Nathaniel Erskine-Smith

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Nathaniel Erskine-Smith
Nathaniel Erskine-Smith at the East York Canada Day Parade - 2018 (42256213615) (cropped).jpg
Member of Parliament
for Beaches—East York
Assumed office
October 19, 2015
Preceded byMatthew Kellway
Personal details
Born (1984-06-15) June 15, 1984 (age 37)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Political partyLiberal
Spouse(s)Amy Symington
Residence(s)The Beaches, Toronto[1][2]
Alma mater

Nathaniel B. Erskine-Smith[3] MP (born June 15, 1984) is a Canadian politician. A member of the Liberal Party, he is a Member of Parliament, representing Beaches-East York. Erskine-Smith became the youngest MP to be elected in the Greater Toronto Area on October 19, 2015, after a successful grassroots open nomination in December 2014. He successfully retained his seat in the 2019 federal election.

Erskine-Smith sits on the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. He also occupies an executive role on the committee of the Canadian Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) as a past president.

Prior to entering politics, Erskine-Smith was a lawyer at a commercial litigation firm downtown Toronto. He supplemented his practice with volunteer legal work for a range of clients and causes, which included fighting public interest matters in court, and research for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Erskine-Smith hosts a weekly podcast series, titled Uncommons: Canadian Politics with Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, in which he seeks out experts from his work and travels in Ottawa and Toronto to discuss on topics in the news and general matters of interest to the public.

Early life and education[edit]

Erskine-Smith was born in Toronto, Ontario and grew up in Beaches-East York and attended Bowmore Elementary School and Malvern Collegiate. His parents Sara Erskine and Lawrence Smith were public school teachers.

He obtained a B.A. (Politics) in 2007 and a J.D. (Law) in 2010 from Queen's University at Kingston. While a student at Queen's, Erskine-Smith was an unsuccessful candidate for city council for Sydenham District in Kingston, Ontario, in the 2006 municipal elections. He then went on to study political philosophy and constitutional law at the University of Oxford, where he earned a Master of Laws (BCL) degree in 2013 [4]

Legal career[edit]

Erskine-Smith practised commercial litigation as an associate at Kramer Simaan Dhillon, after working as a law student at Aird & Berlis LLP. He also performed volunteer work for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

He worked pro bono for a range of clients and causes, including a civil liberties case to protect religious freedom in Ontario's school system.[5] In that noteworthy pro bono civil liberties case in 2014, Erskine-Smith successfully argued against compulsory religious studies at publicly funded high schools in Ontario.[5]

Election results[edit]

In the 2015 federal election Erskine-Smith was the winning Liberal candidate in the riding of Beaches-East York. He defeated New Democrat incumbent Matthew Kellway by 10,345 votes.[6] Erskine-Smith became the youngest MP elected from the Greater Toronto Area.[7]

In the 2019 federal election, Erskine-Smith was re-elected with 32,647 total votes, which was the all-time largest margin of victory of 20,204 votes and the all-time largest share of the vote (57.2%) in Beaches-East York's history.[8]

Legislation & Parliament[edit]

42nd Parliament (2015-2019)[edit]

Committee work[edit]

Erskine-Smith served as a member of the Public Safety and National Security Committee, and as the Vice-Chair of the Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics committee in the 42nd parliament.[9]

Other roles[edit]

He served as the president of the Canadian group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union for a one-year term in 2016.[10] In that capacity, he delivered a speech about youth in politics at an IPU meeting in Zambia.[7]


Erskine-Smith has been called Canada's most independent parliamentarian, having set records for voting against his own party.[11] The Toronto Star has described him as “a breath of fresh air,”[12] and Ottawa's “least predictable MP.”[11]

He has voted against party lines when arguing for better assisted dying laws, declaring ISIS guilty of genocide, expunging cannabis possession records, ending public fossil fuel subsidies, among other issues, and he maintains a public record to explain each dissenting vote.[13]

Erskine-Smith has written and spoken about the need for greater independence in Parliament, and to highlight the importance of thoughtful and respectful disagreement. For example, in an op-ed in The Toronto Star, he wrote:

“No political party represents our views perfectly. We find the party that best represents our views and values, and we engage, debate and organize to bring both our party and country closer to those objectives. I am a Liberal MP and I continue to support our Liberal government. But that does not mean that I support every government action taken, or that I ought to refrain from public disagreement. In contrast to blind partisan loyalty, we promised to empower MPs and their communities through more free votes in the House of Commons.” [13]

Animal welfare and Bill C-246[edit]

In 2015, Erskine-Smith seconded Bill S-203, the Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act, that became law in June 2019. The bill prohibits the captivity of cetaceans and requires permits to import and export them to and from Canada. Erskine-Smith spoke to the house about the importance of the bill in June 2018.[14][15]

