George Smitherman

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George Smitherman
George Smitherman Nomination.jpg
Speaking at nomination meeting, 2007
Member of Provincial Parliament
In office
1999 – January 4, 2010
Preceded byAl Leach
Succeeded byGlen Murray
ConstituencyToronto Centre
Personal details
Born(1964-02-12) February 12, 1964 (age 49)
Weston, Ontario
Political partyLiberal
Spouse(s)Christopher Peloso
Alma materBurnhamthorpe Collegiate Institute (did not complete)
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George Smitherman
George Smitherman Nomination.jpg
Speaking at nomination meeting, 2007
Member of Provincial Parliament
In office
1999 – January 4, 2010
Preceded byAl Leach
Succeeded byGlen Murray
ConstituencyToronto Centre
Personal details
Born(1964-02-12) February 12, 1964 (age 49)
Weston, Ontario
Political partyLiberal
Spouse(s)Christopher Peloso
Alma materBurnhamthorpe Collegiate Institute (did not complete)

George Smitherman (born February 12, 1964) is a Canadian politician and broadcaster. He represented the provincial riding of Toronto Centre in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1999 to 2010, when he resigned to contest the mayoralty of Toronto in the 2010 municipal election. Smitherman is the first openly gay Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) elected in Ontario, and the province's first openly gay cabinet minister.[1] In January 2011, he joined talk radio station CFRB as a contributor and fill-in host on the Live Drive with John Tory show.[2]


Smitherman was born at Humber Memorial Hospital (now Humber River Regional Hospital Church site) in Weston, Ontario and spent much of his early years in Etobicoke (he briefly lived in East York, Ontario).[3] His parents were Arthur and Irene (Margaret), and George was one of four children. Smitherman spent a lot of time working with his father's business, Smitty's Haulage (later Sure-Way Transport).[3]

On August 5, 2007, Smitherman married his partner, Christopher Peloso, a manager with Lindt & Sprüngli, near Elliot Lake, Ontario.[4] On September 26, 2009, the Toronto Star reported that Smitherman and his spouse had been approved as adoptive parents by the Toronto Children's Aid Society. A close source said that the couple were on a waiting list to adopt a child, Michael.[5]

Smitherman admitted a five-year addiction to an illegal drug[6][7] before running for political office.[8] Smitherman has not indicated the specific drugs he was addicted to during this time, except to say that they were part of the "Toronto party scene", and that "the drugs were not injected".[6]

Smitherman is estranged from his older brother, saying they didn't fall out but just drifted apart. Arthur, who ran for city council from Ward 8, endorsed Rob Ford for mayor.[9]

Early politics[edit]

Smitherman was active in politics at Burnhamthorpe Collegiate Institute, where he was the high school's student council president.[10] He left high school before graduation. He dabbled in municipal politics in Etobicoke. Smitherman decided against post-secondary education and began his political career. He worked as an organizer for the Ontario Liberal Party and Premier David Peterson. He was chief of staff to Ontario cabinet minister Hugh O'Neil and senior advisor to Ontario federal political ministers Herb Gray and David Collenette. He was chief of staff and campaign manager to one-time Mayor of Toronto Barbara Hall. He also ran a private consulting business and co-owned a photofinishing shop in downtown Toronto until 1994.

Provincial politics[edit]

In the 1999 provincial election Smitherman was nominated as the Liberal Party candidate for Toronto Centre-Rosedale. The riding's previous MPP, Progressive Conservative Al Leach, had chosen not to run again. Former Toronto mayor John Sewell was running as an independent candidate, and activists accusing him of splitting the left-wing vote with the New Democratic Party. Although a Progressive Conservative government was re-elected, Smitherman won the seat for the Liberals.

In the legislature, Smitherman was nicknamed "Furious George" for his aggressive and often abrasive manner, and rose to become McGuinty's right-hand man and favourite "attack dog".[11]

In the 2003 election Smitherman was re-elected and the Liberals won the election. Dalton McGuinty was sworn in as the 24th Premier of Ontario on October 23, 2003. Smitherman was named to cabinet as Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. He was also named Deputy Premier and the Toronto Regional Minister.

Under Smitherman's leadership, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care launched the Wait Times Strategy in 2004. The new health care model was designed to reduce wait times for various procedures such as hip and knee replacement, MRIs and CT scans. The Wait Times Strategy also focused on shrinking wait times for cancer, cardiac and cataracts surgeries.[12]

Smitherman also launched the Ministry's "Aging at Home" strategy in 2007. The initiative focused on delivering enhanced community health care services and enabling seniors to live independent, healthy lives at home through home care and other community based services.[13]

In the 2007 election, Smitherman was re-elected as the MPP for Toronto Centre and continued in his roles as Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, Deputy Premier and Toronto Regional Minister.

