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David Christopherson

David Christopherson
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Hamilton Centre
Assumed office
Preceded by new riding
Deputy Leader of the New Democratic Party
Assumed office
April 19, 2012
Serving with Libby Davies and Megan Leslie
Leader Thomas Mulcair
Member of the Ontario Legislative Assembly
for Hamilton West
In office
Preceded by Lillian Ross
Succeeded by Judy Marsales
Member of the Ontario Legislative Assembly
for Hamilton Centre
In office
Preceded by Lily Oddie
Succeeded by riding abolished
City Councillor for Hamilton, Ontario, Ward Four (with Geraldine Copps)
In office
Preceded by Don Gray and Vince Scott
Succeeded by Geraldine Copps and Dave Wilson
Chair of the Standing Committee on
Public Accounts
Assumed office
June 15, 2011
Minister Tony Clement
Preceded by Joe Volpe
Personal details
Born (1954-10-05) October 5, 1954
Hamilton, Ontario
Political party New Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Denise Christopherson (née Doyle)
Residence Hamilton, Ontario
Profession director, political assistant, union officer

David Christopherson (born October 5, 1954) is a Canadian politician. Since 2004, he has represented the riding of Hamilton Centre in the Canadian House of Commons. He previously served in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1990 to 2003, and was a cabinet minister in the provincial government of Bob Rae. Christopherson is a member of the New Democratic Party.


  • Early life and career 1
  • Member of Provincial Parliament 2
    • Government backbencher 2.1
    • Cabinet minister 2.2
    • Cabinet positions 2.3
    • Opposition member 2.4
  • Mayoral campaign 3
  • Federal politician 4
  • Electoral record 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early life and career

Christopherson was born in Hamilton, Ontario. He is self-educated, having dropped out of high school in the ninth grade. A voracious reader, he is a particular fan of books on politics. He began working with International Harvester in Hamilton at age 19, and remained with the company for eleven years. He was active with the United Auto Workers union, becoming plant chairman in 1978 and president of the Local 525 in 1979.[1]

Christopherson campaigned in Hamilton East in the 1984 federal election, finishing second against Liberal candidate Sheila Copps. He was elected to Hamilton, Ontario City Council the following year for the city's fourth ward, and re-elected in 1988. Christopherson became chairman of Hamilton's licencing committee, and made a concerted effort to reform the city's notorious regulatory practices.[2] He developed a reputation on as a hard worker, and was one of three councillors to decline a pay increase in 1988.[3]

Christopherson was also a constituency assistant for NDP Member of Parliament (MP) Ian Deans in the mid-1980s.[4] He sought the NDP nomination for Hamilton Mountain after Deans's retirement in 1986, but lost to Marion Dewar.[5]

Member of Provincial Parliament

Government backbencher

Christopherson was elected to the Ontario legislature in the 1990 provincial election, defeating Liberal cabinet minister Lily Oddie Munro in Hamilton Centre as the NDP won a majority government across the province. He was chair of caucus and parliamentary assistant to Provincial Treasurer Floyd Laughren from 1990 to 1992.[6]

Cabinet minister

Christopherson was respected by all parties for his legislative work ethic and contributions to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, and was widely considered as one of the most skilled backbenchers in the government caucus.[7] There was little surprise when he was appointed to cabinet as Minister of Correctional Services on September 23, 1992, notwithstanding that Hamilton already had three representatives in cabinet.

Christopherson's portfolio was extremely challenging, and was described by one journalist as "one of the worst jobs in government". The Correctional Services ministry had previously been damaged by reports of sexual abuse and intimidation involving staff at Ontario jails and training centres, and Christopherson was required to enact substantial internal reforms.[8] He supported former NDP leader Stephen Lewis's recommendations on race relations in the criminal justice system, and made efforts to address racism in Ontario prisons.[9]

On February 3, 1993, Christopherson was given additional cabinet responsibilities as Solicitor General of Ontario.[10] This was also a difficult portfolio, and Christopherson has since acknowledged that relations between the Rae government and Ontario police services were extremely tense when he entered the ministry. He has been credited with improving this situation, winning the respect of many in the police community. Julian Fantino, then an executive member of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, commented that there was "marked improvement" in relations following Christopherson's appointment.[11]

