Gerard Kennedy

Gerard Kennedy

: "This article is about the politician. For the actor, see Gerard Kennedy (actor)." Infobox_Politician
name = Gerard Kennedy

caption = Kennedy at the 2006 leadership convention, speaking to the media.
birth_date = July 24, 1960 (age 47)
birth_place = The Pas, Manitoba
residence =
office1 = MPP for York South
term_start1 = May 23, 1996
term_end1 = June 2, 1999
predecessor1 = Bob Rae
successor1 = Joseph Cordiano
office2 = MPP for Parkdale—High Park
term_start2 = June 3, 1999
term_end2 = May 23, 2006
predecessor2 = first member
successor2 = Cheri DiNovo
candidate3 = MP for Parkdale—High Park
termstart3 = TBA
opponent3 = Peggy Nash (NDP)
incumbent1 = Peggy Nash (NDP)
party = Liberal Party of Canada
otherparty = Ontario Liberal Party

religion =
occupation = Food bank executive
spouse = Jeannette Arsenault-Kennedy

Gerard Michael Kennedy, (born July 24 1960 in The Pas, Manitoba) is a Canadian politician. While attending the University of Alberta in Edmonton, he became involved in the local food bank, eventually becoming its first executive director in 1983. In 1986, he moved to Toronto to run the Daily Bread food bank, which he did until entering politics in 1996.

He was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in a 1996 by-election to replace former premier Bob Rae in the district of York South. In the 1999 and 2003 general elections, he was elected to represent the new district of Parkdale-High Park. Following the latter, he became province's Minister of Education in the Liberal Party of Ontario government of Dalton McGuinty.

In 2006, he resigned his cabinet post in order to seek leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. He finished third in delegate selection meetings, but at the leadership convention, he placed fourth on both the first and second ballot before withdrawing to support eventual winner Stéphane Dion.


The son of a Liberal mayor of The Pas, Kennedy attended the St. John's-Ravenscourt School on a hockey scholarship before enrolling at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, in 1977. He worked as a historical researcher for the Government of Alberta in the early 1980s, attended the University of Alberta, and then left it, without graduating, to work at and head up the "Edmonton Food Bank" (Canada's first Food Bank) in 1983.

After moving to Ontario, Kennedy was the executive director of Toronto's "Daily Bread Food Bank" from 1986 to 1996. The food bank distributed $30 million worth of food each year without government funding; 150,000 people are estimated to have used its services every month. Kennedy was named in "Toronto Life" Magazine's list of fifty influential people in 1992, and was named newsmaker of the year by the "Toronto Star" in 1993. Kennedy was also given an honourable mention in the "Financial Post Magazine"'s C.E.O. awards in 1995Fact|date=February 2007.

Provincial politics

Kennedy entered political life in May 1996, running in a by-election for the Ontario legislature in the Toronto riding of York South, which was being vacated by former provincial New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Bob Rae. Kennedy was the first candidate not from the NDP or its predecessor, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, to win the seat since 1955. He received 7774 votes; his nearest competitor was Toronto city councillor David Miller of the NDP, who took 6656 votes.

Despite being a newcomer to politics, Kennedy became the front-runner to replace Lyn McLeod as leader of the Ontario Liberal Party in late 1996. Although popular on the left-wing, he encountered a strong "anyone-but-Kennedy" movement from the party's establishment and right-wing which was divided among several candidates on the leadership convention floor.Fact|date=October 2008 Kennedy finished first on the first, second, third and fourth ballots, but was defeated on the fifth ballot by Dalton McGuinty. Although McGuinty finished in fourth place on the first ballot, he was able to increase his support in the subsequent ballots, gaining delegates from the candidates that dropped off. The results of the leadership contest did not prove divisive within the party and both rivals eventually became strong allies. Kennedy served as the party's Health Critic during McGuinty's first opposition term.

Kennedy wanted to run in the redistributed riding of York South—Weston in the Ontario provincial election of 1999, but was forced to step aside for former leadership rival Joseph Cordiano. He instead ran in the neighbouring riding of Parkdale-High Park where he faced an interesting challenge from Anna-Marie Castrilli, another former Liberal leadership challenger who had defected to the governing Progressive Conservatives on the last sitting day of the legislature. Many anticipated that this would be a close race, but it was not: Kennedy won by over 10,000 votes.

