Greg Sorbara

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Greg Sorbara
Ontario MPP
In office
Preceded by New riding
Succeeded by Steven Del Duca
Constituency Vaughan
In office
Preceded by Al Palladini
Succeeded by Riding abolished
Constituency Vaughan—King—Aurora
In office
Preceded by Don Cousens
Succeeded by Al Palladini
Constituency York Centre
In office
Preceded by William Hodgson
Succeeded by Charles Beer
Constituency York North
Personal details
Born (1946-09-04) 4 September 1946 (age 70)
Toronto, Ontario
Political party Liberal
Spouse(s) Kate Barlow
Children 6
Residence Vaughan, Ontario
Profession Lawyer

Gregory Sam "Greg" Sorbara, (born September 4, 1946) is former politician in Ontario, Canada. He was a Liberal member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1985 to 1995, and again from 2001 to 2012 who represented ridings north of Toronto in the city of Vaughan. Sorbara served as a cabinet minister in the governments of David Peterson and Dalton McGuinty.

He resigned from cabinet October 11, 2005, following a police investigation involving his family's real estate development firm and was reinstated on May 23, 2006 after a judge ruled that there was no cause for including Sorbara's name on a search warrant. Sorbara chaired the party's successful 2007 election campaign but announced on October 26, 2007 that he was leaving the cabinet to spend more time with his family but would continue as a backbench MPP. On August 1, 2012, Sorbara announced that he was retiring from the legislature but would stay on as chair of the Liberal's election campaign.[1]


Sorbara was born in Toronto, Ontario in 1946. His parents, Sam and Grace immigrated to Canada from Calabria, Italy before they met and married in Toronto. He was the youngest of four children. He graduated from St. Michael's College School. After high school he enrolled in a Basilian school to train as a priest but left after three months. He attended University of Toronto for four years but left without graduating. In 1967 he joined the Company of Young Canadians and worked for two years with street youth in Vancouver. There he met his partner, Kate Barlow and together they raised six children. He subsequently returned to Toronto, completed his education at York University, Glendon College and Osgoode Hall Law School, and began to practise law.[2]

From 1995 to 2003, Sorbara was a partner in The Sorbara Group, a prominent real estate and land development firm, and served as a director on the corporate board of Royal Group Technologies Inc. He was also director of the York United Way, as well as a Member of the Board of Alumni that governs York University.

His daughter Martina Sorbara is a singer-songwriter, currently touring the United Kingdom as frontwoman to the electropop outfit Dragonette.[3]

Politics (1985-1995)[edit]

In the 1985 provincial election Sorbara ran as the Liberal in the riding of York North, a suburban riding north of Toronto. He defeated Progressive Conservative incumbent William Hodgson by 4,100 votes.[4] The Liberals under David Peterson were able to form a minority government after this election, and Sorbara was appointed Minister of Colleges and Universities and Minister of Skills Development on June 26, 1985.[5]

Sorbara was re-elected in the redistributed riding of York Centre in the 1987 provincial election.[6] On September 29, 1987, he became Minister of Labour with responsibility for Women's Issues.[7] Following a cabinet shuffle in August 1989, he became Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations.[8]

In 1990, Sorbara voiced his opposition to Peterson's plans to call a snap election at just over two-and-a-half years into his mandate. He argued that the government should return to the electorate after a standard four-year cycle was completed, and run on the full record of its accomplishment.[2] His objections were dismissed, and the Liberals were upset by the New Democratic Party in the election which followed. Sorbara had little difficulty defeating NDP candidate Laurie Orrett in his riding.[9]

Provincial Government of David Peterson
Cabinet Posts (4)
Predecessor Office Successor
Bill Wrye Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations
Peter Kormos
Bill Wrye Minister of Labour
Gerry Phillips
Phil Gillies Minister of Skills Development
Alvin Curling
Larry Grossman Minister of Colleges and Universities
Lyn McLeod

1992 leadership race[edit]

On November 14, 1991, Sorbara announced that he was joining the race to replace Peterson as leader of the party.[10] In a speech in January 1992, Sorbara promised to put Ontarians back to work, reduce bureaucracy and rescue the ailing economy. He said, "We have to stop this province's slide into a low- wage, no-growth economy." He also promised to invest in new infrastructure, including high-speed rail lines and northern highways.[11]

During the convention which was held in Hamilton, Ontario on February 9, he finished third on the first ballot, and remained in this position until dropping from the race after the fourth ballot. Sorbara refused to support either Murray Elston or Lyn McLeod (the eventual winner) on the fifth and final ballot.[12] and did not seek re-election in 1995.[13]

