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Chris Hodgson Remembers Representing Victoria-Haliburton-Brock

June 5, 2024

Chris Hodgson (centre) at the Chili Cook Off, Seniors Centre, during the Fenelon Falls Old Fashioned Winter Games, February 15, 1996.

First Elected in 1994, Chris became Minister of Natural Resources, Development and Mines in 1995, then served as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing from 2001 to 2003.

On Family and Community

Through the mid twentieth century, Victoria and Haliburton Counties had many close-knit communities, where practically everyone knew practically everyone. In the days before the global village, many farm families lived isolated lives. They did not have television and their battery-powered radios were seldom used for entertainment. However, they were important for things like weather forecasts (you need to know when to cut your hay!) or the news. It was a special occasion to see friends—even those who lived a couple of concessions away—often during the weekly trip to town or church. But these relationships with friends and neighbours were cherished.

Chris’ grandfather Clayton was the Conservative Member of Parliament from 1945 to 1963. The Hodgsons were a well-known family from Burnt River. Clayton’s parents worked with their brothers in the lumber business—and the Hodgsons continue to mill lumber north of Burnt River to this day. The Conservatives were as close-knit as their communities—and Clayton was good friends with Bill Scott, who would be the local representative from 1965 to 1993. “The Scotts have known the Hodgsons forever. Clayton was always at the horse section at the fair and Bill loved horses too. Our families have long been good friends.”

It seemed like Bill Scott knew just about every rural family who lived in the area. “He loved dropping in at birthday parties and visiting friends. Clayton was similar, in that he liked being around people. He would pick up hitchhikers, and then tell them all about their great grandparents.” Even after he retired from politics, he just liked interacting with people.

Born in 1897, Clayton grew up in Burnt River. He enlisted and trained, but did not get overseas in the Great War. He married Phyllis Dart and moved to Haliburton, where he would serve on various local committees and as Reeve of Dysart Township. In 1945, he stood as the Conservative candidate in the federal election. Though Mackenzie King’s Liberals would form the government, Clayton defeated incumbent Liberal member Bruce McNevin in his first of six consecutive victories, before retiring in 1963. That same year, two of his sons were elected to the Ontario Legislature: Glen in Victoria (serving until 1975, by then renamed Victoria-Haliburton, though it had always contained Haliburton) and Lou in Scarborough East.

Growing up in such a political family, one might expect that Chris might have been encouraged to follow in his relatives’ political footsteps—but that was not the case. “Clayton was very interested in politics, but he did not talk to us about politics. He would be much more likely to tell us about his beloved hunting dogs, that I looked after in the winters.”

Chris’ father was the Director of Education in Haliburton for 16 years, and has a Haliburton Elementary School named in his honour. “He thought politics was an awful way of making a living, so he did not encourage me to get into it. Once I decided to run, he was very supportive and got me books on the history of Haliburton County. Later, when I became an MPP, he gave me books on Victoria County.  He taught and loved history, and felt I wound be a better member if I knew the history of our area.”

In 1985, Chris graduated from Trent University with an honours degree. He had studied politics, economics and history with the intention of going to law school.  However, after working in construction most summers to pay for university, in 1985 he got his real estate license from Ryerson so he could sell houses during the summer before law school.  “By August, I was making more money at real estate than lawyers made, so law school was put on hold and I stayed in Haliburton selling real estate.” Eventually transiting into developing property, Chris developed a subdivision on Grace Lake near Wilberforce and was a partner in developing a 10,000-acre property with frontage on Kawagama Lake.

Chris’ wife, Marie, attended Fleming College in Peterborough from 1982-84 and graduated with a diploma in Early Childhood Education. She attended Trent University from 1984-86, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology. Chris and Marie moved back to Haliburton in the spring of 1986 and she opened Wee Care Day Nursery that fall, the first licensed child care centre in Haliburton.  In 1988, the centre expanded to 58 spaces and moved to its current location on Highway 21. Marie has been involved on various committees related to child care within the City of Kawartha Lakes catchment. She also served on Fleming College’s board of governors from 1993-96.