However, Smitherman was criticized for ignoring calls for an independent investigation into C. difficile deaths in hospitals, and he was unable improve the lives of nursing home residents who were often forced to sit in soiled diapers for hours on end.[11] Smitherman was also criticized for failures related to the implementation of an electronic health records system called eHealth that partly occurred during his tenure as Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. eHealth was under criticism for awarding no-bid contracts, as well as the $647 million spent on its predecessor, Smart Systems for Health Agency, which was shut down and restarted as eHealth. Smitherman's successor David Caplan resigned as Minister in 2009 to take responsibility for mistakes that were made.[14]

On June 20, 2008, Smitherman was shuffled to the new Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure, a merger of two formerly separate government departments. McGuinty dismissed suggestions that he combined the energy and infrastructure portfolios to satisfy Smitherman, saying, "I think it's a great fit, it's a natural fit, and it's an essential part of our plan to grow this economy." Smitherman was the first Liberal in the history of Toronto's NOW magazine to be voted best MPP.[15]

As the Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, Smitherman was responsible for Ontario's Green Energy Act, which was passed in September 2009. The Act encourages investment in green energy production by providing businesses the ability to sell energy produced from renewable sources to the province's electricity grid through a Feed-in-Tariff program.[16] The Green Energy Act has resulted in a series of record-breaking corporate investments in wind and solar energy worth billions of dollars.[17]

The World Wind Energy Association chose Smitherman as the recipient of their annual World Wind Energy Award in 2009 for his outstanding achievements in making Ontario the leading wind energy jurisdiction in North America.[18]

Toronto mayoral election[edit]

On September 9, 2009, Smitherman strongly suggested that he would be running for mayor of Toronto in the upcoming 2010 mayoral election. He emphasized that any official announcements would not come before "the unofficial campaign season municipally begins in the new year."[19]

On November 8, Smitherman announced his resignation from the provincial cabinet in order to run for mayor.[20] He remained in the legislature as a backbench MPP until January 4, 2010.

In April 2010, Smitherman's campaign manager, Jeff Bangs, resigned[21] and was replaced by Bruce Davis, chair of the Toronto District School Board and a veteran of local politics.[22]

On August 21, 2010, the Ontario Liberal Party began distributing pamphlets, listing Smitherman's provincial record and endorsements, to 75,000 identified Liberal voters. This partisan endorsement led to speculation that Smitherman's political fortunes were connected with those of the Liberal provincial government. Several other mayoral candidates criticized Premier McGuinty and the provincial Liberals for jumping into the race.[23][24][25]

Smitherman admitted telling a volunteer working for rival Rocco Rossi to "screw off". Smitherman claims he was set up by Rossi's campaign and he said the young woman tried to hand him a paper questioning his work with youth before a debate.[26]

Smitherman's campaign has been criticized for swaying first to the left and then the right. After Labour Day, he made fiscal promises to freeze property taxes for a year and cut down on reckless spending.[27]

Following the results of a Nanos Research poll, released on September 19, Smitherman made the following statement "The polling that we've seen tells us that if an election was held now, Rob Ford would be our mayor," Smitherman said. "That obviously provokes a certain distaste and reinforces for us that we need to work harder for the values of our city." The poll put Ford's level of support at 45.8% among decided voters. Smitherman held 21.3%, Joe Pantalone 16.8%, Rocco Rossi stood at 9.7% and Sarah Thomson at 6.4%.[28] Smitherman vowed to lead the "anybody-but-Ford" movement and encouraged strategic voting.[29]

In October, Smitherman picked up support. Sarah Thomson dropped out and endorsed Smitherman. Smitherman and his staff were also pressing some of Rocco Rossi’s key supporters to switch; Rossi soon dropped out due to being unable to improve poll numbers but did not endorse any other candidates. Former Toronto (pre-amalgamation) mayors David Crombie and Art Eggleton also endorsed Smitherman. Several left-leaning councilors who were normally allies of Joe Pantalone, Joe Mihevc, Adam Vaughan, and Pam McConnell, decided to back Smitherman's campaign instead. Smitherman urged strategic voting and repeatedly asserted that "a vote for Joe Pantalone is a vote for Rob Ford".[30] Smitherman also left a voice-mail for outgoing Mayor David Miller, hoping that Miller would persuade Pantalone to bow out, but Miller never returned the call (back in 2003, Barbara Hall's campaign used back-channel efforts to discourage Miller's run for mayor) and gave a public endorsement of Pantalone instead.[31] Following the results of the October 18 Angus Reid Public Opinion Poll, Smitherman and Ford were practically tied for first place, with Ford at 41% and Smitherman at 40%.[32]

On election day, Smitherman finished second with 35.607% of the vote compared to Ford who won 47.114%.[33]

Post-political career[edit]

Smitherman joined radio station CFRB on an occasional basis in January 2011.[2] He turned down an invitation from Premier McGuinty to run in the next provincial election but says he intends to run for office again at some point in the future.[2] He is now the Chairman and Principal at the consulting firm he founded: G & G Global Solutions. He is also a zone advisor to Ryerson University's Digital Media Zone.

