Robert W. Mackenzie

Ontario's former Minister for Labour, Bob Mackenzie, worked tirelessly for working people throughout his long career.

Former Ontario Minister for Labour, Bob Mackenzie, worked tirelessly for working people throughout his long career.

In January, Ontario and all of Canada lost one of labour’s staunchest defenders and supporters with the death of Bob Mackenzie. When given the cabinet post for Labour in Bob Rae’s NDP government in Ontario, Bob insisted on being called the Minister FOR Labour. That title sums up the man, his attitude and his achievements.

Bob grew up in Ontario and Québec before joining the Norwegian merchant navy in World War II. By the time he returned to Canada he was a committed socialist and trade unionist. Active in the CCF, Bob was an organizer for the UAW in Windsor. In 1961, Bob joined the staff of the newly formed New Democratic Party. Later he joined the staff of the United Steelworkers, while continuing his political organizing.

Bob first ran for political office in Windsor-Walkerville in 1955. He was elected to the Ontario Legislature in 1975 as the NDP Member for Hamilton East, and continued to serve this working-class riding until his retirement from Queen’s Park in 1995. During all of this time, he worked tirelessly for his constituents, a disproportionate number of whom were disadvantaged in a variety of ways. As the NDP’s labour critic, Bob raised awareness across the province of the many shortcomings in the labour legislation of the time. He fought hard for improvements in ng workers’ rights, health and safety, compensation laws and pay, employment equity and many other areas.

When the NDP became Ontario’s government in 1990 and Bob Mackenzie became our Minister FOR Labour, he introduced much legislation that improved conditions for working people and their families. He was responsible for Bill 40, which improved workers’ access to union protection and banned scab labour during strikes. Among Bob’s many other achievements as Minister were improvements to pay equity laws and the extension of union rights to farm workers.

Bob was fiercely committed to social justice, the fight against poverty, the wellbeing of working people and the New Democratic Party. His legacy lives on in his six children, all of whom carry on Bob’s values and activism.

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