Chris often helped out at Wee Care—making sure his wife could take time for lunch. He was also very active in supporting Haliburton hockey. As a young adult, he got into coaching, given that his nephew enjoyed minor hockey. Chris’ son, Cody, also grew up playing for the Haliburton Huskies, with teammate Matt Duchene. Drafted 10th overall in the NHL Entry Draft by Vancouver in 2008, Cody went on to play for the Canucks, Buffalo Sabres and Nashville Predators. Much like his grandfather, who made many connections while talking about horses at the local fairs, Chris made a lot of friends at the hockey rink. “The parents I knew became poll captains when I ran for provincial parliament. Being from a small town, you know people, and Mom and Dad helped.” It certainly did not hurt that Marie’s family, the Chambers, were popular and were related to everybody.

“I was Reeve of Dysart Township at age 29 and Warden of the County starting in December of 1992.   Barb Bolin, the head of the Haliburton campus of Sir Sandford Fleming College started a group to look at developing a vision for Haliburton; to deal with basic infrastructure, such as new sewage treatment plant, which the town had talked about for 10 years or more.  Plus, we agreed on a few things that would improve the economy of the area.  This included a permanent year-round community college campus. Plus, improvement to the school facilities.  Over the years, the list that we as group had laid out expanded to include a fish hatchery, a theatre and numerous other initiatives.”

“The next year, the reeves and deputy reeves of the 10 townships of Haliburton County elected me as County Warden.  One the major issues at time was the situation with hospitals.  I felt deeply about the need for better hospitals in both Minden and Haliburton.  My grandparents lived in Minden for most of their adult lives and the health care really wasn’t there for them as they got older.  Keeping our hospitals open and continually improving became a high priority throughout my political career. The Ministry of Health actually announced the closing of the Minden Hospital shortly after I entered the Cabinet.  Fortunately, we were able to reverse the decision by noon the same day. Later, as MPP, I was fortunate enough to work with the Lindsay Hospital, ensuring they received provincially-funded improvements.  This was something they hadn’t benefitted from for years.  All of the expansions and improvements had been funded locally without provincial assistance.”

As a local politician, Chris soon realized that much of what he had promised actually fell under provincial jurisdiction. Though he represented a different political party, John Eakins (who succeeded Chris’ uncle Glen as MPP), encouraged Chris to run for provincial politics.

On Provincial Politics

“The nomination to be the PC candidate in the upcoming bi-election was my toughest political battle. In the past, the nomination had been a closed process, with the local party association deciding on the candidate. It all changed in the early 1990s, when Mike Harris made it 1 member = 1 vote. Then, it became all about getting people to buy a ten-dollar membership and show up at the nomination meeting. However, the local association, which I had not been a member of, decided that candidates could only get fifty membership forms at a time. As a result, while I was recruiting new members, I became great friends with Ruth Ann Matthews, who was the Membership Director of the local riding association. Ruth Ann lived in Fenelon Falls. I appreciated that she would stay up late, so I could drive down from Haliburton to turn in my sold memberships and receive fifty more forms.  The meeting date and site was to be midway between Haliburton and Lindsay on a Saturday afternoon.  For some reason, the date and location were changed two times, eventually landing on a Thursday night, late in November, in Lindsay.  Before email, it was a labour-intensive exercise informing all the people I had sold memberships to that the date and location had been changed, and now they would have to drive over an hour each way to a night meeting mid-week.  I will forever, be grateful to the 711 people who showed up and voted for me, and to my nominator, Bud Thompson, the Reeve of Bobcageon at the time.”

“Cell phones were a new thing at the time. They were a large device that you would keep in the car. There was no internet, or social media—fax machines were still the thing. All that correspondence was still on a roll (of paper).” Without algorithms to tailor online content to the particular interests or prejudices of the readers, many people got their news through printed newspapers, delivered to their homes. Some local newspapers, like the Lindsay Daily Post, ran daily print editions. “The local papers were far more influential than they are today.”

Chris was confident going into the campaign. With his own Hodgson family connections and Marie’s through the Chambers, “I was hoping to get 80% of the vote in Haliburton. In Haliburton County, I knew practically everybody, so we concentrated on Victoria County. I hired my brother, Andrew, who worked at the Beer Store in Lindsay, to be my campaign manager—he took a leave of absence from his day job.”

