Sandra Pupatello

Sandra Pupatello

Sandra Pupatello (born October 6, 1962) is a politician in Ontario, Canada. She has served in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario since 1995 as a member of the Ontario Liberal Party, and is currently the Minister of International Trade and Investment) and Minister Responsible for Women's Issues in the government of Dalton McGuinty.

Pupatello is married to Jim Bennett, a former leader of the Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal Party.

Early life and career

Pupatello was born Sandra Pizzolitto in Windsor, Ontario. She became politically active by campaigning for Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) Herb Gray in the 1970s. [Carolyn Abraham, "Not just the sexiest woman in the legislature", "Hamilton Spectator", 17 March 1997, B6. Pupatello's last name before marriage was Pizzolitto.] She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Windsor (1986). [Gord Henderson, "If you want to get ahead, do nothing", "Windsor Star", 14 February 1987, A7.] She remained in the city after her graduation, serving as general manager of the city's Rotary Club and executive director of the Essex County Kidney Foundation of Canada. ["Rotary club names Rudman to top post", "Windsor Star", 14 February 1996, A3.] She was also a board member of the Windsor Regional Hospital and Windsor Regional Children's Centre, and was president of the Fogolar Furlan Club. Pupatello was named "Italian of the Year" for Windsor-Essex County in 1996, received the Charlie Clark Award for Outstanding Service from the University of Windsor in 2001, and was named "Windsor Woman of the Year" in 2003. [ [ Sandra Pupatello, official biographical sketch.] ]

In opposition

Pupatello was first elected to the Ontario legislature in the 1995 provincial election, defeating New Democratic Party candidate Arlene Rousseau by 5,526 votes in Windsor—Sandwich. The seat had previously been held by New Democrat George Dadamo, who did not seek re-election. The Progressive Conservative Party won a majority government in the election, and Pupatello entered the legislature as an opposition Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP). During her first term, she served as Official Opposition Critic for Community and Social Services, Children's issues, Youth Issues, and the Management Board of Cabinet.

Pupatello was co-manager of Dwight Duncan's 1996 campaign to lead the Ontario Liberal Party. [Richard Brennan, "It's official: Duncan wants Grit top job", "Windsor Star", 25 June 1996, A1.] Like Duncan, she supported Gerard Kennedy on the final ballot. [Jim Coyle, "Hapless Grit leadership hopeful taped his own demise", "Ottawa Citizen", 6 December 1996, A17.]

Pupatello was re-elected by a landslide in the 1999 provincial election for the redistributed constituency of Windsor West, while the Progressive Conservatives were re-elected to a second consecutive majority government. Pupatello remained a member of the opposition frontbench, serving over the next four years as Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Official Opposition Critic for Health and Long-Term Care.

She was a vocal critic of the Mike Harris and Ernie Eves administrations, frequently criticizing cutbacks to child care and other programs. [Laurie Monsebraaten, "Day-care cuts called an attack on children", "Toronto Star", 21 July 1995, A6.] In 1997, she introduced a Private Member's Resolution intended to stop cutbacks to hospital funding. [William Walker, "6 Tories vote for resolution to curb hospital closings", "Toronto Star", 28 February 1997, A2.] She later criticized the Progressive Conservative government's plans to introduce a private MRI clinic, arguing that it posed a long-term threat to public health-care. [Colin Perkel, "Ontario plan to allow publicly funded private MRI clinics assailed by critics", "The Canadian Press", 8 July 2002, 14:38 report.]

In government

The Liberal Party won a majority government in the 2003 provincial election, and Pupatello was again re-elected in Windsor West with a significant majority. On October 23, 2003, she was appointed to cabinet as Minister of Community and Social Services with responsibility for Women's Issues. There was some speculation that she would be appointed Deputy Premier as well, but this position was instead left vacant until George Smitherman's appointment in 2006. [Adam Radwanski, "Few veterans, more untrieds", "National Post", 22 October 2003, A13.] Pupatello has been described as a possible candidate for the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party when Dalton McGuinty retires. [Robert Benzie and Rob Ferguson, "Successors to premier already eyeing job", "Toronto Star", 4 October 2006, A7.]