Christopherson allowed semi-automatic weapons to be issued to officers in late 1993.[12] This was supported by many in the police service, but was criticized by some in the legal community on the grounds that the new weapons were not safer than the .38 models they replaced.[13] Christopherson also introduced new guidelines for targeting hate crimes, and mandated stricter standards for police investigations of spousal assault.[14] Early in 1995, he announced that police would soon be given the right to warn the general public about sex offenders released into residential neighbourhoods.[15]

In May 1994, Christopherson introduced a pilot project to reduce illegal gun ownership in Ontario. For a three-month period, Ontarians were permitted to turn over illegal or unwanted firearms to the police without risking prosecution for illegal possession. The policy was endorsed by the police community.[16] After three months, the ministry announced that 1,000 pistols and revolvers, 2,000 rifles and shotguns and over 150,000 rounds of ammunition had been turned over to the police.[17]

In addition to his official cabinet portfolios, Christopherson was also responsible for articulating the Rae government's strategy for the proposed Red Hill Creek Expressway in Hamilton. Although he had previously opposed the project for environmental and other reasons, Christopherson argued in 1994 that a scaled-back four-lane highway would be the "best possible compromise" under the circumstances.[18] The Rae government approved the plan, although it was later rejected by the succeeding ministry.

Christopherson was widely respected for his abilities in cabinet, and often won praise from members of the opposition. Progressive Conservative Bob Runciman credited him for his competence and managerial skills, while Liberal Tim Murphy described him as "the best of a bad bunch".[11] He served until the defeat of the Rae government in 1995.

Cabinet positions

Provincial Government of Bob Rae
Cabinet Posts (2)
Predecessor Office Successor
Allan Pilkey Solicitor-General
Bob Runciman
Allan Pilkey Minister of Correctional Services
Bob Runciman

Opposition member

The Rae government was defeated in the 1995 election, falling to only seventeen seats out of 130. Christopherson, still personally popular, was narrowly re-elected for Hamilton Centre. He served in the next legislature as NDP critic for labour issues and the Workers' Compensation Board.[19]

Rae resigned as party leader in 1996, and there was considerable media speculation that Christopherson would run to succeed him. Toronto Star journalist Thomas Walkom indicated that he would be a powerful candidate on the centrist wing of the party, and would likely win the support of pro-Rae trade unions such as the Steelworkers.[20] He decided against running and gave his support to Howard Hampton, the eventual winner.[21]

Christopherson was a prominent supporter of Hamilton's amalgamation with neighbouring municipalities in the late 1990s.[22] The policy, which was supported by some members of all three major parties, was enacted by the Progressive Conservative government of Mike Harris in 2000. Christopherson considered leaving politics to run for the leadership of the Ontario Federation of Labour in 1997, but ultimately declined.[23]

The Hamilton Centre riding was eliminated by redistribution in 1996, and Christopherson chose to contest the expanded riding of Hamilton West for the 1999 provincial election against incumbent Progressive Conservative Lillian Ross. He was re-elected, and became one of only nine New Democrats returned to the reduced 103-seat legislature. He served as his party's Finance and Labour Critic, and was appointed as House Leader.[24] He considered campaigning for Mayor of Hamilton in 2000, but reluctantly declined.[25]

Christopherson resigned as NDP House Leader in 2001, amid rumours of a rift with Hampton.[26] He continued to serve as his party's critic for Consumer and Business Services and the Management Board of Cabinet, and was a deputy speaker in the legislature from 2001 to 2003.

Mayoral campaign

Christopherson did not seek re-election to the legislature in 2003. He instead campaigned for mayor of Hamilton in that year's municipal campaign. He promised to reform the city's disclosure laws, requiring municipal politicians to declare their assets, debts and holdings.[27] He also spoke out against plans to build an incinerator in the city for waste disposal.[28] He was supported by two teachers' unions and the city firefighters' union, as well as by Liberal MPP Dominic Agostino from Hamilton East. Initially considered the frontrunner, he was ultimately defeated by rival candidate Larry Di Ianni. Hamilton's amalgamation with the more right-leaning suburbs was a factor, as was Christopherson's opposition to a revised Red Hill Expressway.[29]

Federal politician

Christopherson returned to political life a few months later, defeating Liberal cabinet minister Stan Keyes to win the Hamilton Centre riding in the 2004 federal election. The Liberal Party won a minority government, and Christopherson served as NDP critic for cities, community infrastructure, labour and steel policy in the 38th parliament. He was part of a Canadian delegation that observed presidential elections in Ukraine in late 2004.[30]