“The campaigns were similar to today, but it was hard to get people’s attention during a bi-election campaign. Therefore, we filmed a video introducing me and the ideas that I would try to implement if successful.  We dropped the video off door to door and asked people to share it, because we didn’t have the funds to make one for every household.”

“Andrew helped with organizing the poll volunteers and canvassers schedules, and my schedule, etc. We tried to get as many interviews as we could. We printed a brochure. Nearly every town in the area hosted a debate after supper. Every morning started with meeting factory workers as their shifts were starting, then we’d head out to visit farmers. In the afternoons, we did interviews and door knocking, then an evening debate.  Next day repeat again. You would tell people who you were and what you were trying to do on their behalf. Bill Scott took me around, and he knew a lot of people.” It was in some ways a passing of the torch from this old family friend, who was no longer able to continue as Member of Parliament, as his health was deteriorating.

Chris’ campaign went quite well, and revealed Andrew’s talents as a political organizer. He would go on to become the Executive Director of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. (Harold Brown became Chris’ campaign manager for the 1999 election.) Having won a 1994 by-election with 63% of the vote, this rookie MPP soon attracted the attention of his colleagues. When Mike Harris’ Common Sense Revolution led to a Conservative majority in the general election of 1995, Chris became Minister of Natural Resources and Minister of Mines and Northern Affairs. 

“One of the first things we did after the 1995 election was to finalize the list of things I wanted to accomplish.  The list was developed by working with the college, municipalities, hospitals, farm association, etc. The list included what I had promised as reeve and expanded to include, among other things, a new OPP office in Minden, a new super jail for Lindsay, community college campus expansion and new fairgrounds for Lindsay.”

Being a provincial cabinet minister was a career that left little time for anything else. “I was in charge of two or more ministries and chaired some cabinet committees. Every night, I would receive a binder of materials to review. I stayed at the office or attended a dinner function every night.  The earliest I got home was 8 pm. Our four children where always allowed to stay up late, so I could see them.”

The Management Board, which determined and tracked the spending of the 65-billion-dollar Ontario government, met every Tuesday at 8 am, while cabinet met every Wednesday at 8 am. “There was an agenda, and you had to get through it by noon, to be in the House in time for question period. There were eighteen people in cabinet, and you got to know everyone and all the issues well. There was also time to talk about larger matters and we brought in experts to talk about them. There were professional civil servants there as well.  I recall one time we brought in David Foot from U of T, who had written Boom, Bust & Echo, to talk about how changing demographics would impact the province. We went on retreats to learn about particular topics, and experts were brought in to educate us. Some matters were discussed with the full caucus, some were discussed with just the cabinet, and some were considered by the central ministers, that is Mike Harris, Ernie Eaves and myself.”

While Chris was the MPP, one of the most heated political issues locally concerned the restructuring of Victoria County. “It was a period when there was a lot of turbulence in the relationships between the province and municipalities.” Municipalities were facing significant financial pressures, as they were expected to offer many new services. “At the time, there was an opinion that the province should just let municipalities fail and then restructure. There was no political upside for the province to become involved in restructuring municipalities, particularly Toronto’s six municipalities.” However, the Ontario Cabinet felt that not restructuring Toronto would not benefit municipal tax payers. Other municipalities were encouraged to restructure, but a municipal council would need to request a commissioner to be appointed by the province. After the commissioner was appointed, his/her decision would be independent of political interference and final.  This process was laid out in legislation. 

In Victoria County, there was a great amount of controversy, as many voices were determined to avoid restructuring, while “Lindsay This Week was screaming that a restructuring was needed.” After Emily Township requested a commissioner, Harry Kitchen was appointed to write a report and draft a legal order to restructure the county. His decision would be final.  “The structure didn’t matter to me; the key was the people who were going to run it. I think it has worked out well, but that is not necessarily because of the structure – it is because of the people. I have seen great structures fail with the wrong people, and bad structures work well with good people.”

Though there was much debate about restructuring at the time, Chris tried not to become involved. “It was not a political issue for me. There were good people on both sides of that issue, and I had supporters on both sides. I always thought open debate makes for good discissions.” Chris remembers talking to Harry Kitchen only once, saying that he did not agree with changing the name from Victoria County to the City of Kawartha Lakes. “I did not know whether restructuring was a good idea at the time.”

