Michael Bryant (politician)

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Michael Bryant
Ontario MPP
In office
Preceded byNew riding
Succeeded byEric Hoskins
ConstituencySt. Paul's
Personal details
Michael J. Bryant

(1966-04-13) April 13, 1966 (age 55)
Victoria, British Columbia
Political partyLiberal
RelationsSusan Abramovitch
(sep. December 2010)
Alma mater
Occupationlawyer, professor, consultant

Michael J. Bryant (born April 13, 1966) is a Canadian lawyer and former politician. He is the executive director and general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Bryant was a Liberal member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, representing the downtown Toronto riding of St. Paul's from 1999 to 2009. He was a senior member of Dalton McGuinty's provincial cabinet, first as Attorney General, being the province's youngest-ever to hold that post, and subsequently as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Minister of Economic Development and Government House Leader.

Bryant left provincial politics to take up the newly created post of chief executive officer of Invest Toronto, a municipal agency with a mandate to attract investment and facilitate economic development. An altercation with a cyclist in 2009 led to Bryant being charged for the cyclist's death; the charges were withdrawn in 2010.


Bryant was raised in the Greater Victoria area of British Columbia, where his father Ray was mayor of Esquimalt from 1966 to 1969.[1] Known for his "pugnacious streak",[attribution needed] he trained as a boxer from childhood.[2]

He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of British Columbia in 1988, and a Master's degree from the same institution in 1989. Bryant was also a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity at UBC.[3] He graduated as in 1992 from Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in Toronto with a law degree.[3] and was the silver medalist of his year.[4] He then earned an LL.M. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1994.[3] Bryant is a Fulbright Fellow. He clerked at the Supreme Court of Canada in 1992–93, and was later a lawyer at the firm of Sullivan & Cromwell in New York City, as well as lecturing in law at King's College London in England, and practicing litigation at McCarthy Tétrault.[3] In 1997, he became an adjunct professor in international law at the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto.[3]

Bryant was married to Susan Abramovitch, an entertainment lawyer, and they have two children, Sadie and Louis.[5] The couple separated in December 2010.[5][6]


Bryant was elected to the Ontario legislature in the provincial election of 1999, defeating incumbent Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Isabel Bassett in St. Paul's by almost 5,000 votes.[7] Earlier, Bryant became the Liberal Party's nominee by defeating future premier Kathleen Wynne, 328 votes to 143. The Progressive Conservative government was re-elected, and Bryant served in Opposition Critic to the Attorney General for the next four years.[citation needed]

He was re-elected by a greater majority in the provincial election of 2003.[8] The Liberals won a majority government in this election, and Bryant was appointed Ontario Attorney General and Minister with responsibility for Native Affairs and Democratic Renewal.[9] While Attorney General he helped create Ontario's controversial Stunt Driving law, aimed at reducing street racing, and supported seizing and crushing vehicles that had been modified for street racing.[10][11] Bryant was also a strong proponent of a complete ban on handguns in Canada, at one point launching a website named "No Gun, No Funeral".[12]

Bryant was re-elected in the 2007 election.[13] He was appointed as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Government House Leader on October 30, 2007.[14] On September 18, 2008, he became Minister of Economic Development, replacing Sandra Pupatello.[15]

On May 23, 2009, Bryant announced that he would leave provincial politics to become CEO of the newly established Invest Toronto corporation, with Dalton McGuinty taking over his portfolio of Economic Development.[4][16] Bryant denied that his departure was as a result of a falling out with McGuinty, though reports suggested that Bryant's outspoken nature and ambition for the Premier's job may have been controversial within McGuinty's inner circle.[17][18][19] Bryant's resignation was effective June 7, 2009. Eric Hoskins retained the seat for the Liberals in a by-election held on September 17, 2009.[20]

Cabinet positions[edit]

Ontario provincial government of Dalton McGuinty
Cabinet posts (3)
Predecessor Office Successor
Sandra Pupatello Minister of Economic Development
Dalton McGuinty
David Ramsay Minister of Aboriginal Affairs
Brad Duguid
Norm Sterling Attorney General
Also responsible for Native Affairs and Democratic Renewal (2003–2005)
Chris Bentley
Special Parliamentary Responsibilities
Predecessor Title Successor
Jim Bradley Government House Leader
Monique Smith

2009 criminal charges[edit]

A makeshift memorial marks the place on Bloor Street West where Sheppard was killed.

