Helen Cooper (politician)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Helen Cooper (born 13 November 1946) is a Canadian politician and administrator. She served as mayor of Kingston, Ontario from 1988 to 1993, and was chair of the Ontario Municipal Board from 1993 to 1996.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Cooper was born in Australia, and moved to Kingston with her family as a child. She graduated from Kingston Collegiate and Vocational Institute, received a Bachelor of Science degree from Queen's University in 1968, and worked overseas for a few years in development programs. She met her husband when working as a teacher in northern Tanzania. In 1973, she received a Master of Science degree from the London School of Economics in England. Cooper returned to Kingston after her graduation, and worked part-time as a teacher at Queen's and St. Lawrence College.[2]

Local councillor[edit]

She was elected to Kingston City Council as an alderman for the Sydenham Ward in 1980, and was re-elected in 1982 and 1985. In 1985, she became the first member of council to vote in favour of a Gay Pride Day for the city. There was a strong reaction against this decision, and she reversed her position after what the Kingston Whig-Standard described as "many vicious hate calls". When Cooper first campaigned for mayor in 1988, she pledged not to proclaim a Gay Pride Day if elected. She later regretted this decision, and again supported a Gay Pride proclamation when running for re-election in 1991.[3]


Cooper was first elected as mayor in 1988, defeating rival candidate Joe Hawkins by over 3,000 votes. She became the first female mayor of Kingston. She was re-elected over Hawkins by a greater margin in 1991, and served as president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario in 1991-92.[4]

As mayor, Cooper initiated a Community Economic Advisory Committee which helped establish a civic airport building and a Technology Transfer Centre for Queen's University.[5] She was the only mayoral candidate to support a city takeover of the Kingston Public Utilities Commission in 1991, and despite her personal victory was unable to convince Kingston voters to accept the measure in a referendum.[6] She later presided over a property tax re-assessment in 1992, which resulted in significant increases for some residents.[7] With one year remaining in her second term, she resigned in 1993 to accept a three-year appointment as chair of the Ontario Municipal Board.

Federal politics[edit]

Cooper returned to political life in early 1997, when she campaigned for the federal Progressive Conservative nomination in the riding of Kingston and the Islands. She had not previously been a member of the party, but was persuaded to run by national leader Jean Charest. The other nomination candidates regarded her with suspicion: Doug Haunts described her as "socialist-oriented" and a possible New Democratic Party plant, while Blair MacLean referred to her as an opportunist with no roots in the party.[8] Despite these criticisms, she won the nomination with 230 votes, against 132 for MacLean and 89 for Haunts.

Although considered a star candidate, she finished a distant second against Liberal incumbent Peter Milliken in the 1997 federal election. After the election, some observers argued that voters had difficulty associating her with a right-of-centre party, and speculated that this hurt her chances of election. Alan Whitehorn, professor at Royal Military College, said "I would describe her philosophically as a left-liberal. She's certainly no neo-conservative". Milliken himself argued that Cooper "should have run as a Liberal" under ideal circumstances.[9]

Cooper remained active in the Progressive Conservative Party after her defeat, and supported Hugh Segal's bid for the leadership in 1998.[10] In 2000, she spoke at a gravesite ceremony honouring the legacy of John A. Macdonald, Canada's first prime minister and a longtime Kingston resident.[11] In 2002, she was appointed to the Nuclear Waste Management Organization's (NWMO) Advisory Council.[12]

Current position[edit]

As of 2005, Cooper is employed with the Minister of Community and Social Services.[13]


  1. ^ "Policy Speaker Series - Why Local Government Matters - Helen Cooper" (PDF). Queen's University. Retrieved 2011-02-06. [permanent dead link]
  2. ^ Kingston Whig-Standard, 10 May 1997
  3. ^ Kingston Whig-Standard, 4 December 1992
  4. ^ Kingston Whig-Standard, 21 August 1992
  5. ^ Kingston Whig-Standard, 22 January 1997
  6. ^ Kingston Whig-Standard, 2 November 1991
  7. ^ Kingston Whig-Standard, 4 December 1992
  8. ^ Kingston Whig-Standard, 22 January 1997, and 17 February 1997
  9. ^ Kingston Whig-Standard, 4 June 1997
  10. ^ Kingston Whig-Standard 10 June 1998
  11. ^ Kingston Whig-Standard, 1 June 2000
  12. ^ Canada NewsWire, 7 November 2002
  13. ^ Kingston Whig-Standard, 24 September 2005