After the City of Kawartha Lakes was created, the controversy over amalgamation continued, as the Voices of Central Ontario (VOCO) pushed for de-amalgamation. VOCO started hosting its own, unofficial “votes” on the question. “People felt like they were getting picked on.” Chris became Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and “I said we would have the referendum, but that the province has the final authority. Unlike the legislation on restructuring, the referendum legislation was not binding. If I had stayed around, I would have implemented the will of the referendum, but the McGuinty Government ignored that, which may have been good thing in the long run.”

“I thought that the small-town history was being overlooked, the people who had made it great were not being listened to, and I think I made my point pretty clear. In hindsight, I think it has worked out really well. There are good roads, the garbage gets picked up, and there is professional staff. They have the budget to afford the best. Business wants to move to the region, and there are clear rules for development and protection of the natural environment. Maybe Harry was right, and to his credit, he did a fantastic job. He set up a structure with a road map that the new council could follow. Toronto did not have as good of a road map and they still haven’t sorted it all out. Harry spent a lot of time on the HR of the new government, and that made it a lot easier for the new council to manage it.”

Another provincial issue that was contentious locally was the education funding model. The Common Sense Revolution brought significant changes to education. There was much controversy as Grade 13 was eliminated, creating the double cohort and requiring teachers to work 7 out of 8 periods. The disputes between the teachers’ unions and the province attracted much of the attention—and many have not forgotten the issues to this day. But Chris believes that one of the most significant changes that was made is overlooked.

“Ontario was the last area in basically the world that still had grade 13, however, removing it did reduce the number of teachers paying union dues, and that directly impacted the union budget. Increasing the hours taught also reduced the number of teachers and, consequently, union dues. Resistance was expected.  But changing how education was funded led to an illegal province-wide teachers’ strike. That was not expected.”

Growing up with Haliburton County’s Director of Education as a father made Chris acutely aware of how unfair the education funding formula was for areas that had cottages or seasonal residences, and generally areas that had a low industrial and business municipal tax base.  “The education system was funded jointly by the municipal tax base and by a provincial grant. The provincial grant was based solely on the residential tax base.  The assumption being that residences would support business year-round and you would also have large commercial and industrial tax base.  A false assumption.”

Over time, this system of funding became dramatically unfair.  By 1995, Haliburton County was told that they would no longer receive provincial funding, because of their large residential tax base compared to the number of students.  This decrease had been happening for a number of years.  The increase in costs for education coupled with the decrease in grants was to be picked up by municipal funding. In Haliburton’s case, the local residential taxes increased every year by over 10 percent.  “We had a large number of seasonal residences, but the lowest Commercial and Industrial tax base in the whole province.  Any increase in education costs was passed directly to the residential tax payer.  Nonetheless, that only covered teacher salaries and there was no extra money for facility improvements.  With the prospect of receiving no provincial funding, the local school board was contemplating having to lay off 35 teachers.”

That did not happen because, “we changed the education funding formula to help rural Ontario.  The average spend per student in rural Ontario was $4500.  In Toronto, it was $9000 per student. On top of that unfairness, the rural home owner paid twice as much property tax for education than a much more expensive home in Rosedale, Toronto. Toronto had gerrymandered the property tax for education to mainly be paid for by the Commercial and Industrial tax base.  School board trustees are elected by residential owners and renters, not Commercial and Industrial owners.  Therefore, the teachers’ unions could negotiate a contract with Toronto trustees that didn’t have to see their voters’ taxes increase very much. As a side note, if the Toronto School Board went on strike, it would use up the union strike budget and total budget very quickly, as it would have to pay strike pay to the picketing teachers. When a deal with the Toronto board was ratified, they would negotiate with smaller boards.  The union could afford to keep teachers belonging to small rural boards on strike for a very long time, because their strike fund could easily support the relatively small teaching staff through a long strike.  Rural boards understood this and just agreed, passing on the full cost to residences and having no money left over for capital budgets.”

