Thomas Foster (Canadian politician)
|40th Mayor of Toronto|
|Preceded by||William W. Hiltz|
|Succeeded by||Samuel McBride|
|Member of the Canadian Parliament
for York East
|Preceded by||Riding reestablished (2nd time)|
|Succeeded by||Joseph Henry Harris|
July 24, 1852|
York Township, Canada West
|Died||December 10, 1945(aged 93)|
|Occupation||Butcher, Meat Cutter|
He started his working life as a butcher's boy in Toronto, until he saved enough money to purchase his own butcher shop for $50. The earning from that business allowed him to purchase property which became the source of his eventual wealth.
He was first elected as an alderman for St. David Ward in 1891, then reelected in 1892 and 1894. In 1895 he lost the election. He would not return to council until 1900 as an alderman for Ward 2, a position which he would hold until 1909. He was elected to the Toronto Board of Control in 1910; however, he lost the 1911 election. In 1912 he was again elected Controller and kept his seat until 1917.
Foster served as a Member of Canadian House of Commons from 1917 to 1921. He was elected as a Union Government candidate in the 1917 federal election for East York. He lost in his party's nominations for candidates so he ran as an independent and lost his seat in the 1921 election.
Foster returned to City Council for the next three years, then was elected as mayor in 1925. He was a great supporter of Hydro expenditures and loved flowers. As an alderman he fought for the rebuilding of the pavilion (it had been destroyed by fire) at Allan Gardens. In his 25 years of civic service he would earn the informal title of "Honest Tom". As mayor of Toronto he was reported to have saved the city two million dollars by rigid economics.
Foster was known to collect the rents on his properties in person, even when he was mayor. If a tenant complained about a problem, or wanted a bit of work done, Foster would go out to his car, get his tools and fix the issue on the spot. His penny pinching eventually led to his defeat due to his refusal to raise police salaries.
He was a great traveler and on one of his trips he was inspired by the Taj Mahal. In 1935 and 1936 he had a memorial temple constructed on a hill between Leaskdale and Uxbridge, Ontario, for his family at a cost of $200,000.
He died at the age of 93 and is buried in the massive mausoleum on a hill north of town on Durham Regional Road 1 which includes the remains of Foster, his wife and daughter. $80,000 was left to maintain the property in perpetuity but the trustees spent the principal and the funds had dried up by the 1990s leaving the Town of Uxbridge to take over responsibility for the monument. In 2013, it was estimated that $1 million was needed to repair and restore the building, a controversial task given that the entire budget for the municipality was only $14 million.
Among other things Foster left $500,000 for cancer research, $100,000 for an annual picnic to be held at Exhibition Park for school children, and funds to feed wild birds in Toronto. Inspired by the Great Stork Derby, Mayor Foster also sponsored a contest to reward mothers for their skills at procreation. The prizes were $1,250 for first, $800 for second, and $450 for third. Four ten-years periods began and ended on his death date, and ran from 1945-55, 1948-58, 1951-61, and 1954-64.
A unique bronze portrait medallion of Thomas Foster by noted Canadian artist and cousin of Foster Christian Corbet will be publicly unveiled in 2009 and permanently housed in the memorial.
He was also a member of the Orange Order in Canada.
- Toronto Star, Dec 11, 1945 and the Toronto Globe and Mail, December 12, 1945
- "Uxbridge struggles to repair former Toronto mayor's grandiose mausoleum". Toronto Star. October 18, 2013. Retrieved October 18, 2013.