He was re-elected in the 2006 federal election with an increased majority, as the Conservatives won a minority government nationally. In May 2006, he called for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police rather than the government to investigate a leak of the Auditor General's report into the Canadian gun registry. Christopherson suspected that someone connected to the government may have been responsible for the leak, given its "self-serving" nature.[31] He has also criticized the previous Liberal government for allowing billions in unpaid tax monies to remain uncollected.[32]

Christopherson was re-elected to his federal seat again in the 2008 federal election, and the 2011 federal election.

Christopherson is often described as a pragmatic politician. He once said that he has never been a "hard-line ideologue", but "the NDP is where I'm most comfortable."[11]

He was appointed Defence Critic for the NDP after Jack Layton's death, and appointed one of the three deputy leaders, by Layton's successor Thomas Mulcair.

Electoral record

Canadian federal election, 2011
Party Candidate Votes % ∆% Expenditures
New Democratic David Christopherson 23,849 57.0 +7.7
Conservative James Byron 11,020 26.4 +4.1
Liberal Anne Tennier 5,912 14.1 -3.5
Marijuana Michael Baldasaro 780 1.9 n/a
Marxist–Leninist Lisa Nussey 252 0.6 +0.3
Total valid votes 41,813 100.0
Total rejected ballots 320 0.8
Turnout 42,133 54.7
Eligible voters 77,077
Canadian federal election, 2008
Party Candidate Votes % ∆%
New Democratic David Christopherson 20,010 49.3% -18.3%
Conservative Leon O'Connor 9,051 22.3% -9.2%
Liberal Helen Wilson 7,164 17.6% -36.2%
Green John Livingstone 3,625 8.9% +44.2%
Libertarian Anthony Giles 528 1.3%
Marxist–Leninist Lisa Nussey 126 0.3%
Communist Ryan Sparrow 125 0.3%
Total valid votes 40,629 100.0%
Total rejected ballots 247 0.6%
Turnout 40,876 50.9% -14.9%
Canadian federal election, 2006: Hamilton Centre
Party Candidate Votes % Expenditures
New Democratic David Christopherson 24,503 51.29 $79,917.66
Liberal Javid Mirza 11,224 23.49 $71,436.13
Conservative Eliot Lewis Hill 9,696 20.29
Green John Livingstone 2,022 4.23 $1,353.15
Canadian Action Tony Des Lauriers 332 0.69
Total valid votes 47,777 100.00
Total rejected ballots 279
Turnout 48,056 59.21
Electors on the lists 81,161
Sources: Official Results, Elections Canada and Financial Returns, Elections Canada.
Canadian federal election, 2004: Hamilton Centre
Party Candidate Votes % Expenditures
New Democratic David Christopherson 20,321 45.81 $72,723.37
Liberal Stan Keyes 14,948 33.70 $71,403.14
Conservative Leon Patrick O'Connor 6,714 15.13 $25,596.37
Green Anne Marie Pavlov 1,422 3.21 $1,174.56
Christian Heritage Stephen Downey 520 1.17 $1,581.38
     Independent Michael James Baldasaro 345 0.78 $413.20
Marxist–Leninist Jamilé Ghaddar 91 0.21 $10.00
Total valid votes 44,361 100.00
Total rejected ballots 328
Turnout 44,689 55.32
Turnout 80,778
