support, however, gave O'Brien a victory of more than 3,000 votes.
2006: Elected as MP
She again ran in London—Fanshawe in the 2006 election. Pat O'Brien had left the Liberal Party by this time, and sat out his remaining time in the House of Commons as an independent. He opted not to run in the 2006 election. Mathyssen won the riding with 34% of the vote, becoming one of 29 New Democrats elected.
Until her election in 2006, she continued to teach English at Sir Frederick Banting Secondary School in London, Ontario and served on the District 11 Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation Political Action Committee. She was a vocal opponent of the Invasion of Iraq in 2003, and has participated in many local peace rallies. Mathyssen is also a member of the Ontario Health Coalition.
Mathyssen is the chair of the NDP Women's Caucus. Mathyssen is also the NDP critic for Housing and for the Status of Women, and the vice-chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women.
In the House of Commons, Mathyssen has tabled a Private Members Bill, known as the Housing Bill of Rights, that would provide for secure, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians. She opposes cuts to housing programs and women's organizations. Mathyssen has been involved in the Pride Parade and the London AIDS walk, the Women's Community House, the London Coalition Against Pesticides and the Coalition of Canadian Immigrants.
During a parliamentary session on December 5, 2007, Mathyssen committed a blunder when she stood in the Commons and accused Conservative James Moore of looking at images of "scantily clad" women on his personal laptop computer at his desk in the House of Commons. She openly questioned his integrity and said his actions "disrespected women". James Moore denied the allegations were true. Later in the day, Mathyssen and Moore spoke in person about the incident; Moore explained that the woman he had been looking at on his laptop computer screen was his girlfriend. Shortly after, Mathyssen retracted her statement and apologized to Moore.
Mathyssen was re-elected as the Member of Parliament for London-Fanshawe in the 2008 federal election. In that election she was the only incumbent in the London region re-elected with increased total vote (17,672) and percentage of popular vote (43.1%). In addition to retaining her role as Status of Women critic, Mathyssen was also named the NDP's deputy critic for public safety, and in this role has been an advocate for Canadian firefighters. She also served as the NDP's deputy critic for Veterans' Affairs.
In December 2010, Mathyssen introduced Bill C-601, which allowed any worker who had lost their job through no fault of their own to make a single lump sum payment over the maximum allowable investment into their Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) without financial penalty. It also ensured that workers would receive the maximum amount of Employment Insurance benefits for which they are eligible; workers would be able to collect EI immediately despite receiving severance pay.
In the 2011 election, Mathyssen was re-elected with 50% of the popular vote, defeating Conservative opponent Jim Chahbar by over 7,000 votes. She was named Official Opposition Critic for Seniors in the NDP’s shadow cabinet by Jack Layton. Despite the tradition of committee chairs going to government MPs, she currently serves as chair of the House of Commons Committee on the Status of Women. She also sits on the committees for Veteran’s Affairs and Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.
On January 1, 2012, Caterpillar Inc locked out over 450 workers from the Electro Motive Diesel plant in Mathyssen’s riding of London-Fanshawe. Mathyssen was a vocal critic of the company’s actions and a strong supporter of the locked out workers. After the company announced it was closing the plant on February 3, Mathyssen put forward a motion in the House of Commons to amend the Investment Canada Act to prevent companies from taking these actions in the future.
- CBC News
- CTV.ca | New Democrat will apologize for political blunder
- Irene Mathyssen
- Irene Mathyssen – Parliament of Canada biography
- Ontario College of Teachers Record
- Ontario Legislative Assembly Parliamentarian History