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Politics of Hamilton, Ontario: Wikis


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Politically, Hamilton is known for producing groundbreaking, colourful and left-wing politicians — illustrated by the career of Sheila Copps. Locally, though, the big political stories have included the controversial amalgamation of Hamilton with its suburbs in 2001, and the destruction of green space around the Red Hill Valley to make way for the Red Hill Creek Expressway.


Municipal politics

The city is composed of 15 wards. Each voter elects a city councillor and a school board trustee. [1] Citizens have a choice of school boards in their ward, but may only vote for candidates of one board. The next municipal election will be Monday, November 8th, 2010.

Hamilton has had a city charter since 1846. In 1974, it combined with the Wentworth County and the latter's other towns and townships to form the two-tier municipal federation of Regional Municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth. Portions of the former county became part of Burlington and Cambridge.

The old city of Hamilton was represented at regional council by one councillor each from its two-councillor wards; the other municipalities by their mayors and an additional regional councillor each. The regional chair was appointed by the Ontario government rather than by the residents or the regional councillors. After a successful drive to make the office elective, the point became moot in 2001.

Municipal powers were divided or shared in turn by the city and the county (or its constituent parts besides Hamilton). For instance, the city and county continued their separate boards of education, while the police service and social services became regional responsibilities, and fire service and business licensing remained second-tier responsibilities.

In 2001, the former two-tier Hamilton-Wentworth region was amalgamated into a one-tier city called Hamilton like one of its predecessor governments. New ward boundaries coincided substantially or exactly with old Hamilton's wards and the former municipal boundaries of its suburbs.

As in most Ontario cities, incumbent councillors and mayors tend to be re-elected in municipal elections marked by low turnout[2]. In the 1940s, Hamilton City Council was presided over by Sam Lawrence, a unionized worker called the Labour Mayor. However, for most of the time, moderates of the centre-right or centre-left — such as Lloyd D. Jackson in the 1960s and Robert Morrow in the 1980s — presided over council.

Victor "Vic" Copps was a centre-left mayor in the 1970s. While taking part in the Around the Bay Race in 1976, he suffered a heart attack which incapacitated him. His wife Geraldine Copps served as a city councillor after that unfortunate event. Copps Coliseum is named after him and not his daughter, Sheila Copps.

Provincial politics

Hamilton has traditionally been represented by four to six Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs) or Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Old Hamilton was always suspicious of its larger neighbour and provincial capital, Toronto and had a reputation for being highly unionized. These factors combined to electing working class and left-wing MPPs, often from the New Democratic (NDP) and Liberal parties.

Liberal MPP Lily Munro was caught in the Patti Starr scandal which contributed to Premier David Peterson's electoral defeat in 1990. So often under- or unrepresented in at Queen's Park, the old city of Hamilton boasted three MPPs who were ministers in the NDP government of Bob Rae in the 1990s.

By contrast, the suburbs and rural precincts of old Hamilton vote for Progressive Conservative representatives, including government backbenchers for Rae's successor, Mike Harris. The Harris government's forced amalgamation of Hamilton was highly controversial among suburban and urban Hamilton voters. It also made provincial riding boundaries and names automatically coincide with those at the federal level, reducing new Hamilton's representation at Queen's Park, the Provincial Legislature in Toronto, by one member.

Federal politics

Progressive Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker appointed the late Ellen Fairclough as Secretary of State, making her Canada's first female cabinet minister, in 1957. A downtown provincial office building is named in her honour.

John Munro, a Trudeau-era Liberal cabinet minister and husband of Lily Munro, was the subject of political innuendo and criminal allegations dismissed after an Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) probe. He came in fourth in the first mayoral election for amalgamated Hamilton. The Hamilton International Airport was renamed in his honour.

Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Joe Clark appointed Lincoln "Linc" Alexander, the first Black Canadian Member of Parliament, as Minister of Labour in his short-lived government. Alexander later became Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, another first for blacks in Ontario and Canada. Linc was honoured by having the Mountain east-west expressway named after him.

Sheila Copps, daughter of Victor and Geraldine, was a Liberal candidate, first for the Ontario legislature and then for the House of Commons, where she represented Hamilton East from 1984 until 2004. She was a leading member of the Liberal "Rat Pack" while the Liberals were in opposition until 1993. An early and strong supporter of the leadership of Jean Chrétien, she held several posts during her career including Deputy Prime Minister. When Paul Martin became prime minister, however, Copps' star began to wane: she was excluded from cabinet and lost her nomination campaign to Tony Valeri in her re-districted riding.

In the 2006 federal election, all three of Hamilton's main urban ridings were won by NDP candidates: Wayne Marston, David Christopherson and Chris Charlton. The two predominantly rural ridings were both won by Conservatives, David Sweet and Dean Allison.


  1. ^ "Members of Council". Retrieved 2006-12-23.  
  2. ^


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