David Christopherson

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David Christopherson : biography

5 October 1954 –

On February 3, 1993, Christopherson was given additional cabinet responsibilities as Solicitor-General of Ontario."Rae shuffles deck", Hamilton Spectator, 3 February 1993, A1. 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.Richard Brennan, "Street smarts", Hamilton Spectator, 28 December 1994, B3.

Christopherson allowed semi-automatic weapons to be issued to officers in late 1993."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. 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.Robert Sheppard, "Ready, aim and hope for the best", Globe and Mail, 31 January 1994, A11. Christopherson also introduced new guidelines for targeting hate crimes, and mandated stricter standards for police investigations of spousal assault."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. 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."Sex offender warnings", Globe and Mail, 10 February 1995, A2.

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.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. 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."Success of province-wide firearms program", Canada NewsWire, 1 September 1994.

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.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. 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". He served until the defeat of the Rae government in 1995.

Cabinet positions

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.Lee Prokaska, "Critics lambast WCB cuts", Hamilton Spectator, 26 July 1995, B3.