Furthermore, municipal budgets where constrained because the residential tax payers could only handle so much of an increase per year, so councils would cut back on their road budgets and other municipal services to pay for education.  “We changed the system so the grants are based on Commercial and Industrial assessment.  All students would receive the same per student funding and property tax rates would be uniform for education based on market value assessment.  Municipalities could no longer shift spending arbitrarily onto the Commercial and Industrial base to avoid responsibility for spending.  As well, province-wide negotiations where implemented.  The new formula benefitted our local students, resulting in a new elementary school in Haliburton, triple gym and improvements to the Haliburton Highschool, new school in Fenelon Falls and a new high school in Lindsay – all things that would not be possible under the old funding formula.”

“The Liberal government only changed two things related to the funding shortly after being elected.  One was making junior kindergarten a teaching union job, thereby increasing union dues. They also increased funding for the Toronto School Board by $100 million per year, so their students got more per student than the rest of the province. However, they left in place province-wide bargaining.  As a result, there has not been a teachers’ strike, because the union would have to spend a lot on strike pay.  The downside has been that the union has encouraged teachers to abstain from volunteering for extracurricular activities to express their unhappiness with the negotiations.”

“Aside from education, after I left politics, the system of basing costs for policing went back to calculating the provincial assistance based on households only, not considering the Commercial and Industrial tax base.  Our cost sharing model of police funding relies on our seasonal households. This is a system of funding that benefits taxpayers in municipalities with a large commercial and industrial assessment.  On top of this unfairness to rural municipalities, the grants for infrastructure etc. are based on our smaller permanent population. So, things we pay into are based on a large seasonal and permanent household base, but the grants we receive are based on a small permanent population number. The Ford government has continued this very unfair system, which benefits large urban populations with large Commercial and Industrial assessment.”

On Life Beyond Politics

For eight years, Chris was in the inner circle as many far-reaching changes were made in Ontario. He experienced the lifestyle implications associated with all the responsibilities that came with reshaping how the province worked.  It is a cliché to say that, when politicians step down, they do it to spend more time with their families. But in Chris’ case, “it has the added advantage of being true.”  As he worked late nights, year after year, Chris regretted not being able to be a bigger part of his family as his young children grew up. In 2002, his oldest son fell ill, and all the kids were deeply involved in hockey. “I thought it was a good time to move on.”  

When Mike Harris stepped down as MPP and Premier of Ontario, many expected Chris to run to replace him. After all, he was a popular cabinet minister. “I thought about being premier for about five minutes. But it is really a thankless job that was not the right choice for me. You are never home. I had only been home a few nights in nine years. To do it right, you have to go to a lot of events, including fundraisers. It is a very busy and all-consuming job. Unless you are driven by a strong desire to change something, then why do it? I had done everything that I said I wanted to do.  We improved both the Minden and Haliburton health care facilities, and opened a new community college in Haliburton. There were new schools in several local communities. Money was approved for the Lindsay Fairgrounds, Lindsay Hospital and Lindsay Jail. Everything on our ‘to do’ list was accomplished in the riding.  Politics is fun when you are doing stuff, but not if you are sitting around spinning. Retiring was the right decision for me and our family—12 years is a long time to be in public life.”

Chris announced that he would step down, and in 2004 he took a job as President of the Ontario Mining Association. Having been the Minister of Mines for most of his provincial political career, his new career put him on the other side of discussions he had while he was in cabinet. “I do not miss politics. I am close enough to it representing the Ontario Mining Association. I admire anyone who puts their hat in the ring.” His brother, Andrew, stayed on as Chief of Staff for John Tory, then moved back to Haliburton, where he bought the Century 21 brokerage.

On Changes and Continuities on the Political Landscape

Though just nine years had passed, the world had really changed in the time that Chris Hodgson was MPP. “Technology changed and the internet became mainstream. The internet lessened the influence of local papers, and there has been less local community input. Everything went online. On the one hand, there have been improvements in getting the message out. On the other, people in small communities can be as disconnected as the farmers in my grandfather’s time. Another change is there are more lobbyists now. When I started, most of the sharp young people worked in the ministers’ offices, now they work for the lobbyists. One example of how this affects public policy is the Green Energy Act (passed by the Liberal Government in 2009). It was drafted by outside interests. Back in the 1990s, lobbyists did make an effort to put pressure on government—often using form letters. You would receive all these copies of the same letter. It certainly is different today, but I’m not sure if it makes for a better-informed electorate.”

