By Lincoln DePradine
For a decade, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario has been the only workplace Mitzie Hunter has known.
Hunter, who has a Master’s degree and is a graduate of the University of Toronto and the Rotman School of Management, was first elected Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) for Scarborough—Guildwood on August 1, 2013. She was reelected on three subsequent occasions: in 2014, 2018 and 2022.
During her tenure as MPP, Hunter was on the opposition benches with her Ontario Liberal Party colleagues. She also served in government as minister of skills development and also associate minister for the ministry of finance, with responsibility for the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan.
Hunter, who ran unsuccessfully in 2020 for the position of leader of the Liberal Party, is also a former Ontario education minister.
“It’s been a journey,’’ said Hunter, who has given up her Scarborough—Guildwood seat and is contesting to be mayor of the City of Toronto.
She bade farewell to the legislature in a 10-minute statement May 10. “I rise for my final time in this chamber,’’ Hunter said.
“I’m resigning my seat, this week, to seek elected public office and to continue my public service in another venue. I do so with no regrets, as there are big issues to attend to elsewhere in my city, Toronto.’’
Hunter, 51, broke new ground on her appointment as education minister on June 13, 2016.
“I was very proud to be the first Black Woman in the history of our province to be minister of education,’’ Hunter said to applause from fellow legislators. “In this role, I found myself in a position where my ministry team said, ‘minister, great news; graduation rates have hit a record high of 86.5 percent.’’
The news from her education officials was “wonderful’’, Hunter recalled. “But then, I was forced to ask the uncomfortable question: who is in the 13. 5 percent not graduating? The ministry team had all the numbers and it was so revealing: Black students, especially Black male students, half of whom were not graduating. Who else? LGBTQS students, students with disabilities, Indigenous students, students in the care of Children’s Aid – all of them not graduating in the numbers that they should be.’’
Her response to the situation in education at the time, said Hunter, was to demand change geared to helping students.
“I told my ministry team there’s nothing wrong with our students; it’s not the students that need to change, it’s the system that needs to change. It’s the system that must change; changed to support our students; changed so that they can succeed,’’ she said.
“That’s why I’m grateful of the opportunity to have been the minister of education. It meant that I had the opportunity to implement Ontario’s Education Equity Action Plan, created to improve education outcomes for students – all students, of all backgrounds,’’ Hunter added.
“Instead of the system leaving some students behind, we changed the system so no students are left behind, including students with learning disabilities.’’
Hunter lived and schooled in Scarborough, and said she was “proud’’ to have also served the community.
“Scarborough is the community where my family and I ended up when we immigrated from Jamaica,’’ she said.
“I love my community and I am proud to have advocated on the community’s behalf for better hospitals; for better healthcare; for better transit; and, for better services for my constituents.’’
Hunter, in offering expressions of thanks, said people also should “stay tuned. The best is yet to come’’.
Three days after her Legislative Assembly farewell address, Hunter attended a Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN) event in downtown Toronto, where she more directly spoke of her campaign to be mayor.
“I want to see this city be a city that is revised and that works for everyone, everywhere in our city. Because I believe that Toronto is at a turning point and we must all work together to ensure it does not reach a breaking point,’’ Hunter said in brief remarks at TCBN’s “Building Diversity Awards’’ at the Design Exchange on Bay Street.
“We need to look after people in our city – people who are homeless; build more affordable housing. I’ve put together a new vision that would do that more quickly and affordably. And, I have updated my plan to ensure that it is explicit that Toronto Community Benefits would be part of every project that I put forward as mayor,’’ said Hunter.
What Toronto residents want is a city “where young people, who grow up here, can afford to live here, and they don’t have to move out of our city to make ends meet. We want a Toronto that is safe for everyone, everywhere’’, Hunter said.
“I look forward to working with all of you to build a Toronto that we all want. I look forward to fixing the 6, together with all of you.’’