Minister of Community and Social Services

Pupatello's most important responsibility in the Community and Social Services portfolio was overseeing Ontario's welfare and disability assistance system. Shortly after taking office, she announced that her government would remove a lifetime ban on welfare recipients who are caught cheating on their applications. Pupatello described the rule as counterproductive, in that many welfare officials were reluctant to bring forward charges out of concern for the extreme punitive consequences. [Colin Perkel, "Liberal government scraps lifetime ban for cheating welfare recipients", "Canadian Press", 9 January 2004, 15:54 report.] She also announced that her government would take greater steps to find parents who are delinquent with child support payments. [Rita Trichur, "Ontario government announces new crackdown on deadbeat parents", "Canadian Press", 7 February 2004, 17:05 report.]

In March 2004, Pupatello announced $2 million to assist low-income Ontarians with increased hydro bills. [Keith Leslie, "Liberals promise millions to help low-income renters, hydro users", "Canadian Press", 28 March 2004, 16:30 report.] In June, she announced $10 million to help Ontarians with physical disabilities modify their houses and cars. [Gillian Livingston, "Ontario to spend $10M more to help those with disabilities modify home, car", "Canadian Press", 23 June 2004, 14:29 report.]

Pupatello introduced a 3% social assistance rate increase in 2004, the first such increase after twelve years of freezes. Mechanical difficulties with computers purchased by the Mike Harris government subsequently delayed its implementation, and the province implemented lump-sum payments instead. ["Canadian Press", "Computer problems delay hike for Ontario's disabled and welfare recipients", 6 July 2004, 01:38 report.] Later in 2004, Pupatello announced that her government would eliminate a rule requiring welfare recipients to liquidate their education savings plans. Speaking to the media, Pupatello described the requirement as "a dumb rule that works at cross-purposes to what welfare is suppose to be doing for people and their families". [Richard Brennan, "Education plans safe under welfare change", "Toronto Star", 7 October 2004, A08.] In 2005, she announced the creation of the "JobsNow" program to help welfare recipients enter the workforce. ["Ontario launches project to help people leave welfare", "Guelph Mercury", 21 April 2005, A7.]

In January 2005, Pupatello was appointed to chair an ad hoc cabinet committee on the modernization of government. [Ian Urquhart, "Liberal 'mod squad' aims to reinvent government", "Toronto Star", 19 January 2005, A21.]

Pupatello spearheaded passage of the "Adoption Information Disclosure Act" in 2005, allowing birth records to be released to adoptees. Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian was a critic of the bill, arguing that it was not sufficiently respectful of the promises of anonymity made to birth parents at the time of adoption. ["New adoption bill threatens privacy", "Toronto Star", 27 October 2005, A24.] Pupatello argued that the bill was necessary to provide adoptees with information about their personal history, and has noted that it provides safeguards for instances where safety issues are a concern. [Sandra Pupatello, "Why Ontario's adoption law had to be changed", "Toronto Star", 7 November 2005, A17.]

Pupatello announced in January 2006 that her department would close Ontario's three remaining government-operated institutions for mentally disabled adults, and assist the occupants with moving into in more integrated community facilities. She noted that a "sea change in attitude" had occurred over institutionalization practices since the buildings were first established, and that greater integration was now the preferred approach. Previous ministers, including John Baird, had also called for the buildings to close. Critics argued that the plan could put the patients at risk. ["Integration puts developmentally disabled at risk: critics", "Ottawa Citizen", 19 May 2005, C5; Steve Erwin, "Ont. to close last government homes for adults with developmental disabilities", "Canadian Press", 26 January 2006, 18:14 report.]

In March 2006, the McGuinty government was criticized for a backlog in approving provincial disability allowances. Pupatello described the backlog as "totally unacceptable", and announced that her ministry would work to correct it. [Kerry Gillespie, "Province 'to fix' disability backlog", "Toronto Star", 16 March 2006, A1.] Later in the same month, she announced that her department would close a loophole allowing social assistance recipients to receive an additional $250 per week for "special diets". Groups such as the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty had previously encouraged recipients to apply for the benefit, and there had been a significant increase in the number of requests. Pupatello argued that the loophole was being exploited by activist groups, and that the resulting drain on the system needed to be corrected. Several anti-poverty groups criticized the decision. [Jake Rupert, "Ontario plan threatens health of poor people, officials say", "Ottawa Citizen", 4 April 2006, D7.]