Return to politics[edit]

Sorbara supported Dalton McGuinty's successful bid for the provincial party leadership at the 1996 leadership convention. He did not run in the 1999 provincial election, but was elected Party President over Alvin Curling in November 1999.[14] He later won a 2001 by-election in the redistributed Greater Toronto Area riding of Vaughan—King—Aurora, defeating Progressive Conservative candidate Joyce Frustaglio by almost 10,000 votes.[15]

Sorbara's return to the legislature was seen as a significant victory for the Liberals. Previously, the Progressive Conservative Party had dominated the suburban and commuter ridings around Toronto (the so-called "905 belt", referring to the region's telephone code). Sorbara's victory indicated that the Liberals were once again positioned to win seats in the region, and to threaten the Conservative hold on government accordingly. Sorbara himself was chosen to serve as Chair of the Liberal Party's 2003 campaign.

Sorbara delivered a strong statement in May 2010, supporting the minority Muslim sect, Ahmadiyyat, who were recently attacked in Lahore for practicing their faith.[16] They awarded him the first ever ‘Sir Zafarulla Khan Distinguished Public Service Award’ in 2012.

Minister of Finance[edit]

The Liberals won the 2003 election, and Sorbara was appointed Minister of Finance in the Ontario Cabinet on October 23, 2003.[17]

Sorbara became involved in a potentially serious conflict-of-interest controversy not long after his appointment. In late 2003, the Ontario Securities Commission informed the Finance Minister's office that Royal Group Technologies would be announcing they were under investigation by the OSC. As a former director of Royal Group, this placed Sorbara in a conflict of interest as he also oversaw the OSC. Sorbara could not consult the Premier concerning the conflict of interest as he was restricted by the province's Securities Act from informing anyone else of the impending announcement by the company. Royal Group did not announce the investigation for almost two months.

There were calls for Sorbara to resign after the controversy became public knowledge, but he was cleared of any wrongdoing by the provincial integrity commissioner in August 2004.

On May 18, 2004, Sorbara released the McGuinty government's first budget. The centrepiece was a controversial new Health Premium of $300 to $900, staggered according to income. This violated a key Liberal campaign pledge not to raise taxes, and gave the government an early reputation for breaking promises. The Liberals defended the premium by pointing to the previous government's hidden deficit, and McGuinty claimed he needed to break his campaign pledge on taxation to fulfill his promises on other fronts. This broken promise has created a lasting public relations difficulty for the Liberal Party.

The Ontario Health Premium also became a major issue in the early days of the 2004 federal election, called a week after the Ontario budget. Most believe that the controversy hampered Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin's bid for re-election.

Also controversial was the elimination of coverage for health services not covered by the Canada Health Act including eye examinations and physical therapy. Other elements of the McGuinty government's first budget were a four-year plan to tackle the deficit left behind by the Conservatives, free immunization for children, investments in education and investments to lower waiting times for cancer care, cardiac care, joint replacement and MRI and CT scans.

On May 11, 2005, Sorbara delivered his second budget. The flagship of the budget was the "Reaching Higher" plan. Investing $6.2 billion over four years, the plan increased accessibility for low-income students with loans and grants while funding more enrollments, expanded medical school spaces, and invested in new faculty, graduate scholarships and research.

The budget also broke a vow to balance the budget in 2007–08. Sorbara instead aimed at balance in 2008–09.

Sorbara also moved to expand infrastructure spending by encouraging Ontario's large pension plans to invest in the construction of new roads, schools and hospitals. Specific projects in the budget included a 10-year expansion of the TTC and Go Transit, 15,000 new affordable housing units and improved border crossings. NDP leader Howard Hampton described this move as "privatization by stealth."

After a cabinet shuffle on June 29, 2005, Sorbara was also named as the Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet.

Sorbara was easily re-elected to the Legislature in the 2007 election, but surprised many when on October 26, 2007, he announced that he no longer wanted to sit in Cabinet, citing he wanted to devote more time for his constituents and his family.[18]

Provincial Government of Dalton McGuinty
Cabinet Posts (2)
Predecessor Office Successor
Dwight Duncan Minister of Finance
Dwight Duncan
Janet Ecker Minister of Finance
Dwight Duncan

Sorbara Group investigation[edit]

On October 11, 2005, the RCMP raided the Sorbara Group offices as part of the Royal Group Technologies investigation. The police warrant stated that there were reasonable grounds to believe Sorbara and other directors of Royal Group defrauded the company and shareholders when they bought land in Brampton, that was owned by a subsidiary of the Sorbara Group. Sorbara initially resisted opposition calls for him to step down, but later resigned as Minister of Finance the same day.[19]

Sorbara issued a brief statement on the controversy. He denied any knowledge of the specific allegations against him, but noted that it was his responsibility as a minister to step aside "pending a resolution of this issue".