On February 26, 2016, Erskine-Smith introduced Bill C-246, the Modernizing Animal Protections Act,[16] to ban the import of shark fins and make Canada's animal cruelty laws tougher.[7] The bill won support from EndCruelty, a coalition of Canadians who support stronger animal protection laws.[17] Due to concerns from animal use lobbyists, the bill was defeated 198 to 84 at second reading.[16] Two years later, a government bill addressing similar concerns was tabled by Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould. She acknowledged Erskine-Smith's efforts as a precursor to the government's legislation.[18] The defeat of Erskine-Smith's Bill C-246 led to the creation of the Liberal Animal Welfare Caucus in 2017.[19] On September 5, 2017, Erskine-Smith wrote a piece in Now Magazine addressing his veganism and the importance of a social change towards the treatment of animals.[20]

Animal welfare awards[edit]

In 2016, Erskine-Smith received the Humane Legislator Award from Animal Justice for his efforts to modernize Canada's federal animal protection laws with Bill C-246.[21] In 2017, Erskine-Smith received the Fur-Bearers’ Clements award for his dedication to improving the lives of animals with Bill C-246.[22][23] In 2019, Erskine-Smith was awarded the Toronto Vegetarian Association Lisa Grill Compassion for Animals Award for his compassion and commitment toward animals. He was also recognized by Humane Canada for his dedication to ending animal abuse.[24][25]

Climate action and Bill C-454[edit]

In October 2018, Erskine-Smith called an emergency debate on climate change in Parliament in response to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's special report on global warming. He requested action to be taken by the government and Canadians to ensure that Canada can reduce its emissions and reach the targeted goals.[26] On June 5, 2019, Erskine-Smith introduced Bill C-454, the Net-Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions Act, to require the Government of Canada to reduce GHG emissions to net zero by 2050.[27][28]

Drug policy reform and Bill C-460[edit]

Erskine-Smith believes that the war on drugs has been a failure. He has been a vocal supporter of cannabis legalization and regulation, and has called for a new approach to treat drug use as a health issue. In February 2016, Erskine-Smith represented the Canadian government's pro-marijuana legalization views to a joint United Nations/Inter-Parliamentary Union conference reviewing how different countries were dealing with illegal drugs. He partnered with Mexican Senator Laura Rojas to argue that countries should seek alternatives to incarceration in cases where individuals have drugs solely for personal use.[29] In early January 2017, Erskine-Smith published an op-ed in Vice News Canada calling for the decriminalization of all drug possession as a logical next step to the government's progressive drug policy.[30] In late January 2017, Erskine-Smith delivered a speech in the House of Commons in support of Bill C-37, to expand access to safe injection clinics across Canada.[31] In the first episode of the television series Political Blind Date in 2017, Erskine-Smith and Conservative MP Garnett Genuis discussed their differing perspectives on the legalization of marijuana in Canada.[32] Erskine-Smith introduced a Liberal caucus policy resolution to address the opioid crisis through a public health approach, and it was adopted as the second overall priority by the grassroots Liberal membership at the Liberal Policy Convention in Halifax in April 2018.[33]

Bill C-460[edit]

To ensure more people access treatment, Erskine-Smith introduced a bill to remove criminal sanctions for low-level possession and to reduce the stigma associated with seeking treatment.[34] In 2018, Erskine-Smith appeared on CBC's Power & Politics to speak about his disappointment in the Liberal government's signing of the United States’ ‘War on Drugs’ document. He argued it brought the conversation about drugs away from a health issue, which ran counter to his push for drug decriminalization and domestic policy at the time.[35][36]

Cannabis record expungement[edit]

Erskine-Smith seconded a bill introduced by NDP MP Murray Rankin.[37] In March 2019, Erskine-Smith wrote an op-ed for NOW Magazine where he discussed his support for MP Rankin's bill, stating that only expungements would address the injustice of cannabis criminalization.[38]

Privacy work[edit]

In 2017, Erskine-Smith traveled to Washington [39] with the Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics committee to attend a congressional hearing on the Equifax data breach, and met with Congressmen from the Digital Commerce subcommittee, with Facebook[40] privacy experts, and with officials from the Federal Trade Commission.[41] In May 2018, Erskine-Smith scrutinized Facebook [42] officials at the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics [43] regarding the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the extent of privacy breaches for Canadians.[44] In 2018, Erskine-Smith participated as the Canadian delegation in the U.K.’s International Grand Committee on social media and disinformation. In total, 24 officials from 9 countries representing 447 million people participated.[45] In June 2018, Erskine-Smith introduced Bill-C413, an Act to amend the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, to give new powers for the Privacy Commissioner to better protect our privacy.[46] In May 2019, Erskine-Smith participated in the Canadian delegation of the International Grand Committee [47] to meet with representatives from Google, Facebook and Twitter, among others. The Silicon Valley representatives were asked to defend their companies' records on protecting users' data.[48] In August 2019, Erskine-Smith wrote an op-ed for the Toronto Star expressing his desire for the right to be forgotten. He explained that in an increasingly connected, online world citizens should have the right to hide content published about them from search engines if the individual’s privacy is being seriously violated.[49]

