Michael Bryant (politician)
|Member of Provincial Parliament|
June 3, 1999 – June 7, 2009
|Preceded by||New district|
|Succeeded by||Eric Hoskins|
|Born||Michael J. Bryant
April 13, 1966
Victoria, British Columbia
(sep. December 2010)
|Occupation||lawyer, professor, consultant|
|Cabinet||Minister of Economic Development (2008-2009)
Minister of Aboriginal Affairs (2007-2008)
Attorney-General (2003-2007) Minister Responsible for Aboriginal Affairs (2003-05), Minister Responsible for Democratic Renewal (2003-05)
Michael J. Bryant (born April 13, 1966) is a former public administrator and former politician in Ontario, Canada. A Harvard-trained lawyer, he was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, representing the electoral district of St. Paul's for the Ontario Liberal Party from 1999 until 2009. He served until May 25, 2009, as a member of Dalton McGuinty's provincial cabinet, first as Attorney General, being the province's youngest-ever to hold that post, and subsequently as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Minister of Economic Development and Government House Leader. He currently works as a principal with Ishkonigan Consulting & Mediation.
Bryant left provincial politics to take up the newly created post of chief executive officer of Invest Toronto, an agency owned and operated by the City of Toronto with a mandate to attract investment to the municipality and facilitate economic development. After an altercation with a cyclist on August 31, 2009, Bryant was charged with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous driving causing death. Days later he resigned as CEO of Invest Toronto, while maintaining that he was innocent of the charges. On May 25, 2010, all charges against Bryant were withdrawn, with prosecutors describing the cyclist as the aggressor in the incident.
Bryant was raised in the Greater Victoria area of British Columbia, where his father Ray was mayor of Esquimalt from 1966 to 1969. Known for his "pugnacious streak," he trained as a boxer from childhood.
He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of British Columbia in 1988, and a Master's Degree from the same institution in 1989. Bryant was also a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity at UBC. He graduated as in 1992 from Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in Toronto with a law degree. and was the silver medalist of his year. He then earned an LL.M. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1994. Bryant is a Fulbright Fellow. He clerked at the Supreme Court of Canada in 1992-93, and was later a lawyer at the firm of Sullivan & Cromwell in New York City, as well as lecturing in law at King's College London in England, and practicing litigation at McCarthy Tétrault. In 1997, he became an adjunct professor in international law at the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto.
In December 2009, he returned to the private practice of law and joined Norton Rose LLP (formerly Ogilvy Renault) as Senior Advisor and was involved with commercial and investment matters relating to energy, cleantech, natural resources and infrastructure/public-private partnerships. In 2012 he moved to the Ishkonigan, a consulting and mediation firm owned by Phil Fontaine, where he accepted a position as a principal.
Bryant was first elected to the Ontario legislature in the provincial election of 1999, defeating incumbent Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Isabel Bassett in St. Paul's by almost 5,000 votes. Bryant had won the Liberal Party's nomination meeting over Kathleen Wynne, 328 votes to 143. The Progressive Conservatives were re-elected, and Bryant served as his party's Critic to the Attorney General for the next four years.
He was re-elected by a greater majority in the provincial election of 2003. The Liberals won a majority government in this election, and Bryant was appointed Ontario Attorney General and Minister with responsibility for Native Affairs and Democratic Renewal. While Attorney General he helped create Ontario's controversial Stunt Driving law, aimed at reducing street racing, and supported seizing and crushing vehicles that had been modified for street racing. Bryant was also a strong proponent of a complete ban on handguns in Canada, at one point launching a website named "No Gun, No Funeral."
Bryant was re-elected in the 2007 election and appointed as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs following a post-election cabinet shuffle on October 30, 2007. On September 18, 2008, he became Minister of Economic Development, replacing Sandra Pupatello.
On May 23, 2009, Bryant announced that he would be leaving provincial politics in order to become CEO of the newly established Invest Toronto corporation, with Dalton McGuinty taking over his portfolio of Economic Development. Bryant denied that his departure was as a result of a falling-out with McGuinty, though reports suggested that Bryant's outspoken nature and ambition for the Premier's job may have been controversial within McGuinty's inner circle. Bryant's resignation was effective June 7, 2009. Eric Hoskins retained the seat for the Liberals in a by-election held on September 17, 2009.