The Progressive Conservatives were re-elected, and Kennedy became opposition critic for the high-profile Education portfolio.

Minister of Education

The Liberals won a majority in the Ontario provincial election of 2003, and Kennedy was re-elected in Parkdale-High Park with about 58% of the vote (his nearest opponent received 16%). He was appointed Minister of Education on October 23, 2003. Under previous governments, the Education portfolio had been marked by considerable labour strife. In 1993 the NDP government skipped negotiations with the public sector unions to implement mandatory days off without pay. There were province-wide teachers's strikes when the PC government attempted to implement a restructuring program in 1996 and 1998, and many boards experienced work-to-rule campaigns that reduced extracurricular activities.

In the spring of 2005, Kennedy announced the establishment of a provincial framework in teacher's negotiations, which would see teacher's salaries increase by approximately 10.5% over four years in exchange for four years of labour peace. The framework includes priorities such as workplace preparation courses and English as a Second Language programs.

On October 26th, Kennedy was awarded the inauguaral Ontario Student Trustees' Association "Award of Distinction" for his contributions to education, including his expansion of the role of student trustee.

2006 federal Liberal leadership race

On April 5, 2006 Kennedy resigned as Minister of Education to pursue the federal Liberal Leadership. Premier McGuinty, who admitted that finding a replacement was difficult, was reported to have set that day as a deadline for Kennedy to make a decision in order to prevent the leadership speculation from overshadowing the Ontario government's agenda.

Kennedy formally declared his candidacy on April 27, 2006. He was supported by MPs Omar Alghabra, Navdeep Bains, Raymond Chan, Mark Holland, Gurbax Malhi, Bernard Patry, Mario Silva, Scott Simms, Brent St. Denis, Andrew Telegdi, Dan McTeague, Brenda Chamberlain and Borys Wrzesnewskyj , and former MPs Peter Adams, Charles Caccia, Gary Carr, Marc Godbout, Joe Fontana, Lynn Myers and Russ Powers, and Ontario MPPs Wayne Arthurs, Bas Balkissoon, Lorenzo Berardinetti, Brad Duguid, Peter Fonseca, Kuldip Kular, Jean-Marc Lalonde, Madeleine Meilleur, Steve Peters, Gerry Phillips, Khalil Ramal, and Harinder Takhar. Some of Kennedy's other endorsements are from Canadian Senators Terry Mercer and Robert Peterson, Justin Trudeau, leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party Jon Gerrard, former Trudeau principal secretaries Tom Axworthy and Jim Coutts, social activist June Callwood, author Mary Jo Leddy, former Premier of New Brunswick Ray Frenette and former Premier of Prince Edward Island Keith Milligan. Former Ontario Attorney-General Ian Scott had also endorsed Kennedy in his final public appearance prior to his death.

On May 18, Kennedy formally resigned from the provincial legislature. This was after several weeks of criticism over drawing an MPP's salary, despite his absence from the legislature and his stated intention to live for part of the summer in Quebec. Kennedy responded saying that he intended to resign his seat "sooner rather than later," but first wanted to finish some local projects he'd been working on. "We've been working hard to deliver some things that riding needs, funding for some of the hospitals, some other projects, and I think we're very close on that", he told The Canadian Press in an interview from Moncton, N.B.

The Opposition at Queen's Park speculated that Premier McGuinty asked Kennedy to delay his resignation as the Liberals feared losing his riding in a by-election. There was also a published report that said that McGuinty asked Kennedy to postpone his resignation to delay a provincial byelection. Kennedy dismissed the claims, saying "I want people to know emphatically that the only consideration here has been how to make sure the people of Parkdale-High Park are best served by my decision to pursue a federal post, and that's between me and my constituents." The riding which some have described as an NDP stronghold was particularly indicative of Kennedy's personal popularity (due to his work as food bank director and education minister) versus that of his party; Sylvia Watson could not retain the seat for the Liberals in a subsequent by-election, apparently being unable to "ride the coattails of Kennedy's popularity". [ [ The Globe and Mail - "NDP thumps Liberals in vicious Ontario by-election"] ]

On July 13 2006, The "Toronto Star" reported that Gerard Kennedy appeared to have signed up more new members than any other candidate in the period of the race geared towards member recruitment. The article says that it had been "conventional widsom" that Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae were the leaders in the race but "(t)hese numbers would indicate a change in the dynamic of the race".

