When Parliament goes back to work in early June, 23 U of T alumni, including several rookie politicians, will be sitting on both government and opposition benches.
Four of the five newly elected Conservatives won in long-time Liberal ridings. Joe Daniel (MEng 2000), an engineer turned businessman, pulled off an upset in Don Valley East, as did York Centre MP-elect Mark Adler (BA 1984) who defeated Liberal incumbent Ken Dryden, a former goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens.
Elsewhere in the GTA, Stella Ambler (BA 1989) won in Mississauga South, where the Liberals’ lead had been slipping in the last two elections. Corneliu Chisu (MEng 1988) unseated the Liberal gas price critic in Pickering-Scarborough East.
Rising star Kellie Leitch (MD 1994), a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, kept Simcoe-Grey for the Conservatives. Leitch beat out former Conservative cabinet minister Helena Guergis, who had won the riding in the previous three elections. Guergis ran as an independent this year after her ouster from cabinet.
Among the veterans returning to Ottawa, three have been named to cabinet. Tony Clement (BA 1983 UC, LLB 1986) is now president of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario. Bev Oda (BA 1971 Woodsworth) remains Minister of International Co-operation. And Peter Van Loan (BA 1987 Vic, MA 1989, MScPl 1993) is now Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Three alumni rode the orange wave to office, including first-time MP Matthew Kellway (MIR 1992), who won in Beaches-East York.
The NDP’s Peggy Nash (BA 1973) took back her seat in Parkdale-High Park. With a background as a union negotiator and community activist, she first ran in 2004. Nash won in the 2006 election but lost in 2008 to Gerard Kennedy, a high-profile candidate and former Ontario education minister.
Like many MPs elected this go-round – including three martial arts instructors, five musicians, the first Canadian in space, and 20 farmers – Nash didn’t plan to go into politics.
At U of T, she discovered that she loved learning languages. French turned out to be an asset to her working life, and a way to build other skills, too. “Language to me is like music. It’s having a good ear. And ultimately when you work with people, especially in politics, you really have to listen to people to be able to understand what their concerns are and how to address those concerns.”
U of T alum account for close to 20 percent of the Liberal caucus, with six incumbents holding on to their seats.