2009 criminal charges
On September 1, 2009, Bryant was taken into police custody after an altercation with cyclist Darcy Allan Sheppard on a downtown Toronto street which resulted in the cyclist's death. Bryant was later charged with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous driving causing death with respect to the incident. On May 25, 2010, prosecutor Richard Peck withdrew all charges against Bryant stemming from the incident, noting there was "no reasonable prospect of conviction."
On the evening of August 31, 2009, Bryant and his wife were driving home in his Saab convertible after celebrating their 12th wedding anniversary. At one point, they passed a cyclist, Darcy Allan Sheppard, who according to an interview with Bryant was tossing garbage and holding up traffic by executing figure eights on his bike. As they neared a pedestrian crossing Sheppard pulled in front of Bryant’s vehicle at a red light. Subsequent events were captured on security camera.
According to Bryant his vehicle stalled when he stopped behind Sheppard. His car then lurched forward from his attempts to restart the vehicle which brought the car close to or in contact with Sheppard’s tire. Expert analysis of security camera footage confirmed the car’s headlights dimmed in a manner consistent with this explanation and that the vehicle had a “sensitive and light clutch”. The Crown also determined that no damage to the bicycle’s rear wheel rim was evident. Witnesses said that Sheppard confronted Bryant and his wife “loudly and aggressively” while they “remained passive.” The car’s next movement resulted in Sheppard ending up on the hood of the car. The car travelled 30 feet, lasted 2.5 second, the car’s speed was between 9 and 13.4 km/h and brakes were applied after 1 second. According to Bryant he was looking down trying to restart the vehicle and applied the brakes when he saw Sheppard on the hood. The crown determined that there was no evidence Sheppard was seriously injured at this point and there was not enough evidence to justify a separate charge based upon Bryant’s driving to this point.
The fatality occurred when Bryant drove away and Sheppard grabbed hold of the side of the vehicle. The car veered into the opposite lanes, Sheppard's body struck a fire hydrant knocking him off the car and his head hit the pavement. There were witnesses who said it appeared Bryant had attempted to knock Sheppard off the car by striking him against trees and mailboxes. There were also witness reports that Sheppard reached into Bryant's convertible and grabbed Bryant or the steering wheel.  Bryant parked his car around the corner and called 911. Sheppard later died of his injuries in hospital.
Sheppard's girlfriend reported to the media that before the incident, Sheppard had been intoxicated to such an extent that she did not want him to cycle home from her apartment. Police had been called to her apartment that evening to investigate “unknown trouble” and had briefly questioned Sheppard. At the time of death, Sheppard's blood alcohol level was 0.183.
Bryant was released the next day by the police on his own recognizance without a bail hearing, appearing in a suit and tie to read a prepared statement to the media, where he maintained that he was innocent of the charges and extended condolences to Sheppard's family. A veteran defence lawyer suggested that "anyone else would have been taken to bail court and forced to stand in the box, unshaven and dishevelled". The terms of Bryant's release required him to abstain from driving, surrender his passport and remain in Ontario. He was defended by Marie Henein. Bryant also resigned as CEO of Invest Toronto, saying that the arrest would act as a distraction for the corporation.
During this time, social media was used to argue both sides. Bryant hired the services of a public relations firm, Navigator Ltd., while a campaign emerged on blogs and social networks such as Twitter and YouTube with surveillance video clips that allege to cast the victim in a more favourable light. A Twitter account run by Navigator, @bryantfacts, was countered by another Twitter account, @bryanttruths, set up by public relations professional Don Wiedman. On YouTube, an anonymous user posted videos of the surveillance footage broadcast by CTV News, CityTV News, and CBC News.
The Ministry of the Attorney General appointed British Columbia's Richard Peck as the prosecutor to avoid a conflict-of-interest, as Bryant previously appointed judges when he was serving as Attorney General. His first court date was scheduled for October 19, 2009. The matter was adjourned six times.
On May 25, 2010, prosecutor Richard Peck withdrew all charges against Bryant stemming from the incident, noting there was "no reasonable prospect of conviction." Peck said that "[Bryant] was attacked by a man who unfortunately was in a rage. [Bryant] was legally justified in his attempt to get away", and noted that Sheppard had run-ins with six other motorists in the same month before his encounter with Bryant, and was witnessed throwing traffic cones in front of cars at the corner of Bloor and Yonge less than twenty minutes before the incident and Sheppard's subsequent death. The decision to withdraw charges was criticized by Marli Epp, a spokesperson for the Toronto Bike Messenger Association and Yvonne Bambrick, Executive Director of the Toronto Cyclists Union.
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