On September 1, 2009, Bryant was taken into police custody after an altercation with cyclist Darcy Allan Sheppard on a downtown Toronto street which resulted in Sheppard's death.[21] Bryant was later charged with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous driving causing death with respect to the incident.[22][23][24] On May 25, 2010, prosecutor Richard Peck withdrew all charges against Bryant stemming from the incident, noting there was "no reasonable prospect of conviction".[25]


On the evening of August 31, 2009, Bryant and his wife were driving home in his convertible after celebrating their 12th wedding anniversary. They passed a cyclist, Darcy Allan Sheppard, who according to an interview with Bryant was tossing garbage and holding up traffic by executing figure eights on his bike.[26] As they neared a pedestrian crossing Sheppard pulled in front of Bryant's vehicle at a red light. Subsequent events were captured by security cameras.[27]

According to Bryant, his vehicle stalled when he stopped behind Sheppard. Bryant's car then lurched forward from his attempts to restart the vehicle, which brought the car close to or in contact with Sheppard's tire. Camera footage of the incident was inconclusive. The Crown suggested no damage to the bicycle's rear wheel rim was evident. Witnesses said that Sheppard confronted Bryant and his wife "loudly and aggressively" while they "remained passive". Bryant's next driving maneuver resulted in Sheppard ending up on the hood of the car: the car travelled 30 feet in 2.5 seconds, at between 9 and 13.4 km/h, and brakes were applied after 1 second. According to Bryant, he was looking down at the time, trying to restart the vehicle, and applied the brakes when he saw Sheppard on the hood. The Crown suggested that there was no evidence Sheppard was seriously injured at this time and there was not enough evidence to justify a separate charge based upon Bryant's driving to this point.[28]

The fatality occurred when Bryant drove away while Sheppard was holding onto the side of the vehicle. Witnesses reported that Sheppard reached into Bryant's convertible and grabbed either Bryant or the car's steering wheel.[23][29] At no point did Bryant attempt to stop.[24][30][31] The car then veered into the opposite lanes, which caused Sheppard to strike a roadside fire hydrant. The collision knocked him off the car and his head hit the pavement.[26] Bryant drove away from the scene for 3 minutes before deciding to call 9-1-1.[32] Sheppard later died of his injuries in hospital. The police did not thoroughly investigate whether Bryant was driving under the influence.[33][34][35]


Bryant was released the next day by the police on his own recognizance without a bail hearing. In a public statement, he maintained that he was innocent of the charges and extended condolences to Sheppard's family. The terms of Bryant's release required him to abstain from driving, surrender his passport and remain in Ontario.[36] He was represented by Marie Henein.[37] Bryant also resigned as CEO of Invest Toronto, saying that the arrest would act as a distraction for the corporation.[36]

Bryant's actions and arrest were a subject of controversy in Canadian media. Bryant hired a public relations firm, Navigator Ltd., while a campaign emerged on blogs and social networks that attempted to cast Sheppard in a favourable light.[38] A Twitter account run by Navigator was countered by another Twitter account set up by public relations professional Don Wiedman. On YouTube, an anonymous user posted videos of the surveillance footage broadcast by CTV News, CityTV News, and CBC News.[39]

The Ministry of the Attorney General appointed British Columbia's Richard Peck as the prosecutor to avoid any conflict-of-interest, as Bryant had appointed judges when he served as Attorney General of Ontario.[40] His first court date was scheduled for October 19, 2009.[41] The matter was adjourned six times.[42][43][44][45][46]

On May 25, 2010, prosecutor Richard Peck withdrew all charges against Bryant stemming from the incident, noting there was "no reasonable prospect of conviction".[47] Peck said that "[Bryant] was attacked by a man who unfortunately was in a rage. [Bryant] was legally justified in his attempt to get away", and noted that Sheppard had run-ins with six other motorists in the same month before his encounter with Bryant,[48] and was witnessed throwing traffic cones in front of cars at the corner of Bloor and Yonge less than twenty minutes before the incident.[28] The decision to withdraw charges was criticised by Marli Epp, a spokesperson for the Toronto Bike Messenger Association and Yvonne Bambrick, Executive Director of the Toronto Cyclists Union.[49]