Pupatello raised social assistance rates were raised again by 2% in 2006, allowed further money to be 'flowed through' from the federal government's National Child Benefit Supplement in each year since 2003. [Gillian Livingston, "Welfare, disability rates up 2 per cent", "Canadian Press", 23 March 2006, 18:13 report.] She was unable to implement a planned removal of the federal tax credit clawback, and argued that the deficit inherited from the previous government made this change unviable before 2007. ["Minister admits failure to keep clawback promise", "Guelph Mercury", 3 March 2006, A5.]

Minister of Education

Pupatello was promoted to Minister of Education on April 5 2006, after Gerard Kennedy resigned to run for the federal Liberal leadership. The following month, she announced that her government would give $3 million to the Kids Help Phone service to set up an 24 hour anti-bullying hotline. [Tess Kalinowski, "$3M grant for help line to fight bullying", "Toronto Star", 17 May 2006, A20.] She also pledged more than $1 million to provide young students with swimming and water survival lessons, in the aftermath of a series of drowning deaths in the Guelph area the previous year. [Greg Mercer, "Swim lessons program on steep learning curve", "Guelph Mercury", 18 May 2006, A1.]

In late May 2006, Pupatello introduced a strategic high school transition plan intended to reduce Ontario's high-school dropout rate. ["Ontario plan aims to cut dropout rate", "Kitchener-Waterloo Record", 31 May 2006, A14.] The following month, she introduced a $50 million plan for teacher training and reduced wait times for special needs programs. [Kerry Gillespie, "Special-ed system gets $50 million infusion", "Toronto Star", 9 June 2006, A15.] She also worked toward solving the vexing issue of the teacher funding formula, a problem that the Liberals inherited from the previous government. [Ian Urquhart, "Schools still battle with cash shortfalls", "Toronto Star", 19 June 2006, A17.]

Pupatello also announced a comprehensive plan for changes at TV Ontario, including a greater focus on educational programming and more money for equipment upgrades. The popular Studio 2 program was cancelled, and replaced by a nightly current affairs show called "The Agenda". Some opposition politicians charged political interference in the latter decision, but this was denied by both Pupatello and Studio 2 host Steve Paikin. [Karen Howlett, "TVO to get $25-million makeover", "Globe and Mail", 29 June 2006, A1; "Liberals didn't interfere with Studio 2, Education Minister Pupatello says", "Guelph Mercury", 30 June 2006, B6.]

During the summer of 2006, Pupatello criticized a number of Ontario school boards for failing to balance their books. She appointed a financial adviser to the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, which was experiencing difficulties balancing its budget. [Tess Kalinowski, "Peel board wary of adviser", "Toronto Star", 21 July 2006, B4.] Pupatello also targeted administrative costs in the Toronto District School Board, arguing that the board had the means to balance its books without program cuts. [April Lindgren, "Province goes after school admin costs: 51 boards over budget", "National Post", 16 August 2006, A8; Daniel Girard and Tess Kalinowski, "Set school budget without drastic cuts: Pupatello", "Toronto Star", 24 August 2006, A13.] In late August, she appointed two provincial representatives to review the TDSB books. [James Rusk, "Province appoints two to go over TDSB books", "Globe and Mail", 26 August 2006, A12.]

During a September 2006 by-election Parkdale—High Park, Pupatello engaged in a controversial negative campaign on behalf of Liberal candidate Sylvia Watson. She accused New Democratic Party candidate Rev. Cheri DiNovo of comparing Canada's media coverage of serial killer Karla Homolka to the persecution of Jesus Christ, and suggested that DiNovo was unfit to run for parliament. [Clint Thomas, "Tight byelection race anticipated as Liberals blitz Toronto riding", "Canadian Press", 11 September 2006, 20:08 report; Karen Howlett, "Liberals step up attack in messy by-election", "Globe and Mail", 13 September 2006, A10.] Many argued that Pupatello took DiNovo's words completely out of context, and opposition politicians accused the Liberals of conducting a smear campaign. [Keith Leslie, "Liberals accused of 'sleaze' in byelection", "Hamilton Spectator", 13 September 2002, A12.] The effort backfired, and DiNovo was elected by a significant margin. Pupatello has defended her role in the campaign, saying "If I was presented once again with apparently what is factual and has yet to be refuted and that is sermons that were posted on the world wide web ... I would have exactly the same opinion as I do today". ["Pupatello welcomes trade job", "Windsor Star", 19 September 2006, A1.]

