Politicians at U of T Law

Alex Redinger (2L) 

It’s no secret that many politicians have law degrees. Many of our classmates have been involved in politics in the past, and some will go on to seek political office. These are a few of the many politicians who are either current students or alumni of U of T Law:

Bob Rae (B.A. ’69, LL.B. ’77), Premier of Ontario

Shortly after receiving his law degree, Rae was elected to the House of Commons, representing a now defunct riding comprised of parts of eastern Toronto. After four years in office, he entered provincial politics as the leader of the Ontario NDP. Rae unexpectedly won the 1990 provincial election to become the first NDP Premier east of Manitoba – incidentally defeating fellow alumnus David Peterson (LL.B. ’67). A few of Rae’s accomplishments as Premier include creating a Royal Commission on Learning (which, among other things, resulted in a common provincial curriculum and the elimination of grade 13), variously pushing for First Nations’ self-governance, and expanding social assistance in the province. Rae held this office until 1995, when he lost the position to Mike Harris. After resigning from provincial politics in 1996 and from the NDP in 1998, he was once again elected to the House of Commons in 2008 as a member of the Liberal Party, serving as interim party leader until Justin Trudeau’s election. Rae has been retired from politics since 2013.

Brian Bowman (J.D. ’99), Mayor of Winnipeg

Even in law school Bowman was “interested in public service and politics,” serving as vice-president and then president of the SLS. He has been involved in advocacy organizations in the past, including being chair of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, president of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, and president and CEO of the University of Manitoba’s Alumni Association (where he obtained his B.A. degree). This political involvement culminated in a long-shot victory to become mayor of Winnipeg in 2014. Bowman, who identifies as Métis, is the first mayor of aboriginal descent in Winnipeg’s history.

Jesse Waslowski (J.D./M.B.A. ’17), MP Candidate (Libertarian) – University-Rosedale

Waslowski has identified as libertarian since his undergraduate years at Queen’s University, having been involved in the Students For Liberty club. However this election is his first foray into running for elected office. Waslowski is running in large part in order to bring up issues that he believes have not been addressed by the main parties, notably including First Nations’ rights and sovereignty. Despite still studying to complete his joint degree, Waslowski felt a sense of urgency to run given that the stances promulgated by himself and the Libertarian Party were not being taken by the main parties. While Waslowski is undoubtedly aware that no Canadian Libertarian Party candidate has ever been elected, he is especially interested in getting people to think about issues differently and thus change the political debate. Ultimately he is hoping that people will vote on principle rather than for the least bad candidate, as “if you choose the lesser of two evils, you still get evil.”

Paul Martin (B.A. ’61, LL.B. ’64, LL.D. ’11), Prime Minister of Canada

Upon graduating from law school, Martin initially went into the business world. However by the 1980s he began moving towards a political career, and was elected as a Liberal Member of Parliament for a riding in Montreal in 1988 – he held this position for the entirety of his political career, until his retirement in 2008. Martin was following in the footsteps of his father, Paul Martin Sr. (B.A. ’25, M.A. ’28), a long-time MP and Senator. He famously lost his candidacy for leadership of the federal Liberal Party in 1990 to Jean Chrétien, subsequently serving as the combative Minister of Finance for most of the duration of Chrétien’s tenure as Prime Minister. Upon Chrétien’s resignation in 2003, Martin was elected leader of the Liberal Party and thus appointed Prime Minister – he subsequently won re-election in 2004. While in office, Martin’s signature accomplishments include legalizing same-sex marriage across Canada (although he opposed legalization in 1999), refusing to join the United States’ missile defence program, introducing a $41 billion plan to improve health care, and signing the Kelowna Accord to redress inequities in First Nations’ communities. However throughout Martin’s tenure in office he was dogged by the Sponsorship Scandal, which entailed misuse of public funds intended for government advertising in Quebec. This culminated in his 2006 federal election defeat to Stephen Harper. Martin is thus far the only U of T Law alumnus to become Prime Minister of Canada (although several heads of state, including Canadian Prime Ministers, have attended the university).

Wes Hopkin (J.D. ’17), City Councillor of Penticton

After completing his political science degree at Harvard University in 2011, Hopkin returned to his hometown of Penticton, British Columbia and successfully ran for City Council. Being 22 years old at the time, he is the youngest person ever to be elected as a Penticton City Councillor. During his term, Hopkin helped secure a $250 million expansion to the Penticton Regional Hospital, which will provide access to acute surgeries for the 80,000 residents of the South Okanagan. In addition to serving as a Councillor, Hopkin volunteered as communications director for a local B.C. NDP candidate in the 2013 provincial election. Although Hopkin has no plans to return to elected office, he indicated that he would like to remain involved with politics in the future, stating that young people have an obligation to step up and take leadership roles in their communities.

David Miller (LL.B. ’84), Mayor of Toronto

Miller initially practiced law, then unsuccessfully ran for municipal office from 1991 onwards until he was elected as a Metro Toronto Councillor in 1994, and subsequently won a seat in the new Toronto City Council in 1997. In 2003 he won a closely contested municipal election against former mayor Barbara Hall and incumbent mayor John Tory (B.A. ’75). He was re-elected as Mayor in 2006, resigning from office in 2010. Miller fought expansion of the Toronto Island Airport, providing funding to increase park space on the waterfront, and increased funding for the TTC, affordable housing projects, and environmental programs.