On September 8, 2006, Joe Fontana, MP for London North Centre and Gerard Kennedy's Ontario Co-Chair, announced that he would be resigning his seat in the House of Commons to run for mayor in London. Though it was speculated Kennedy would run in the by-election [ [ London Free Press - "Byelection race taking shape: The Tories and NDP hold nomination meetings this week, while the Grits are still scrambling."] ] , he declined, stating that the riding would be better served by a local candidate who could devote the appropriate time to the campaign. [ [ - "Gerard Kennedy not running in byelection"] ]

On "Super Weekend", from September 29 to October 1, the Liberal Party elected approximately 85% of delegates. Kennedy finished in third place with 17.3% of delegates being pledged to his campaign, a similar number to Stéphane Dion, who received 16.0% and to Bob Rae who received 20.3%. (Note: At the December Liberal leadership convention, the "Super Weekend" elected delegates were bound (or committed) to vote on the first ballot for the leadership candidate they had pledged to support. On the second and subsequent ballots, however, the delegates were - if they wished - able to switch their votes to another candidate.)

On November 27 2006, Kennedy attracted a great deal of media attention when he became the first leadership candidate to oppose a motion being debated in the Canadian House of Commons, of which he is not a member, that would have declared the Québécois "a nation within a united Canada". Kennedy was joined in that position later that day by fellow candidates Ken Dryden and Joe Volpe.

At the convention, Dion passed Kennedy on the first ballot of voting, finishing ahead of Kennedy by two votes (17.8% to 17.7%). That gap increased to 2% after the second ballot (20.8% to 18.8%). Kennedy chose to leave the ballot before he would have been forced to, and supported Dion. Earlier, the two leadership contenders had allegedly struck a pact in which the first off the ballot would throw his support to the other. Pundits said that this surprise move had caught the Ignatieff and Rae strategists off guard. Kennedy delivered his delegates extraordinarily en masse, as Dion's support increased to 37.0% on the third ballot, moving from third place to first and eliminating Rae. Dion retained the position for the fourth and decisive ballot which resulted in him winning the leadership. [ [ - "'Gesture' might have helped trigger Dion win"] ]

Current Activities

On December 19 2006, Dion announced that Kennedy would be his special advisor on election readiness and renewal with "intimate involvement in all aspects of election readiness and the platform." Kennedy is also the chair of the mentorship committee. [ [ Canada National News - The Brooks Bulletin ] ] Kennedy said that his duties as election readiness advisor ended in the summer of 2007, but he continues as a special advisor to Stéphane Dion. Kennedy has also appeared regularly as a strategist for the Liberals on television and is often quoted as a Liberal spokesman in newspapers.

On February 6, 2007, Kennedy confirmed that he will seek the Liberal nomination for Parkdale—High Park in the next federal election. Kennedy previously held the riding as a Member of Provincial Parliament; the riding is currently held federally by New Democrat Peggy Nash. Kennedy won the nomination by acclamation on April 24, 2007. [ [ - "Kennedy named federal Liberal candidate for Toronto riding"] ]

In late August 2007, Kennedy entered the academic world accepting a position at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University. He will serve a one year term as a Distinguished Visiting Professor until September 2008. [ [] ]

In late September 2007, Kennedy was part of a group observing Ukraine's parliamentary elections in the Mariupol electoral commission. Kennedy reported back to the Canadian media that the group he was a party to was confronted by Ukrainian police who stripped passports and observer statuses. Kennedy said that the police were interfering in the process, and the observer group felt intimidated by the police who carried weapons and followed the group around for a day. Kennedy concluded that there were major flaws in the voting process, as the group was also witness to extra ballots being distributed. [ [] ]

On March 31 2008, notwithstanding the fact that he is not a member of the Canadian House of Commons, Kennedy was appointed to the Official Opposition Shadow Cabinet by leader Stéphane Dion. Kennedy serves as Intergovernmental Affairs critic, which gives him responsibility to speak on behalf of the Liberal Party on matters of federal-provincial relations. [ [] ]

Personal life

Kennedy is married to Jeannette Arsenault-Kennedy, a day care professional and Acadian (Francophone) from Prince Edward Island. They have two young children, daughter Théria and son John-Julien.

Sometimes mistakenly identified as Irish, Kennedy is actually of Scottish and Ukrainian heritage.

Electoral record


External links

* [ Official website]

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