David Zimmer

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David Zimmer
David Zimmer.png
David Zimmer[1]
Member of the Ontario Provincial Parliament
for Willowdale
In office
October 2, 2003 – June 7, 2018
Preceded byDavid Young
Succeeded byStan Cho
Personal details
Born (1944-04-07) April 7, 1944 (age 76)
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
Political partyOntario Liberal Party
ResidenceToronto, Ontario, Canada

David Zimmer (born April 7, 1944) is a former politician in Ontario, Canada. He was the Liberal member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario for Willowdale from 2003 to 2018. He was a member of cabinet in the government of Kathleen Wynne. He was the longest serving minister of aboriginal/indigenous affairs in Ontario history to date.


Zimmer was born in Kitchener, Ontario. He attended University of Ottawa Law School and was called to the Bar of Ontario. He first sought elected office as an alderman in Kitchener in the 1970s but was not successful. While living in Kitchener, he was active in the Progressive Conservative Party. When the Kitchener—Wilmot provincial electoral district was created in 1975, Zimmer served as the founding president of the local PC riding association, and managed the 1981 campaign for the local PC candidate Alan Barron. He left the PC Party and joined the Liberals in 1985 , citing disenchantment with both federal leader Brian Mulroney and provincial leader Frank Miller.[2]

Zimmer served several prominent legal functions in both the federal and provincial Liberal parties prior to his election. He was legal counsel for Maurizio Bevilacqua in the two year saga following his 1988 election, where the close results were extensively contested in court and was eventually voided by the Ontario Supreme Court.[3] He also chaired the federal party's permanent appeal committee, overseeing numerous appeals during the 1990 leadership contest and from nomination contests prior to the party's victory in 1993.

From 1982 to 1984 Zimmer was Director of the Humane Society and from 1993 to 1995 was President of the Alzheimer Society of Canada. He also served as an administrative law instructor in the Law Society's Bar Admission Course.[4]

In 1994, Zimmer was appointed by the federal government to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada as its assistant deputy chairman heading the Toronto office, and was shortlisted for the national chairmanship in 1999.[5] In 2001, he was appointed chairperson of Toronto's public housing provider, the Toronto Community Housing Corporation.

Provincial Politics[edit]

In the 2003 Ontario provincial election, Zimmer ran as the Liberal candidate in the riding of Willowdale, defeating Progressive Conservative incumbent and sitting Minister of Municipal Affairs David Young by 1,866 votes.[6] The contest, billed in the press as "the battle of the Davids",[7] was consider a key race to watch given Young's profile as a possible future PC leader and Willowdale's long history of being represented by prominent PC ministers.[8] Willowdale was where the PC came the closest to retaining a seat within the City of Toronto in 2003. Zimmer fended off a challenge by high profile local councillor David Shiner in 2007,[9], and was re-elected again 2011,[10] and 2014,[11] increasing his share of vote and margin of victory each time.

Between 2003 and 2011, Zimmer served as Parliamentary Assistant to Attorneys General Michael Bryant and Chris Bentley. Between 2011 and 2013, Zimmer served as Parliamentary Assistant to Kathleen Wynne, then Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and Minister of Aboriginal Affairs. He was a member of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (2003–06, 2007–11, 2012), Standing Committee on Estimates (2006–07), Standing Committee on Justice Policy (2006–11), Standing Committee on General Government (2012), Select Committee on Elections (2008–09), and Select Committee on the proposed transaction of the TMX Group and the London Stock Exchange Group (2011).

In 2004, his motion to create an "Elder Abuse Awareness Day" was passed with support from all parties.[12] He also assisted former Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant with legislation to ban pit bulls in Ontario. In 2006, he sponsored a Private Member’s Bill which will suspend the driver’s license of anyone who is convicted of impaired boating. It passed with unanimous consent of all parties in the Ontario Legislature.[13]

Zimmer was awarded the Greatest Local Hero Award by the North York Town Crier for his volunteer and community work in Willowdale.[citation needed] In 2005, he received a "Social Work Doctors’ Colloquium" Award of Merit for his work toward a just and caring society.[14] He has also been cited for work on Ontario Municipal Board reform and the new City of Toronto Act, which gives Toronto greater power to manage its own affairs.

During Ontario Liberal Party's 2012-13 leadership election, Zimmer along with Linda Jeffrey, Reza Moridi and Mario Sergio, were the first four caucus supporters of Kathleen Wynne's candidacy, declaring their support at Wynne's campaign launch on November 5, 2012.

Minister of Aboriginal Affairs[edit]

In February 2013, Zimmer, who was Premier Kathleen Wynne's parliamentary assistant in the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and one of her earliest caucus supporters, was appointed by Wynne to her cabinet to succeed herself as the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs.[15] Under Zimmer's watch, the aboriginal affairs ministry was able to secure significant, in some case unprecedented, progress on many files, in large part due to the Wynne's personal interest and support in the portfolio and her personal affinity with Zimmer. He oversaw Ontario's Response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, including a $250 million investment on a suite of education, health, cultural and social services programs focused on reconciliation and addressing the legacy and negative impacts of residential schools. As part of Ontario's response, in June 2016, his ministerial title was renamed to Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.[16]

Zimmer is the longest serving minister for indigenous affairs in Ontario history to date, and was only one of two ministers who serve no other ministerial role while minister.[17] During his tenure, he placed specific focus on the indigenous relationship aspect of his role. He was determined to personally visited as many of Ontario's First Nation Communities as possible, including remote reserves in extremely poor conditions that are difficult to reach. By the end of his tenure, he personally visited 129 of Ontario's 133 First Nations.

