Judy Erola

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Judy Erola
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Nickel Belt
In office
Preceded by John Rodriguez
Succeeded by John Rodriguez
Minister of State for Mines
In office
1980 – August 12, 1983
Preceded by new position
Succeeded by Roger Simmons
Minister responsible for the Status of Women
In office
September 22, 1981 – September 16, 1984
Preceded by Lloyd Axworthy
Succeeded by Barbara McDougall
Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs
In office
August 12, 1983 – September 16, 1984
Preceded by André Ouellet
Succeeded by Michel Côté
Personal details
Born Judith Jacobson
(1934-01-16) January 16, 1934 (age 81)
Sudbury, Ontario
Political party Liberal
Occupation broadcaster, sales executive

Judith Erola, née Jacobson, PC (born January 16, 1934 in Sudbury, Ontario) is a former Canadian politician, who represented the riding of Nickel Belt in the Canadian House of Commons from 1980 to 1984. She was a member of the Liberal Party.

Broadcasting career[edit]

Prior to her career in politics, she worked as a radio and television broadcaster in Sudbury. At CKSO-TV, she made history as the first woman employed by a Canadian television station as a weather reporter, and also presented segments on fashion.[1] She later became an account executive for CHNO,[2] and married Vic Erola, the owner of a marina on Lake Panache.[3]


Following the death of her husband Vic in 1977, Erola decided to pursue a career in politics. She ran in the 1979 election as the Liberal candidate in Nickel Belt, losing to incumbent New Democrat John Rodriguez.[2] Her campaign in that year was marked in part by a stumble when her election brochure called for "nationalization of farmland usage policies";[4] challenged in a radio interview to clarify her position given that the Liberal Party was generally opposed to nationalization, she clarified that the word was a typographical error whose intended meaning was rationalization.[4]

Erola defeated Rodriguez in the 1980 election.[5] She faced some controversy during and after the election campaign, both for characterizing Rodriguez as a Marxist in her election literature and for a telephone message targeted to housewives, which appeared to suggest that electing a woman to the House of Commons was more important than having representation for labour issues, a position which starkly divided the city in the still-lingering aftermath of the devastating Sudbury Strike of 1978.[2]

She served in the Cabinet of Canada for the entirety of her term as a federal Member of Parliament, despite a perception that her caucus colleague Doug Frith was more likely to be chosen as the Sudbury area's representative in cabinet.[6] Over the course of her career, she served as Minister of State for Mines,[7] Minister responsible for the Status of Women,[8] Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs and Minister of State for Social Development.[9]

Shortly after being named to cabinet, Erola resigned her position as director and treasurer of the marina company,[3] in compliance with federal conflict of interest regulations for cabinet ministers.[3]

In October 1982, Erola also became the first woman ever appointed to the cabinet's priorities and planning committee, which debates and decides on the direction of government policy.[10]

After Pierre Trudeau's retirement as Prime Minister, Erola continued to serve in the cabinet of John Turner. However, in the 1984 election, which saw the governing Liberals reduced to just 40 seats, Erola was defeated by Rodriguez.

Ministry of Mines[edit]

As Minister of Mines, her first significant piece of legislation was a change to the Canada Labour Code, placing federally-regulated mines in Ontario under the stricter provincial health and safety laws by adopting the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act as federal law.[11] The issue had long been championed in particular by uranium miners in Elliot Lake after a number of incidents in which workers had requested exemption under the provincial law from unsafe duties for which the federal law did not offer protection,[11] but the workers criticized the process Erola used as an ineffective one that was likely to be challenged in the courts by mining companies.[11] The change also permitted women, who had previously been barred from working underground in mines by federal regulation even though the provincial law permitted them, to work underground for the first time.[12]

In June 1980, Erola faced criticism for using a government flight to transport colleagues from Ottawa to Sudbury to attend a testimonial dinner for former Liberal MP James Jerome.[13]