Smitherman considered returning to politics and seeking the Liberal Party of Canada's nomination for a federal by-election in Toronto Centre but announced on July 29, 2013 that “I won’t be a candidate now. I won’t be contesting a riding in the 2015 general election or any other,” as he prefers to prioritize "fun, family and finances".[34]

Electoral record[edit]

Toronto mayoral election, 2010
CandidateNumber of votes% of popular vote
Rob Ford380,20147.098%
George Smitherman287,39335.602%
Joe Pantalone94,84011.749%
Rocco Rossi4,9730.616%

Ontario general election, 2007: Toronto Centre
LiberalGeorge Smitherman21,58547.75%-5.03
Progressive ConservativePamela Taylor9,22520.41%-1.63
New DemocraticSandra Gonzalez8,52818.86%-1.28
GreenMike McLean4,3669.66%5.82
LibertarianMichael Green6751.49%
Special NeedsDanish Ahmed2560.57%
IndependentGary Leroux2130.47%
CommunistJohan Boyden2000.44%
IndependentPhilip Fernandez1590.35%-0.37
Ontario general election, 2003
LiberalGeorge Smitherman2387252.7813.88
Progressive ConservativeJohn Adams996822.04-7.84
New DemocraticGene Lara911220.1411.34
GreenGabriel Draven17393.842.98
IndependentPhilip Fernandez3240.72
FreedomSilvio Ursomarzo2180.48-0.27

Ontario general election, 1999
LiberalGeorge Smitherman1775638.9
Progressive ConservativeDurhane Wong-Rieger1364029.88
IndependentJohn Sewell882219.33
New DemocraticHelen Breslauer40198.8
GreenJoseph Cohen3920.86
FreedomPaul McKeever3440.75
IndependentMike Ryner2360.52
Family CoalitionBill Whatcott2320.51
Natural LawRon Parker2050.45


  1. ^ "Smitherman quits Ont. seat as mayoral hopefuls register for Toronto race". Canadian Press, January 4, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c "George Smitherman to host radio show", Toronto Star, January 20, 2011
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ "Smitherman weds gay partner". Toronto Star, August 6, 2008.
  5. ^ Donovan Vincent, Rob Ferguson, and John Spears. Contenders to be the next mayor of Toronto. Toronto Star. September 26, 2009.
  6. ^ a b McGuinty 'proud' of Minister who beat drug addiction., May 13, 2006.
  7. ^ "Candidate's LSD use latest spark in by-election; NDP accuses Liberals of double standard Parkdale-High Park vote is tomorrow". Toronto Star, September 13, 2006.
  8. ^ Smitherman comes clean about 'party drug' habit. CTV News, May 12, 2006.
  9. ^ "Smitherman’s brother runs for council, backs Ford", Toronto Star, September 8, 2010
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b
  12. ^
  13. ^ agingathome_bg_12_20070728.pdf
  14. ^ "Opposition calls for Smitherman's head"., October 7, 2009.
  15. ^ The voting that takes is by reader polling.
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ "George Smitherman guns for David Miller", Toronto Star, September 9, 2009.
  20. ^ "Smitherman announces Toronto mayoral bid". CTV News, November 8, 2009.
  21. ^ "Bruce Davis to lead Smitherman's campaign for Toronto mayor" Globe and Mail. Apr. 13, 2010.
  22. ^
  23. ^ [1]
  24. ^ [2]
  25. ^ [3]
  26. ^ "Screw off, Smitherman tells volunteer from rival camp", Toronto Star, September 3, 2010.
  27. ^ [4]
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^ "The City of Toronto: Unofficial election results", Retrieved November 5, 2010.
  34. ^ "Smitherman bows out of race for Liberal nod in Toronto Centre". Globe and Mail. July 29, 2013. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 

External links[edit]

Provincial Government of Dalton McGuinty
Cabinet Posts (3)
Gerry Phillips (Energy)
David Caplan (Infrastructure)
Minister of Energy and Infrastructure
new merged ministry
Gerry Phillips
Elizabeth WitmerDeputy Premier of Ontario
Dwight Duncan
Tony ClementMinister of Health and Long-Term Care
David Caplan