43rd Parliament (2019-2021)[edit]

Support for universal pharmaceutical provision[edit]

In February 2021, alongside Wayne Long, Erskine-Smith was one of only two Liberal MPs to vote in favour of an NDP-proposed motion to take a first step towards developing a national pharmacare system. The bill, proposed by Peter Julian, would have established the conditions for federal financial contributions to provincial drug insurance plans.[50] The following year, the Liberal Party would commit to work towards a "universal national pharmacare program" as part of their confidence and supply agreement with the NDP following the 2021 federal election.[51]

Committee work[edit]

Erskine-Smith is a member of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.[52]

2020 Private members bills[edit]

Erskine-Smith introduced two bills in February 2020.[53]

Bill C-235[edit]

This bill would delete the drug possession offence from the Criminal Code.[53]

Bill C-236[edit]

This bill would provide diversion options to law enforcement, crown attorneys, and judges for drug possession cases.[53]

44th Parliament (2022- )[edit]

Emergencies Act[edit]

In response to the occupation of downtown Ottawa by the so-called "Freedom Convoy", the government enacted the Emergencies Act. With Ottawa streets being largely cleared of protesters by the time of the vote, Erskine-Smith's Speech to Parliament condemned the protests, but questioned the use of the Act, and its approval after the clearance. He ultimately voted with the Act, as it was a confidence motion.[54][55]

Personal life[edit]

Erskine-Smith was raised vegetarian, and is now vegan.[56] He has Crohn's disease.[57]

Erskine-Smith married Amelia (Amy) Symington, a prominent Toronto vegan chef and nutritionist, on her family farm in Camlachie, Ontario.[56] The two met in an undergraduate film studies course at Queen's University.[58] They have two sons, Mackinlay, born in 2016, and Crawford, born in 2019.[59]

Erskine-Smith is a sports enthusiast who grew up playing baseball at Ted Reeve and Stan Wadlow in Beaches - East York. He also pitched for the varsity baseball team at Queen's University and University of Oxford.

Electoral record[edit]

2021 Canadian federal election
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Nathaniel Erskine-Smith 28,919 56.58 -0.65
New Democratic Alejandra Ruiz Vargas 11,513 22.52 +1.23
Conservative Lisa Robinson* 7,336 14.35 +0.19
People's Radu Rautescu 1,613 3.16 +1.70
Green Reuben Anthony DeBoer 1,388 2.71 -3.15
Independent Karen Lee Wilde 166 0.32
Communist Jennifer Moxon 131 0.26
Marxist–Leninist Philip Fernandez 50 0.10
Total valid votes 51,116 99.34
Total rejected ballots 340 0.66 +0.07
Turnout 51,456 65.05 -5.15
Eligible voters 79,102
Liberal hold Swing -0.94
Source: Elections Canada[60] *Robinson was dropped as the CPC candidate and would not have the Conservative caucus had she won.[61]
2019 Canadian federal election: Beaches—East York
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Liberal Nathaniel Erskine-Smith 32,168 57.2 +7.75 $74,562.95
New Democratic Mae J. Nam 11,964 21.3 -9.52 $91,821.20
Conservative Nadirah Nazeer 7,957 14.2 -2.23 none listed
Green Sean Manners 3,295 5.9 +3.32 none listed
People's Deborah McKenzie 822 1.5 - $1,821.54
Total valid votes/expense limit 56,206 100.0  
Total rejected ballots
Eligible voters 80,981
Liberal hold Swing +8.64
Source: Elections Canada[62][63]
2015 Canadian federal election: Beaches—East York
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Liberal Nathaniel Erskine-Smith 27,458 49.45 +18.69 $104,089.50
New Democratic Matthew Kellway 17,113 30.82 -10.82 $129,211.99
Conservative Bill Burrows 9,124 16.43 -6.31 $35,453.04
Green Randall Sach 1,433 2.58 -2.02 $3,691.94
Independent James Sears 254 0.46 $35,400.00
Marxist–Leninist Roger Carter 105 0.19 -0.08
Independent Peter Surjanac 43 0.08 $449.62
Total valid votes/expense limit 55,530 100.00   $208,561.84
Total rejected ballots 216 0.39
Turnout 55,746 73.18
Eligible voters 76,173
Liberal gain from New Democratic Swing +14.76
Source: Elections Canada[64][65]

Candidates for the November 13, 2006 Kingston, Ontario Sydenham District City Councillor Election
Candidate Popular vote
Votes % ±%
Bill Glover 1,180 46.24% -
Floyd Patterson 912 35.74% -
Nathaniel Erskine-Smith 297 11.64% -
Alex Huntley 163 6.39% -
Total votes 2,552


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External links[edit]