Percentage change figures are factored for redistribution. Conservative Party percentages are contrasted with the combined Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative percentages from 2000.
Sources: Official Results, Elections Canada and Financial Returns, Elections Canada.
2003 Hamilton, Ontario municipal election, Mayor
Candidate Total votes % of total votes
Larry Di Ianni 70,539 50.92
David Christopherson 54,298 39.20
Dick Wildeman 4,462 3.22
Michael Peters 3,270 2.36
Tom Murray 2,881 2.08
Michael Baldasaro 2,569 1.85
Matt Jelly 510 0.37
Total valid votes 138,529 100.00
Ontario general election, 1999: Hamilton West
Party Candidate Votes % Expenditures
New Democratic David Christopherson 15,625 37.84 $63,891.36
     Progressive Conservative Lillian Ross 12,261 29.70 $58,588.68
Liberal Frank D'Amico 12,037 29.15 $48,994.28
Green Phyllis McColl 495 1.20 $6,090.89
Family Coalition Lynne Scime 403 0.98 $1,100.80
     Ind. (Marxist-Leninist) Wendell Fields 236 0.57 $0.00
Natural Law Rita Rassenberg 231 0.56 $0.00
Total valid votes 41,288 100.00
Total rejected, unmarked and declined ballots 549
Turnout 41,837 57.87
Electors on the lists 72,295
Ontario general election, 1995: Hamilton Centre
Party Candidate Votes % Expenditures
New Democratic David Christopherson 8,012 36.81 $40,543.33
Liberal Filomena Tassi 7,322 33.64 $34,483.85
     Progressive Conservative Angie Tomasic 5,723 26.30 $18,222.88
Family Coalition Tom Wigglesworth 376 1.73 $1,548.28
Natural Law Monique Poudrette 331 1.52 $0.00
Total valid votes 21,764 100.00
Total rejected, unmarked and declined ballots 372
Turnout 22,136 54.71
Electors on the lists 40,459
Ontario general election, 1990: Hamilton Centre
Party Candidate Votes %
New Democratic David Christopherson 14,029 55.32
Liberal Lily Oddie Munro 7,814 30.81
     Progressive Conservative Graham Snelgrove 2,116 8.34
Green Brent Monkley 605 2.39
Libertarian Julien Frost 429 1.69
Family Coalition Jewell Wolgram 365 1.44
Total valid votes 25,358 100.00
Total rejected, unmarked and declined ballots 446
Turnout 25,804 59.78
Electors on the lists 43,166
  Summary of the November 14, 1988 Hamilton, Ontario Ward Four Alderman Election
Candidate Popular vote
Votes % ±%
Geraldine Copps (incumbent) 8,174 69.38% n/a
David Christopherson (incumbent) 8,055 68.38% n/a
Bob Fanjoy 2,319 19.67% n/a
Total votes 11,787 Note 1
Registered voters 28,764 40.90% n/a
Note 1: Each ward elected two aldermen and percentages are specific to each candidate, not for the overall total.
Note 2: All Hamilton Municipal Elections are officially non-partisan.
Note 3: Candidate campaign colours are based on the prominent colour used in campaign items (signs, literature, etc.)
and are used as a visual differentiation between candidates.
Sources: Benedetti, Paul. "Clean campaign for a dirty job in Ward 4", The Hamilton Spectator,
November 15, 1988, Metro, B2.
1985 Hamilton, Ontario municipal election, Council, Ward Four (two members)
Candidate Total votes % of total votes
Geraldine Copps elected .
David Christopherson elected .
(x)Don Gray defeated .
(x)Vince Scott defeated .
Total valid votes . .