In August 2012, Bryant published a book, 28 Seconds, his memoir of Sheppard's death and of Bryant's own battle with alcoholism.[6]

Later life[edit]

In December 2009, Bryant returned to the private practice of law and joined Norton Rose LLP (formerly Ogilvy Renault) as Senior Advisor[50] and was involved with commercial and investment matters relating to energy, natural resources and infrastructure/public-private partnerships.[51] In 2012 he moved to the Ishkonigan, a consulting and mediation firm owned by Phil Fontaine, where he accepted a position as a principal.[6][52]

In 2015 he began to work for Legal Aid Ontario as a criminal defence duty counsel. In 2016, he was working in partnership with King Law Chambers as a criminal defence lawyer for the indigent and indigenous, and negotiating aboriginal land claims for First Nations.[53] In 2018 he was appointed executive director and general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.[54]


  1. ^ Wells, Jennifer (2009-08-02). "Michael Bryant: Tenacity and a flair for publicity". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2009-09-01.
  2. ^ Allemang, John (2009-05-29), "Michael Bryant: 'I will keep my trap shut'", Globe and Mail, retrieved 2010-05-25
  3. ^ a b c d e Canadian Who's Who. University of Toronto Press Incorporated. 2005. p. 184. ISBN 0-8020-8907-0.
  4. ^ a b Invest Toronto (2009-05-25). "Michael Bryant appointed Invest Toronto CEO". Retrieved 2009-09-08.
  5. ^ a b Mudhar, Raju (17 October 2011). "Michael Bryant to write book about accident". The Toronto Star. Retrieved 19 December 2011.
  6. ^ a b c Wells, Jennifer (August 18, 2012). "Michael Bryant's memoir 28 Seconds recounts tragic death of bicycle courier". Toronto Star. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
  7. ^ "Summary of Valid Ballots by Candidate". Elections Ontario. June 3, 1999. Archived from the original on June 7, 2014.
  8. ^ "Summary of Valid Ballots by Candidate". Elections Ontario. October 2, 2003.
  9. ^ "Premier Dalton McGuinty and his 22-member cabinet were sworn in Thursday". Canadian Press NewsWire. October 23, 2003. p. 1.
  10. ^ Nichols, Bob, McGuinty Government Continues To Keep Families Safe On Ontario's Roads, retrieved 2009-09-01
  11. ^ Benzie, Robert (2008-07-21), "Province will 'crush your car (and) the parts,' racers told", Toronto Star, retrieved 2009-09-01
  12. ^ Janke, Steve. "Michael Bryant sets up a sock puppet to push for his handgun ban". Retrieved 2009-09-01.
  13. ^ "Summary of Valid Ballots Cast for Each Candidate" (PDF). Elections Ontario. October 10, 2007. p. 13 (xxii). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 7, 2009.
  14. ^ Ferguson, Rob; Benzie, Robert (October 31, 2007). "Premier goes for new blood; Expanded 28-member cabinet has eight ministers from Toronto, three from 905 area". Toronto Star. p. A13.
  15. ^ "The new-look Ontario cabinet". The Hamilton Spectator. September 19, 2008. p. A9.
  16. ^ Benzie, Robert (July 23, 2009). "Michael Bryant quitting McGuinty Liberals". Toronto Star.
  17. ^ Wells, Jennifer (September 2, 2009). "Showman Michael Bryant rose rapidly". Toronto Star.
  18. ^ Radwanski, Adam (September 2, 2009). "An overachiever's supreme self-confidence shattered". Globe and Mail. p. A1.
  19. ^ Greenberg, Lee (September 1, 2009). "Bryant Profile: Brilliant, ambitious politician often at odds with premier". Ottawa Citizen.
  20. ^ "Liberals win easily in St. Paul's byelection". Toronto Star. September 17, 2009.
  21. ^ "Dead Toronto cyclist identified". CBC News. 2009-09-01. Retrieved 2014-05-26.
  22. ^ Hammer, Kate (2009-09-01). "Victim identified in Bryant case". Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2009-09-01.
  23. ^ a b "Cyclist may have grabbed Bryant, wheel: police". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2 September 2009. Retrieved 19 December 2011.
