Anne Swarbrick

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Anne Swarbrick
Ontario MPP
In office
Preceded by Richard Johnston
Succeeded by Jim Brown
Constituency Scarborough West
Personal details
Born 1952 (age 64–65)
Richvale, Ontario (now Richmond Hill, Ontario)
Political party New Democrat
Residence Burlington, Ontario
Occupation Civil servant, Non-profit executive

Anne Swarbrick (born c. 1952) is a former politician in Ontario, Canada. She was a New Democratic Party member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1990 to 1995 who represented the Toronto riding of Scarborough West. She served as a cabinet minister in the government of Bob Rae.


Swarbrick was born in Richvale, a small village north of Toronto, now part of Richmond Hill, Ontario.[1] She went to school at Northview Heights Secondary School and later attended York University but dropped out after a year.[2] She started working for the federal immigration department eventually becoming a special investigator and adjudicator. She became an executive assistant with the Public Service Alliance of Canada and eventually became president. She was active as a volunteer director for such organizations as the Yellow Brick House (a shelter for battered women), Oxfam-Ontario, and Amnesty International.[1]


In the 1987 provincial election, she ran as the NDP candidate in the riding of Markham, finishing third against Progressive Conservative Don Cousens and Liberal Gail Newall.[3]

In the 1990 provincial election, she ran to succeed veteran NDP member Richard Johnston in the riding of Scarborough West. The NDP won a majority government and Swarbrick won over half the votes by a margin of 7,626 over her closest opponent.[4] On 1 October 1990, she was named a minister without portfolio responsible for Women's Issues.[5]

In 1991, Swarbrick, who was a pro-choice abortion advocate, spoke out against a new federal law that would have criminalized abortion. In January she helped lead a delegation to the Canadian Senate where the bill was being debated.[6] Eventually the bill failed in the Senate on a tie vote.[7]

Swarbrick underwent surgery for breast cancer in March 1991.[8] She returned to the legislature in June but became involved in a controversy when she and fellow cabinet minister Shelley Martel wrote letters to the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons asking for suspension of the license of a physician who had been convicted on sexually assaulting four teenage female patients. Since the letters violated conflict of interest guidelines she and Martel offered their resignations from cabinet. However Premier Bob Rae refused to accept their resignation. He said, "Not every mistake in these circumstances should lead to a resignation." Liberal leader Robert Nixon, who expressed his view to the Ontario Legislature that, while it may not have been an appropriate action for members of Cabinet, it was not one that should lead to their discharge. He said, "Their reputations and integrity have in no way suffered by these statements."[9]

As Swarbrick's treatments of chemotherapy and radiation continued to take their toll, she eventually resigned her position on 11 September 1991 in order to focus on her recovery.[10] Regaining her health, Swarbrick was again appointed to cabinet as Minister of Culture, Tourism and Recreation on 3 February 1993.[11]

During her time as minister she undertook a wide range of belt-tightening measures. However she did increase grants to the movie industry and supported the Art Gallery of Ontario in bringing the Barnes art collection to Toronto.[12] She also assisted in gaining provincial funding for Willow Breast Cancer Support Canada.[13]

In one of her last acts as minister she granted a licence to allow the bell of the sunken freighter the SS Edmund Fitzgerald to be retrieved to be used for a memorial for the families of the lost sailors.[14] The NDP were defeated in the 1995 provincial election, and Swarbrick lost her seat to Progressive Conservative Jim Brown by 2,557 votes.[15]

Cabinet positions[edit]

Provincial Government of Bob Rae
Cabinet Post (1)
Predecessor Office Successor
Ed Philip
[nb 1]
Karen Haslam
[nb 2]
Minister of Culture, Tourism and Recreation
Marilyn Mushinski
[nb 3]
Bill Saunderson
[nb 4]
Sub-Cabinet Post
Predecessor Title Successor
Mavis Wilson Minister Without Portfolio
Responsible for Women's Issues
Marion Boyd

After politics[edit]

After her defeat, Swarbrick obtained her Master of Business Administration at Schulich School of Business, York University specializing in non-profit management. She started working as the executive director of the Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange.[16]

In 2000, she received an award from York University's business school for her "outstanding public contribution".[17] In 2003 she was appointed as the president of the Toronto Community Foundation.[17] In 2009 she became the executive director of Habitat for Humanity (Halton). She went on to become the director of community development. She also helped lead the creation of the Halton Poverty Roundtable and was a member of Halton Region's Housing Advisory Committee.[18][19] She retired from Habitat For Humanity in 2012.[20]



  1. ^ Was Minister of Tourism and Recreation.
  2. ^ Was Minister of Culture and Communications.
  3. ^ Became Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation.
  4. ^ Became Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism.


  1. ^ a b Gombu, Phinjo (17 May 1992). "NDP select Swarbrick in west riding". Toronto Star. p. E2. 
  2. ^ "Breast cancer is the latest battle for women's minister A 'part-time' workaholic, Anne Swarbrick remains a vocal advocate for the disadvantaged". Toronto Star. 13 July 1991. p. G1. 
  3. ^ Stevens, Victoria (15 September 1987). "Liberals grab 3 of 4 ridings in York Region". Toronto Star. p. N3. 
  4. ^ "Ontario election: A riding-by-riding review". Windsor Star. 7 September 1990. p. A7. 
  5. ^ Trickey, Mike (1 October 1990). "Rae takes over in Ontario, names 11 women to cabinet". The Vancouver Sun. p. A5. 
  6. ^ Ramsay, Joan (16 January 1991). "Bill's loss may be blessing for Tories". Ottawa Citizen. p. A5. 
  7. ^ Kirkey, Sharon (2 February 1991). "Federal abortion bill degrading, Ontario cabinet ministers claim". Ottawa Citizen. p. A7. 
  8. ^ "Women's minister has cancer surgery". Toronto Star. 23 March 1991. p. A19. 
  9. ^ Mackie, Richard; Allen, Gene (14 June 1991). "Rae turns down two ministers' offers of resignations". The Globe and Mail. p. A1. 
  10. ^ "Swarbrick steps down". Toronto Star. 11 September 1991. p. A1. 
  11. ^ Walker, William (3 February 1993). "Rae chops 10 ministries 'leaner' cabinet sworn in". Toronto Star. p. A1. 
  12. ^ Adilman, Sid (18 February 1995). "Province betting on cultural industries to help create jobs". Toronto Star. p. J3. 
  13. ^ "From information forum's tiny seed did mighty Willow grow". The Globe and Mail. 27 September 1996. p. C8. 
  14. ^ "Bell to be raised from Edmund Fitzgerald wreck". The Spectator. 27 May 1995. p. B5. 
  15. ^ "Summary of Valid Ballots by Candidate". Elections Ontario. 8 June 1995. 
  16. ^ Scrivener, Leslie (30 November 1999). "Charities take their cue from business; Dwindling grants, competition put on the pressure". Toronto Star. p. 1. 
  17. ^ a b "Toronto Community Foundation". The Globe and Mail. 12 June 2003. p. B7. 
  18. ^ "Former MPP to head Habitat". The Post. 4 December 2009. p. 1. 
  19. ^ Le, Julia (11 April 2013). "Affordable housing discussed at length at committee meeting". The Post. p. 1. 
  20. ^ "She fought the good fight, won more than she lost and now takes a bow: Anne Swarbrick retires from Habitat for Humanity". Burlington Gazette. 24 May 2012. Retrieved 12 November 2015. 

External links[edit]