Electors could vote for two candidates.

Canadian federal election, 1984: Hamilton East
Party Candidate Votes % ∆%
Liberal Sheila Copps 14,533 37.88
New Democratic David Christopherson 11,872 30.95
     Progressive Conservative Jack MacDonald 11,711 30.53
Social Credit Vince G. Vostrez 102 0.27
Communist Elizabeth Rowley 87 0.23
Commonwealth of Canada Ken Perry 59 0.15
Total valid votes 38,364 100.00
Total rejected ballots 348
Turnout 38,712 74.87
Electors on the lists 51,705

All federal election information is taken from Elections Canada. All provincial election information is taken from Elections Ontario. The 2003 municipal election results are taken from official results provided by the City of Hamilton, available here. Italicized expenditures refer to submitted totals, and are presented when the final reviewed totals are not available.

The 1999 provincial expenditure entries are taken from official candidate reports as listed by Elections Ontario. The figures cited are the Total Candidate's Campaign Expenses Subject to Limitation, and include transfers from constituency associations.


  1. ^ Jill Morrison, "Great expectations", Hamilton Spectator, 13 February 1993, B3.
  2. ^ Terry Cooke, "Licensing mess could consume council term", Hamilton Spectator, 10 February 2007, A19.
  3. ^ "3 Hamilton aldermen refuse pay raise", Globe and Mail, 28 April 1988, A22.
  4. ^ "Political infighting erupts in race for Deans' Hamilton riding", Toronto Star, 19 January 1987, A8.
  5. ^ "Dewar wins Hamilton nomination", Globe and Mail, 24 January 1987, A5.
  6. ^ Emilia Cassella, "Sunday shopping", Hamilton Spectator, 13 May 1992, A1; Emilia Cassella, "NDP betting on optimistic projections", Hamilton Spectator, 1 May 1992, A1.
  7. ^ Emilia Cassella, "Christopherson touted for NDP cabinet shuffle", Hamilton Spectator, 14 August 1992, A1.
  8. ^ Richard Mackie, "Critics brand cabinet shuffle 'damage control'", Globe and Mail, 24 September 1992, A7 and "Hiring, Property and Internal Investigations", Hamilton Spectator, 22 July 1993, B4.
  9. ^ "Ontario unveils policy for police race relations", Globe and Mail, 6 April 1993, A12; Sean Fine, "Prison racism rampant, panel finds", Globe and Mail, 2 February 1994, A5.
  10. ^ "Rae shuffles deck", Hamilton Spectator, 3 February 1993, A1.
  11. ^ a b c Richard Brennan, "Street smarts", Hamilton Spectator, 28 December 1994, B3.
  12. ^ "New guns for police estimated at $17M", Financial Post, 22 October 1993, p. 51. See also "Solicitor General announces new handgun and training for police", Canada NewsWire, 27 January 1994.
  13. ^ Robert Sheppard, "Ready, aim and hope for the best", Globe and Mail, 31 January 1994, A11.
  14. ^ "Guidelines on hate crimes issued", Globe and Mail, 23 July 1993, A4; "Hate crime, wife assault crackdown launched", Financial Post, 20 January 1994, p. 55.
  15. ^ "Sex offender warnings", Globe and Mail, 10 February 1995, A2.
  16. ^ Amber Nasrulla, "Firearms amnesty launched", Globe and Mail, 17 May 1994, A4 and Ross Longbottom, "Amnesty for guns way to safer streets", Hamilton Spectator, 17 May 1994, B3.
  17. ^ "Success of province-wide firearms program", Canada NewsWire, 1 September 1994.
  18. ^ Emilia Cassella, "Too little, too late say PCs, Grits", Hamilton Spectator, 3 March 1994, B2; Sharon Oosthoek, "Friends of valley road embrace", Hamilton Spectator, 22 March 1994, B1.
  19. ^ Lee Prokaska, "Critics lambast WCB cuts", Hamilton Spectator, 26 July 1995, B3.
  20. ^ Thomas Walkom, "NDP needs an identity as well as a leader", Toronto Star, 16 January 1996, A15.
  21. ^ "Hampton to seek NDP leadership", Globe and Mail, 20 February 1996, A11.
  22. ^ "Just one MPP opposes H-W supercity", Hamilton Spectator, 4 December 1996, A11.
  23. ^ "Race for top post reveals crack in house of labour", Toronto Star, 1 November 1997, p. 1.
  24. ^ "Hampton announces critic portfolios", Canada NewsWire, 28 June 1999, 15:14 report.
  25. ^ Eric Mcguinness, "Morrow throws his hat into the ring", Hamilton Spectator, 31 May 2000, A01.
  26. ^ Richard Brennan, "Signs of rift in NDP as house leader quits", 19 April 2001, A11.
  27. ^ Chinta Puxley, "Mayoral hopeful pushes disclosure rule", Hamilton Spectator, 16 June 2003.
  28. ^ Fred Vallance-Jones, "Incinerator fuels mayoral clash", Hamilton Spectator, 8 September 2003, A04.
  29. ^ "Expressway dispute", Broadcast News, 12 November 2003, 03:24 report.
  30. ^ "Hamilton New Democrat M-P David Christopherson is heading to Ukraine for Christmas", Broadcast News, 17 December 2004, 03:58 report.
  31. ^ "Who leaked Fraser's report? Harper to probe", Winnipeg Free Press, 13 May 2006, A11.
  32. ^ Carly Weeks, "Agency lets billions in tax money slip away: Problems reported in 1994 never fixed", Ottawa Citizen, 17 May 2006, A5.

External links

  • David Christopherson – Parliament of Canada biography
  • David Chistopherson, page on NDP website
  • How'd They Vote?: David Christopherson's voting history and quotes
  • Ontario Legislative Assembly Parliamentarian History

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