  24. ^ a b "Bryant Charged with Criminal Negligence After Crash". CTV News. 2009-09-02. Retrieved 2009-10-08.
  25. ^ "Charges against Bryant in fatal crash withdrawn". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 25 May 2010. Retrieved 19 December 2011.
  26. ^ a b McLaren, Leah (September 16, 2010). "Michael Bryant's very bad year". Toronto Life. Retrieved February 25, 2018.
  27. ^ Bloor St. Wall & Benetton Security Cameras on YouTube
  28. ^ a b "Executive Summary of Michael Bryant Decision" (PDF). Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 19 December 2011.
  29. ^ "Police scan footage to see if cyclist grabbed ex-Ont. attorney general before fatal collision". Vancouver Sun. 2009-09-03. Archived from the original on 2009-09-19. Retrieved 2009-09-12.
  30. ^ Kelly, Cathal (2009-09-02). "Michael Bryant's deadly duel". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2009-09-26.
  31. ^ "Bryant Case Becomes More Blurry". NOW Magazine. 2009-09-09. Retrieved 2009-09-10.
  32. ^ "Former Ontario AG Michael Bryant was 'terrified' during fatal encounter with cyclist". National Post. 2010-05-25. Retrieved 2018-01-14.
  33. ^ Henry Stancu; Robyn Doolittle; John Rieti (2009-09-01), "Ex-Ontario AG Bryant arrested", Toronto Star, retrieved 2009-09-01
  34. ^ Wingrove, Josh (2009-09-01). "Michael Bryant in police custody". Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2009-09-01.
  35. ^ Kelly, Cathal (2009-09-02). "Michael Bryant's deadly duel". The Toronto Star. Retrieved 2009-09-02.
  36. ^ a b Fenlon, Brodie (2009-09-02). "Bryant resigns as head of Invest Toronto". Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2009-09-02.
  37. ^ Hanes, Allison (2009-09-03). "Bryant quits post, declares innocence". National Post. Retrieved 2009-09-26.
  38. ^ Valiquette, Max (2009-10-12). "How advertising became a conversation business". Canadian Business. Retrieved 2018-02-25.
  39. ^ Zerbisias, Antonia (2009-09-18). "Byant and bike courier a Class Issue". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2009-10-11.
  40. ^ "Bryant case put over until mid-November". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 19 October 2009. Retrieved 19 December 2011.
  41. ^ Austen, Ian (2009-09-01). "Canadian Politician Charged in Death". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-01.
  42. ^ Clarkson, Brett (2009-10-20). "Couriers in court for Bryant". Toronto Sun. Retrieved 2009-11-19.
  43. ^ "Criminal case against former Ont. AG Michael Bryant put off until Dec. 7". Winnipeg Free Press. 2009-11-16. Retrieved 2009-11-19.[dead link]
  44. ^ "Case against Michael Bryant put over until January". Toronto Star, December 7, 2009.
  45. ^ The Canadian Press (January 22, 2010). "Michael Bryant A No-Show In Court". City TV. Retrieved Jan 22, 2010.
  46. ^ "Bryant case adjourned to May 25". Toronto Sun, April 14, 2010.
  47. ^ "Charges against Bryant in fatal crash withdrawn". CBC News. 2010-05-25. Retrieved 2014-05-26.
  48. ^ "Charges against Bryant withdrawn in cyclist death". CTV News, May 25, 2010.
  49. ^ "Cycling advocates decry decision to drop Bryant's charges". Toronto Sun. May 25, 2010. Archived from the original on May 27, 2010.
  50. ^ Benzie, Robert (December 5, 2009). "Michael Bryant joins top law firm as adviser". Toronto Star.
  51. ^ "Michael J. Bryant - Senior Advisor". Norton Rose. Retrieved 19 December 2011.
  52. ^ "Former Attorney-General Michael Bryant Has Joined Former National Chief Phil Fontaine's Consulting Firm, Ishkonigan Consulting & Mediation". Press Release. July 31, 2012. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
  53. ^ Fish, Daniel (December 5, 2016). "Whatever happened to Michael Bryant?". Precedent Magazine.
  54. ^ McLaughlin, Amara (January 12, 2018). "What happened to Michael Bryant? Former Ontario attorney general on his do-over". CBC News. Retrieved January 17, 2018.

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