During the 1981 provincial election, allegations surfaced that the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives had entered into a tacit agreement in 1980, under which the PCs ran an intentionally weak campaign in Nickel Belt to help Erola defeat Rodriguez, purportedly in exchange for the Liberals similarly throwing the Sudbury riding in 1981 to help Jim Gordon defeat incumbent NDP MPP Bud Germa;[14] the allegations surfaced after the Liberals mounted a stronger campaign for the provincial seat than the PCs were expecting, and Liberal organizers denied that there was any mutual agreement.[14]

Erola strongly supported the development of a mining equipment manufacturing industry in Canada as a bulwark against machinery shortages,[15] and made special efforts to reassure mining companies that they would not be the target of a policy similar to the controversial National Energy Program.[16] In June 1981, she announced a policy under which the federal government would give a $400 grant as an incentive to owners of propane-fuelled vehicles.[17]

In 1982, she worked with Frith and Nickel Belt MPP Floyd Laughren to prevent significant layoffs by Inco Limited in the Sudbury area.[18] She also instituted a task force within the ministry to examine potential solutions to the economic difficulties faced by mining communities when the local mining industry reduced staff or closed down.[19]

Status of Women[edit]

In September 1981, Erola was given the position of Minister responsible for the Status of Women alongside her existing duties as Minister of Mines.[8] She was the first woman to be named to that position, which had previously been held by Lloyd Axworthy.[8]

In this role, she fought to protect Section Twenty-eight of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a section of the then-proposed Constitution Act, 1982 which guaranteed the gender equality rights of men and women, against attempts by some provinces to quash the provision.[20] She also supported efforts to improve maternity leave pay for women,[21] attempts to toughen federal laws against domestic violence,[22] reforms to the Indian Act which would improve the rights of women marrying non-aboriginal men,[23] reforms to the organizational structure of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women,[24] and stricter policies against the use of gender stereotypes in government communications.[25]

Consumer and Corporate Affairs[edit]

In August 1983, Erola was shuffled out of the Ministry of Mines and was named Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs.[26] She immediately pledged to place a greater emphasis on consumer issues than her predecessor André Ouellet, who had sometimes been criticized for giving those issues short shrift.[27]

In this role, some of her most public political battles involved the resistance of some organizations to the continued implementation of the metric system.[28] She also proposed, but later abandoned, legislation to limit corporate mergers in newspaper publishing.[29]

Post-political career[edit]

In 1987, Erola became president of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers' Association of Canada,[30] a position she held until her retirement in 1998.[31] She was succeeded in that role by Murray Elston, a former Member of Provincial Parliament in Ontario.[31]

She was an ex officio delegate to the Liberal Party of Canada leadership election, 2006.

She is currently on the board of Equal Voice, an organization which seeks to assist Canadian women in running for political office.

Electoral record[edit]

Canadian federal election, 1979: Nickel Belt
Party Candidate Votes % ∆%
New Democratic John Rodriguez 17,772 43.37 −6.41
Liberal Judy Erola 15,799 38.55 +0.65
     Progressive Conservative Harwood Nesbitt 7,308 17.83 +5.51
Marxist–Leninist David Starbuck 103 0.25
Total valid votes 40,982 100.00
Total rejected ballots 115
Turnout 41,097 77.08 −0.28
Electors on the lists 53,320
Note: Percentage change numbers are not factored for redistribution.
Canadian federal election, 1980: Nickel Belt
Party Candidate Votes % ∆%
Liberal Judy Erola 19,805 47.52 +8.97
New Democratic John Rodriguez 17,529 42.06 −1.31
     Progressive Conservative Dennis Tappenden 4,250 10.20 −7.63
Marxist–Leninist David Starbuck 89 0.21 −0.04
Total valid votes 41,673 100.00
Total rejected ballots 119
Turnout 41,792 75.18 −1.90
Electors on the lists 55,587
Canadian federal election, 1984: Nickel Belt
Party Candidate Votes % ∆%
New Democratic John Rodriguez 17,141 38.60 −3.46
     Progressive Conservative Gord Slade 13,857 31.20 +21.00
Liberal Judy Erola 13,124 29.55 −17.97
Rhinoceros Derek Aardvark Orford 288 0.65
Total valid votes 44,410 100.00
Total rejected ballots 250 0.01
Turnout 44,660 79.55 +4.37
Electors on the lists 56,139