“My favourite memory of my time serving in the legislature was the time I spent visiting and learning about agriculture in Victoria County. It is a sophisticated business with some great people. Carm Hamilton spent a lot of time teaching me about the different sectors of agriculture. I went on tours with Ron Pearson and various agriculture associations. I also really enjoyed the factory tours. Back then there were a lot more factories – before they all moved overseas. Maybe someday they will come back.”

For the nine years that Chris represented Victoria-Haliburton-Brock, he had an opportunity that few others get to experience, that is, being right at the centre of provincial politics during a transformative period. “You spend so much time together as cabinet ministers. I got to know Mike Harris and Ernie Eaves well.” While Ernie Eaves went on to become premier, many of the others moved on to do things outside of politics. “I still keep in touch with the old cabinet.”

“I remember once Mike Harris came up to stay at a cottage on Four Mile Lake, and [former Liberal MPP] John Eakins was living nearby. Mike was happy to see him. When I was in politics, there were some really partisan members—the ones that you see yelling on TV, but I had friends in all parties. Every party has people that make everything personal. Some people embrace the theatre of it. Private members’ bills were sacred, votes would not be whipped on them, and a lot of good legislation came out of that. When I was there, we got to hire our own staff—the best and the brightest, regardless of political persuasion, but now the Premier’s Office hires the ministers’ staff.”

“In my uncles’ days, MPPs used to play cards together in the side rooms off the floor.  Quorum required a few to sit in their seats for night sittings. The rest just had to be available. Back then, the estimates were worked out on the floor and ministers and deputies needed unanimous consent to finish.  They made an effort to make sure backbenchers from all parties were satisfied with the answers, so the local concerns of MPPs got attention.  There was a collegiality back then that has been lost. It does seem to be more professional since the TV cameras were brought in, but I am not sure if democracy is better served.”

Indeed, the world seems like a very different place than when Chris was elected to represent the local riding back in 1994. In other ways it went in a circle, with Laurie Scott taking over from Chris to represent the riding.

A Brief Autobiography of Chris Hodgson

Chris Hodgson was born in 1961 in Millbrook, Ontario, to the first Director of Education for Haliburton

County, John Douglas Hodgson (1926-1997) and his wife, Barbara Brintnell. He graduated from Trent University in 1985 with a Bachelor of Arts honours degree in history and political science. He worked as a real-estate agent for RE/MAX and in health care planning for Haliburton County before embarking on a political career. He was the Reeve of Dysart in 1991, winning 70% of the vote in his election, and Warden of Haliburton County in 1993, prior to entering provincial politics.

Political Career  

Hodgson was a Progressive Conservative member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1994 to 2003, representing the ridings of Victoria—Haliburton and Haliburton—Victoria—Brock. He was first elected to the Ontario legislature in a 1994 by-election with 63% of the vote in the rural riding of Victoria—Haliburton. After the Tories won a majority government in the provincial election of 1995, Hodgson was re-elected over McCrae by almost 20,000 votes, with 67% of the vote. On June 26, 1995, he was named Minister of Natural Resources, Development and Mines in Premier Mike Harris’ government.

On October 10, 1997, Hodgson was named Minister of Northern Development and Mines, Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Deputy Government House Leader (holding the latter positions until 2001). He also served as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing from 2001 to 2003.

Hodgson was elected for a third time in the 1999 provincial election, this time in the redistributed riding of Haliburton—Victoria—Brock. He retained his position as Chair of the Management Board in the new parliament and was also named Commissioner of the Board of Internal Economy on July 27, 1999. After a cabinet shuffle on February 8, 2001, he was named Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

When Harris resigned as Premier in 2002, many expected Hodgson to enter the race to replace him. Instead, he endorsed Ernie Eves, the victorious candidate. He retained the Municipal Affairs and Housing portfolio in the Eves cabinet, but unexpectedly stepped down on January 13, 2003, announcing his decision to retire from politics. He did not run in the 2003 election. In 2004, he supported John Tory’s successful bid to replace Eves as party leader.