Minister of Economic Development and Trade

Pupatello was reassigned as Minister of Economic Development and Trade on September 18, 2006, following the resignation of Joe Cordiano. This was generally interpreted as a demotion, although at least one columnist has suggested that holding an economic portfolio could help Pupatello's long-term political ambitions. [Lee Greenberg, "McGuinty demotes minister known for byelection row", "National Post", 19 September 2006, A9; Ian Urquhart, "Cordiano set cabinet dominoes in motion", "Toronto Star", 19 September 2006, A21.]

Pupatello led provincial trade delegations to Alberta in late 2006 and early 2007, promoting Ontario's business sector to the western province's booming economy. [Murray Campbell, "Off to Alberta, to find streets paved in gold", "Globe and Mail", 16 November 2006, A11; Geoffrey Scotton, "Ontario pitches manufacturing links", "Calgary Herald", 13 February 2007, D3; Geoffrey Scotton, "Ontario 'high on' western integration", "Calgary Herald", 14 February 2007, E3.] ["Minister Pupatello To Lead Strong Ontario Delegation To Alberta Oil Sands Supply Chain Event" [press release] , "Canada NewsWire", 9 March 2007, 13:25.] She also took part in a trade mission to India and Pakistan in January 2007, ["Premier McGuinty to Indian Government Leaders: Let's Work Together" [press release] , "Canada NewsWire", 16 January 2007, 08:18.] ["Ontario wraps up business mission to Pakistan" [press release] , "Canada NewsWire", 25 January 2007, 12:21; "Canadian team briefed on investment opportunities", "Business Recorder", 27 January 2007.] and went on a four-day trade mission to Japan in April of the same year. Her department has also set up a growing number of marketing centres around the world. ["Ontario is trying to sell itself to the world by setting up a growing number of marketing centres around the world", "Broadcast News", 2 April 2007, 11:04.]

Minister Responsible for Women's Issues

In late 2005, Pupatello introduced a program to assist provincial emergency workers in identifying cases of domestic abuse. [Unnati Gandhi, "Front-line emergency workers to be trained to spot signs of abuse", "Globe and Mail", 2 December 2005, A16.] She has also introduced several initiatives to assist women from low income backgrounds in entering the job market. [See for instance "Ontario Government Helping Women Get Better Jobs" [Media Release] , "Canada NewsWire", 24 March 2005, 11:46 report; "McGuinty Government Helps Abused And At-Risk Women Get Jobs" [Media Release] , "Canada NewsWire", 20 November 2006, 07:41 report.] She introduced "" in November 2006, to encourage equal relationships between young boys and girls. ["McGuinty Government Launches Public Education Campaign to Encourage Healthy, Equal Relationships Between Boys and Girls" [Media Release] , "Canada NewsWire", 16 November 2006, 05:33.] In the same month, she announced $2.1 million for interpreter services for victims of domestic violence. ["Province boosts interpreter funding for assault victims", "Kitchener-Waterloo Record", 25 November 2006, A4.]

Minister of International Trade and Development

In September 2008, she was appointed the province's Minister of International Trade and Development, which was created with the mandate of attracting new investment in Ontario. []

Federal politics

Pupatello supported Paul Martin's bid to succeed Jean Chrétien as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. [Ian Urquhart, "Turmoil could hurt McGuinty Liberals", "Toronto Star", 5 June 2002, A27.] She also supported Michael Ignatieff's bid for the party leadership in 2006. ["Is Kennedy's glass half full, or half empty?", 30 September 2006, "Toronto Star", F5.]

Table of offices held

Elliott's official title was "Minister of Community, Family and Children's Services". The department was restructured and renamed in 2003.

Biographical information from both of these sites has been incorporated into this article.

Electoral Record

Sandra Pupatello
Mariano Klimowicz
Lisa Lumley
Jason Richard Haney
Daniel Joseph Dionne

All electoral information is taken from Elections Ontario. The expenditure figures cited on this page for all elections after 1995 are the Total Candidate's Campaign Expenses Subject to Limitation, and include transfers from constituency associations.


External links and sources

* [ Official site]
* [ Official legislative record]

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