Nathaniel Erskine-Smith

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Nathaniel Erskine-Smith
Erskine-Smith in 2023
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 39)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Political partyLiberal
SpouseAmy Symington
ResidenceThe Beaches, Toronto[1][2]
Alma mater

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith MP (born June 15, 1984) is a Canadian politician who is the member of Parliament (MP) for Beaches—East York. A member of the Liberal Party, Erskine-Smith was elected to the House of Commons in the 2015 federal election. Before entering politics, Erskine-Smith was a commercial litigation lawyer. In 2023, Erskine-Smith was a candidate in the 2023 Ontario Liberal Party leadership election, which he ultimately came second to Bonnie Crombie with 46% of the vote.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Erskine-Smith was born in Toronto, Ontario, attending Bowmore Elementary School and Malvern Collegiate. His parents, Sara Erskine and Lawrence Smith, were public school teachers.

Erskine-Smith attended Queen's University, where he completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in politics in 2007, before completing law school in 2010. 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 also attempted to start a business selling panini sandwiches from a trailer and hoped to start a catering business.[4] 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 [5]

Legal career[edit]

Erskine-Smith practiced 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.[citation needed]

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.[6] In a notable civil liberties case in 2014, Erskine-Smith successfully argued against compulsory religious studies at publicly funded high schools in Ontario.[6]

Political career[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.[7]

Other roles[edit]

He served as the president of the Canadian group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union for a one-year term in 2016.[8] In that capacity, he delivered a speech about youth in politics at an IPU meeting in Zambia.[9]


Erskine-Smith has been called Canada's most independent parliamentarian,[10] with the National Post has described him as “maverick”[11] and CBC describing him as Ottawa's “least predictable MP.”[12] Erskine-Smith described his position in an op-ed in the Toronto Star, writing:[13]

"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."

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.[9] 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 New Democratic MP Murray Rankin.[37] In March 2019, Erskine-Smith wrote an op-ed for NOW Magazine where he discussed his support for 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 a New Democratic Party (NDP) 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]

Bill C-235 and C-236[edit]

In 2020, Erskine-Smith introduced Bill C-235. This bill would delete the drug possession offence from the Criminal Code.[53]

He also introduced Bill C-236, which would provide diversion options to law enforcement, crown attorneys, and judges for drug possession cases.[53]

Gun Control

In an op-ed published in October of 2019, Erskine-Smith stated his belief that minority governments hold potential for greatness, among various other campaign talking points Erskine-Smith advocates for stronger gun control.[54]

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 to confirm the use of the Act.[55][56][57]

Provincial leadership campaign[edit]

Erskine-Smith ran for the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party in the 2023 Ontario Liberal Party leadership election. He campaigned against frontrunner Bonnie Crombie's plan to move the party back to the centre arguing that the way for the party to win the next provincial election was by wooing people who voted for the Ontario New Democratic Party, which had replaced the Liberals as the official opposition, saying ““We have to earn the trust of progressive voters in this province. “If we split the vote with the NDP, we lose... We have to earn the trust of progressive voters in this province.” Erskine-Smith joined fellow Liberal MP and leadership candidate Yasir Naqvi in a mutual support pact in an attempt to defeat Crombie. However, Crombie was elected on the third ballot, ahead of Erskine-Smith who came in second with 46% support behind Crombie's 53%.[58]

Personal life[edit]

Erskine-Smith was raised vegetarian, and is now vegan.[59] He has Crohn's disease.[60]

Erskine-Smith married Amelia (Amy) Symington, a prominent Toronto vegan chef and nutritionist, on her family farm in Camlachie, Ontario.[59] The two met in an undergraduate film studies course at Queen's University.[61] They have two sons, Mackinlay, born in 2016, and Crawford, born in 2019.[62]

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[63] *Robinson was dropped as the CPC candidate and would not have the Conservative caucus had she won.[64]

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[65][66]
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[67][68]
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]