Lyn McLeod

Lyn McLeod

Lyn McLeod (born 1942) is a politician in Ontario, Canada. She served in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1987 to 2003. McLeod was a cabinet minister in the Liberal government of David Peterson from 1987 to 1990, and served as leader of the Ontario Liberal Party from 1992 to 1996.

Background - Pre political career

McLeod holds as Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Manitoba and a Master of Arts degree in Psychology from Lakehead University, in the Northern Ontario community of Thunder Bay. She was trustee on the Lakehead Board of Education for seventeen years and its chair for seven. McLeod was also appointed to the Board of Governors of Lakehead University in 1986.

She is married to Dr. Neil McLeod, a family physician and former President of the Ontario Medical Association - Thunder Bay. [ [ Dr. Neil McLeod - Ontario Medical Association Awards] ]

Political career

First term (1987-1990)

She was elected for the riding of Fort William in the provincial election of 1987, defeating incumbent Progressive Conservative Michael Hennessy by 1,463 votes. The Liberals won a landslide majority in this election and made several historical breakthroughs in Northern Ontario. McLeod was appointed Minister of Colleges and Universities on September 29, 1987. Following a cabinet shuffle on August 2, 1989, she was named Minister of Energy and Minister of Natural Resources.

The Liberals were upset by the New Democratic Party in the provincial election of 1990, although McLeod was able to retain her riding against a strong challenge from NDP candidate Dan Hutsul, winning by 1,345 votes. Unlike most other Liberal candidates in this election, McLeod was supported by prominent members from the Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers Federation in her region.

Second term & Ontario Liberal Party Leadership (1990-1995)

Peterson personally lost his seat in the 1990 campaign, and the Liberal party went through a series of interim leaders before holding a convention in early 1992. McLeod was one of six candidates for the position, and was widely regarded as the main challenger to frontrunner Murray Elston. She finished a strong second on the first ballot, and overtook Elston on the third with support from Steve Mahoney's delegates. McLeod finally defeated Elston by nine votes on the fifth ballot, becoming the first woman to lead a major party in Ontario.

McLeod's victory was attributed to two factors. She made a deal with second-tier leadership contender Charles Beer. The Elston camp had an unexpectedly large lead on the first ballot, as McLeod lent Beer some of her delegates to give him a respectable showing, and Elston's margin dropped significantly when the eliminated Beer threw his full support behind McLeod. []

1995 provincial election campaign

With Bob Rae's NDP government being widely blamed for mishandling the major recession, McLeod's Liberals held a steady lead in the polls for most of the period from 1992 to 1995, and were generally expected to win the 1995 campaign. The party, however, damaged its credibility through a series of high-profile policy reversals in the period leading up to the election.

The most notable of these occurred when McLeod withdrew Liberal support for a same-sex benefits package introduced by the NDP government of Bob Rae in 1994. As twelve NDP MPPs (including two junior ministers) voted against it as well, the legislation was defeated. Many regarded McLeod's decision as cynical and opportunistic, and some believe that it was intended to boost Liberal fortunes in rural areas following a by-election loss in the rural, socially conservative riding of Victoria—Haliburton. The result, however, was that the party earned a reputation for "flip-flopping" and inconsistency while offending its socially progressive supporters.

McLeod also offended some immigrant voters, who usually vote Liberal, by criticizing the Rae government's handling of Somali refugee claims. Her intent was to draw attention to criminal gangs that were forcing Somalis to move to Ontario and defraud the provincial welfare system. Several, however, interpreted her criticisms as being directed toward the entire community.

During the campaign itself, McLeod further alienated many voters with an overly aggressive performance in the party leaders' debate, clashing with Premier Bob Rae and waving her party's platform before the cameras on several occasions. Prior to this performance, provincial Liberal support was regarded by many political insiders as soft and unsteady. After the debate, many voters who were previously leaning to the Liberals shifted to the Progressive Conservatives, who were in third place in the legislature and led by Mike Harris. The Tories surpassed the Liberals to grab the swing in support away from the NDP and finished with a majority, while the Liberals finished with less support than the previous campaign and managed only 30 out of 130 seats.

McLeod herself was easily re-elected in Fort William, defeating Thunder Bay municipal councillor and Tory candidate Evelyn Dodds (see Shelley Martel) by over 8,000 votes. Some Liberals called on her to resign after the election, and it came as little surprise when she actually announced her resignation as party leader two months later.

Third term (1995-1999)

McLeod remained a prominent Liberal Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) under new leader Dalton McGuinty, serving as education critic from 1996 to 1999. She was generally regarded as more successful in this role, and proved an able opponent of Education Minister John Snobelen's restructuring policies.

Fourth term (1999-2003)

McLeod was re-elected by a landslide in the provincial election of 1999, in the redistributed riding of Thunder Bay—Atikokan. The Tories won the election with a reduced majority, and McLeod swapped shadow cabinet portfolios with Gerard Kennedy to serve as her party's health critic in the parliament that followed. She did not seek re-election in 2003.

Post-political career

Following her retirement, McLeod was appointed to the newly-founded Health Council of Canada. She also named as the first chancellor of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in June 2004, and is a vice-chair of the board of governors at Confederation College in Thunder Bay.


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