  1. ^ Canadian Communications Foundation - Fondation Des Communications Canadiennes
  2. ^ a b c "Bad feeling lingers in defeated MP after Erola rides upset into Cabinet". The Globe and Mail, March 5, 1980.
  3. ^ a b c "Ministers telling little in conflict disclosures". The Globe and Mail, September 4, 1980.
  4. ^ a b "Notebook: Candidate is under fire for his election ads". The Globe and Mail, May 10, 1979.
  5. ^ "Ontario vote shuns Tories for Liberals". The Globe and Mail, February 19, 1980.
  6. ^ "Lalonde, MacEachen in key jobs Cabinet list shows Trudeau's tight rein". The Globe and Mail, March 4, 1980.
  7. ^ "Mines post 'ironic' for woman". The Globe and Mail, March 4, 1980.
  8. ^ a b c "PM repairs Liberal weak spots by naming four new ministers". The Globe and Mail, September 23, 1981.
  9. ^ "The federal Cabinet". The Globe and Mail, July 2, 1984.
  10. ^ "Inner-cabinet shuffled as planning for Parliament begins". The Globe and Mail, October 6, 1982.
  11. ^ a b c "Erola says safety rules were changed legally; miners not convinced". The Globe and Mail, May 31, 1980.
  12. ^ "New rule puts women in mines". The Globe and Mail, May 31, 1980.
  13. ^ "The Ottawa Scene". The Globe and Mail, June 23, 1980.
  14. ^ a b "Vote courted by civic rivals". The Globe and Mail, March 17, 1981.
  15. ^ "Creation of mining equipment industry held vital to avoid machinery shortage". The Globe and Mail, April 28, 1981.
  16. ^ "Erola assures mining industry will not be target of program". The Globe and Mail, May 5, 1981.
  17. ^ "Owners of vehicles on propane to get federal incentive grants". The Globe and Mail, June 10, 1981.
  18. ^ "Pressure on Inco to delay layoffs". The Globe and Mail, February 9, 1982.
  19. ^ "Mining spokesmen see faults in federal proposals". The Globe and Mail, March 9, 1982.
  20. ^ "Charter likely to include women's rights". The Globe and Mail, November 17, 1981.
  21. ^ "Ministers studying granting all women close to full pay during maternity leave". The Globe and Mail, December 3, 1981.
  22. ^ "Ottawa will study family violence". The Globe and Mail, January 21, 1982.
  23. ^ "Discrimination against women Indian Act changes delayed again". The Globe and Mail, December 1, 1981.
  24. ^ "Status council rejects break with Ottawa". The Globe and Mail, February 18, 1982.
  25. ^ "Government to end use of stereotypes in ads, Erola says". The Globe and Mail, March 26, 1982.
  26. ^ "With Toronto in mind". The Globe and Mail, August 15, 1983.
  27. ^ "Consumers hope Erola can help". The Globe and Mail, August 16, 1983.
  28. ^ "Metric ruling won't change federal plan". The Globe and Mail, November 3, 1983.
  29. ^ "National press council still possible: Newspaper bill dead, Erola aide says". The Globe and Mail, December 15, 1983.
  30. ^ "Brand-name drug firms hire ex-Liberal Minister". Montreal Gazette, January 29, 1987.
  31. ^ a b "Pharmaceutical Manufacturers' Association of Canada (PMAC) - Announcement". National Post, November 2, 1998.

External links[edit]