Political Achievements

As Minister of Natural Resources, Hodgson launched the Lands for Life initiative, which saw the largest increase in parks and protected space in the history of the province and laid the groundwork for the government’s Living Legacy program, the single biggest expansion of parks in Ontario. He also reinstated the Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program, which promoted environmental stewardship and economic sustainability of private forestland. Additionally, Hodgson cooperated with hunters and animal rights activists to introduce the first amended Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act in 50 years, replacing the Game and Fish Act, in an effort to toughen enforcement provisions in the industry, increase protection of a wider range of species and better manage resources. Moreover, Hodgson brought together and collaborated with Ontario trappers to form the Ontario Fur Managers Federation for the management of wild fur resources. He also created the Special Purpose Account and the Fish and Wildlife Enhancement Fund and Advisory Boards to earmark funding to fish and wildlife parks and set up an account dedicated to fishing and hunting license revenues for the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters. He also introduced Bill 52 to make Aggregate Industry more accountable for meeting strict provincial standards and removing barriers to job creation in the sector.

As Minister, Hodgson also awarded private-sector contracts to assist firefighting and frontline health and medical services at large fire sites. He led the strategy to tackle the Land Caution in the Temagami area, resolving the long-standing dispute on land use and resource management, and was also singled out for bringing together all sides of the Kawartha Highlands Signature Site and brokering an agreement by writing new legislation to turn the 36,000-hectare Kawartha Highlands into a provincial park. He was recognized as the key figure in this process by the president of the World Wildlife Fund Canada.

As Minister of Northern Development, Hodgson promoted economic diversity and the creation of long-term jobs in the North as Chair of the $210-million Northern Heritage Fund and the $77-million Special Circumstances Fund and maintained the Ontario Prospectors Assistance Program. He also helped draft the first partnership between the province and a First Nations band to manage a provincial park (Serpent Mounds). He was also praised for targeting illegal gambling and rejuvenated the horse-racing industry by banning video lottery terminals from bars and restaurants, and proposing slot machines at racetracks, rejecting a proposal for private gambling houses in a bid to consolidate the administration of legal gaming under the jurisdiction of the Ontario Lottery Corporation. His efforts were recognized by the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association and the Responsible Gaming Council.

As Minister of Municipal Affairs, Hodgson rewrote the Municipal Act for the first time since the passage of the Baldwin Act in the late 19th century, placed protective status on the Oak Ridges Moraine and began the Smart Growth Initiative for the entire province, a program that was later renamed Places to Grow. As Minister, in conjunction with his role as Chair of the Provincial and Territorial Ministers of Housing, Hodgson persuaded the federal government to flow housing funding across the country to meet the varying needs of different regions, resulting in the construction of over 10,500 new units of affordable housing in Ontario. Hodgson also oversaw the mandate of Bill 124, ‘An act to improve public safety and to increase efficiency in building code enforcement’ under BRRAG (Building Regulatory Reform Advisory Group), which received royal assent in June 2002, and introduced legislation to help revitalize contaminated industrial sites.

In 2002, Hodgson was also responsible for Ontario’s role in hosting World Youth Day, then the largest international conference held in Canada, which generated an estimated $233 million in economic spinoffs.

Public Recognition

Hodgson’s work on the Oak Ridges Moraine was recognized by the Environmental Commissioner with the 2001-2002 ECO Award. Hodgson and his ministry were also awarded the 2001 Canadian Urban Institute Brownie Award for leadership in policy development for Ontario’s Brownfields Statute Law Amendment Act, 2001. 

In 2003, the Chamber of Commerce named Hodgson Highlander of the Year for his service to Haliburton County. 

He became the first MPP to have been awarded the AMO (Association of Municipalities of Ontario) award (2003). Hodgson also became the first politician to win the OFAH’s Ontario Hunting Heritage Award (2003).

After Politics

Following his retirement from politics, Hodgson has sat on a number of public and private boards, including the EACOM Timber Corp.; Mineral Streams Inc.; the Brick Income Trust Ltd.; Hemlo Resources; Cara Foods/Recipe Unlimited; Fairfax India Holdings Corporation; Helios Fairfax Partners Corporation; Greenfirst Forest Products; and Northstar Gaming.  

Hodgson has served as President of the Ontario Mining Association, the provincial mining industry’s trade organization, for 20 years.

This story is a memory and nobody’s memory is perfect. Sometimes details get a little mixed up, things get forgotten or overlooked, and the perspective is inevitably subjective. If you notice something that not right, have something you would like to tell us, or a memory to share the museum would be happy to hear from you:

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