Following Sorbara's announcement, Dwight Duncan was appointed as Minister of Finance and Chair of the Management Board. Sorbara returned to cabinet in May 2006 after a judge ruled there was no evidence to justify the inclusion of Sorbara's name on a search warrant.

Federal Liberal leadership campaign[edit]

Sorbara was initially a supporter of John Manley's bid to lead the federal Liberal Party in early 2003. Manley subsequently dropped from the race. Sorbara was one of the key backers of former Ontario NDP Premier Bob Rae's bid to lead the Liberal Party of Canada.

York University[edit]

Sorbara has been Chancellor of York University since June 2014, succeeding Roy McMurtry.

Electoral record[edit]

Ontario general election, 2003
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Greg Sorbara 36928 56.14 15.97
Progressive Conservative Carmine Iacono 21744 33.06 -21.64
New Democratic Mike Seaward 4697 7.14 4.22
Green Adrian Visentin 2412 3.67 2.73
Ontario general election, 2007
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Greg Sorbara 28,961 61.9% 5.76
Progressive Conservative Gayani Weerasinghe 8,773 18.8% -14.26
New Democratic Rick Morelli 5,417 11.6% 4.46
Green Russell Korus 2,978 6.4% 2.73
Independent Savino Quatela 624 1.3%
Ontario general election, 2011
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Greg Sorbara 26,176 53.02% -8.7
Progressive Conservative Tony Genco 15,409 31.21% 12.41
New Democratic Paul Donofrio 5,584 11.31% -2.9
Libertarian Paolo Fabrizio 934 1.89%
Green Brendan Frye 695 1.41% -4.99



  1. ^ "Liberal MPP Greg Sorbara resigns". August 1, 2012. Retrieved 2014-05-27. 
  2. ^ a b Greg Sorbara (2014). Greg Sorbara: the battlefield of Ontario politics. Dundurn Press. 
  3. ^ Iannacci, Elio (September 3, 2009). "It's all about them". Maclean Magazine. 
  4. ^ "Results of vote in Ontario election". The Globe and Mail. May 3, 1985. p. 13. 
  5. ^ "Liberals pledge reform as they take over in Ontario". The Gazette. Montreal, Que. June 27, 1985. p. B1. 
  6. ^ "Results from individual ridings". The Windsor Star. September 11, 1987. p. F2. 
  7. ^ "Wrye gets new cabinet job". The Windsor Star. September 29, 1987. p. A1. 
  8. ^ Allen, Gene (August 3, 1989). "Veterans bear load as 8 ministers cut in Peterson shuffle". The Globe and Mail. p. A1. 
  9. ^ "Ontario election: Riding-by-riding voting results". The Globe and Mail. September 7, 1990. p. A12. 
  10. ^ "McLeod and Sorbara join Liberal race". The Hamilton Spectator. November 14, 1991. p. A10. 
  11. ^ Todd, Paula (January 6, 1992). "Liberals propose economic 'rescue'". Toronto Star. p. A9. 
  12. ^ Rand Dyck; Sam Bottomley (1998). David Leyton-Brown, ed. Canadian Annual Review of Politics and Public Affairs (1992). Toronto: University of Toronto Press. p. 161. 
  13. ^ Dexter, Brian (May 19, 1995). "Tory wheeler-dealer in tough race". Toronto Star. p. NY2. 
  14. ^ Mallan, Caroline (November 29, 1999). "Dalton defeats dissent; Liberal leader gets strong party support". The Haimlton Spectator. p. D5. 
  15. ^ "Ontario: Liberal romps to byelection win". Kingston Whig-Standard. June 29, 2001. p. 11. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Premier Dalton McGuinty and his 22-member cabinet were sworn in Thursday". Canadian Press NewsWire. October 23, 2003. p. 1. 
  18. ^ "Sorbara quits cabinet". Toronto Star. October 26, 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-26. 
  19. ^ "Ontario finance minister quits over fraud probe". CBC News. October 12, 2005. Retrieved 2014-05-27. 

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Roy McMurtry
Chancellor of York University