In the 2018 provincial election, when the Liberal Party suffered its worst result in the party's 161-year history, Zimmer was defeated locally in Willowdale by Progressive Conservative candidate Stan Cho.[18]

Ontario Provincial Government of Kathleen Wynne
Cabinet post (1)
Predecessor Office Successor
Chris Bentley Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation[a]
Greg Rickford

Electoral record[edit]

2018 Ontario general election: Willowdale
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Progressive Conservative Stan Cho 17,732 43.63 +10.16
Liberal David Zimmer 10,815 26.61 -25.97
New Democratic Saman Tabasinejad 10,481 25.79 +15.64
Green Randi Ramdeen 932 2.29 -1.51
Libertarian Catherine MacDonald-Robertson 453 1.11
Independent Birinder S. Ahluwalia 233 0.57
Total valid votes 40,646 100.0  
Progressive Conservative gain from Liberal Swing +18.10
Source: Elections Ontario[19]
2014 Ontario general election
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal David Zimmer 24,300 52.58 +1.58
Progressive Conservative Michael Ceci 15,468 33.47 +0.08
New Democratic Alexander Brown 4,693 10.15 -2.63
Green Teresa Pun 1,758 3.80 +1.65
Total valid votes 46,219 100.0  
Liberal hold Swing +1.58
Source: Elections Ontario[11]
2011 Ontario general election
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal David Zimmer 22,034 51.00
Progressive Conservative Vince Agovino 14,428 33.39
New Democratic Alexander Brown 5,522 12.78
Green Michael Vettese 930 2.15
Freedom Amy Brown 293 0.68
Source: Elections Ontario[10]
2007 Ontario general election
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal David Zimmer 21,065 47.7
Progressive Conservative David Shiner 15,418 34.9
New Democratic Rini Ghosh 3,755 8.5
Green Torbjorn Zetterlund 2,920 6.6
Libertarian Heath Thomas 469 1.1
Family Coalition Kristin Monster 405 0.9
Independent Charles Roddy Sutherland 121 0.3
Source: Elections Ontario[20]
2003 Ontario general election
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal David Zimmer 21,823 46.97 4.69
Progressive Conservative David Young 19,957 42.95 -7.57
New Democratic Yvonne Bobb 3,084 6.64 2.38
Green Sharolyn Vettese 933 2.01 1.26
Family Coalition Rina Morra 442 0.95 0.02
Freedom Vaughan Byrnes 227 0.49 0.14
Source: Elections Ontario[6]



  1. ^ From 2013 to 2016 portfolio was named Minister of Aboriginal Affairs.


  1. ^ Fraser, Rob (May 12, 2010), Photographer
  2. ^ "PC director bolts ranks for Liberals". The Globe and Mail, May 2, 1985, p.8.
  3. ^ "Election result overturned again". Toronto Star, December 17, 1988, p.A14.
  4. ^ "McGuinty Announces Cabinet Committees and Parliamentary Assistants (23-Oct-03)". www.udiontario.com. Archived from the original on December 18, 2005. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  5. ^ "Ottawa considers new refugee board chief ; Successful candidate faces declining public confidence in system". Toronto Star, Sep 20, 1999, p.1.
  6. ^ a b "Summary of Valid Ballots by Candidate". Elections Ontario. October 2, 2003. Archived from the original on September 11, 2014.
  7. ^ "Battling Davids don't sling shots". Toronto Star, Sep 23, 2003, p.C2.
  8. ^ "Young tries to hold key riding; Willowdale". The North York Mirror, 26 Sep, 2003, p.5.
  9. ^ John Goddard (October 11, 2007). "Willowdale: Zimmer trumpets victory over 'high-profile' councillor". Toronto Star. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  10. ^ a b "Summary of Valid Ballots Cast for Each Candidate" (PDF). Elections Ontario. October 6, 2011. p. 19. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 30, 2013. Retrieved March 2, 2014.
  11. ^ a b "General Election by District: Willowdale". Elections Ontario. June 12, 2014. Archived from the original on September 23, 2014. Retrieved August 16, 2014.
  12. ^ "Ontario marks first provincial Elder Abuse Awareness Day". Canada NewsWire. October 19, 2004.
  13. ^ "Ontario tightens penalties for impaired boat operators". www.canada.com. June 24, 2006. Archived from the original on November 8, 2012. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  14. ^ "Zimmer honoured for social work". The North York Mirror. March 18, 2005.
  15. ^ "Ontario's new cabinet". Waterloo Region Record. Kitchener, Ont. February 12, 2013. p. A3.
  16. ^ "Kathleen Wynne's shuffled cabinet features 40% women". CBC News. June 13, 2016.
  17. ^ Reevely, David (June 26, 2018). "Indigenous Affairs could get a shakeup". National Post.
  18. ^ Vincent, Donovan (June 7, 2018). "Willowdale's Stan Cho take PCs into Liberal territory". Toronto Star.
  19. ^ "Summary of Valid Votes Cast for each Candidate" (PDF). Elections Ontario. p. 12. Retrieved January 20, 2019.
  20. ^ "Summary of Valid Ballots Cast for Each Candidate" (PDF). Elections Ontario. October 10, 2007. p. 17 (xxvi). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 7, 2009. Retrieved March 2, 2014.

External links[edit]