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  • Frances Lankin | Canadian Politician, Age, Politics, Biography, Early Life, Career, Facts

Frances Lankin | Canadian Politician, Age, Politics, Biography, Early Life, Career, Facts


IntroCanadian politician
Birth16 April 1954, London
Age66 years
PoliticsOntario New Democratic Party


Frances Lankin, PC CM (born April 16, 1954), is a Canadian Senator and former president and CEO of United Way Toronto, and a former Ontario MPP and cabinet minister in the NDP government of Bob Rae between 1990 and 1995. From 2010 to 2012, she co-chaired a government commission review of social assistance in Ontario. From 2009 to 2016, she was a member of the Security Intelligence Review Committee.Lankin was appointed to the Senate on March 18, 2016 on the advice of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.


Lankin was born in London, Ontario. She started her career as the executive director of a childcare centre before attending the University of Toronto to study criminology. Due to a provincial government hiring freeze, Lankin was unable to get a position in her desired field working in probation and parole, so she accepted a position as a correctional officer. Lankin was one of the first women correctional officers to work at the Don Jail, an all-male institution. After four years, Lankin became a probation and parole officer before taking a position with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).

Lankin was a very active member of OPSEU, where she focused on many issues of concern to women workers. She took a position as Equal Opportunity Coordinator with the union, working on such issues as paid maternity leave, pay equity and childcare. While at OPSEU, Lankin helped found the Ontario Coalition for Better Childcare and was provincial spokesperson for the Equal Pay Coalition. She eventually became an economic researcher and finally a full-time negotiator for the Union. During her time at OPSEU, Lankin was appointed by the provincial government to the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal for a 3-year term.


In Government

In 1985, Lankin tried to gain the nomination as the NDP candidate in the riding of Riverdale. She lost to David Reville who went on to win the seat.

Lankin was elected Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) for the Toronto riding of Beaches—Woodbine in the 1990 provincial election, succeeding Marion Bryden who retired from politics. The NDP under Bob Rae won its first-ever majority government in this election, and Lankin, then thirty-six years old, was appointed to cabinet on October 1, 1990 as Minister of Government Services and Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet. She announced that same-sex spouses of civil servants would be eligible for insurance and medical benefits.

Lankin was promoted to Minister of Health on April 22, 1991. She soon developed a reputation as one of the most proficient ministers in Rae’s government, and won praise for her attention to administrative detail. She managed to bring the $17 Billion health budget under control by reducing out-of-province charges to OHIP and reducing costs for the province’s drug benefit plan. She also increased funding for AIDS initiatives and made it easier for Ontario residents to receive treatment for drug and alcohol addition. She also became one of Rae’s most trusted ministers, and a part of his “inner circle”.

On February 3, 1993, Lankin was shifted to the Minister of Economic Development and Trade.

The Rae government was defeated in the provincial election of 1995, although Lankin was re-elected in Beaches-Woodbine by about 3,000 votes over her nearest opponent. After the election she was named finance critic and party whip.

Leadership Race

When Rae resigned as NDP leader in 1996, she declared herself a candidate to succeed him. She was regarded as the frontrunner in this race, and was strongly supported by senior members of the Rae government and the party establishment. However, this identification actually damaged her popularity among party delegates who were disappointed by the rightward shifts of the Rae government. Rival candidate Peter Kormos accused her in the leadership debate of bearing responsibility for the “social contract”, which forced open collective bargaining agreements with public sector unions and was deeply unpopular with labour, and for the Rae government’s abandonment of a promise to institute a publicly run auto insurance system.

Lankin’s actual position in relation to the “social contract” was somewhat complicated. She initially opposed the Rae government’s plans to revisit existing labour contracts, and personally warned Rae of the fallout that would result from organized labour. She later considered resigning from cabinet over the issue on two separate occasions, but ultimately chose to remain because (she argued) it would give her the opportunity to moderate the legislation. She did, in fact, replace Rae’s initial plans for outright wage rollbacks with requirements that workers above a certain income level take unpaid leave days. Even in this moderated form, however, the legislation was highly unpopular and strained the NDP’s relations with the labour movement.

As a result of criticisms from Kormos and others, many of Lankin’s potential supporters went to rival candidate Howard Hampton, who had also been a cabinet minister in the Rae government, but was not part of Rae’s inner circle. Hampton defeated Lankin on the third ballot by fewer than 200 votes.

In Opposition

While in opposition, she wrote and submitted a private-members’ bill banning the use of restraints on elderly patients. Her bill was unanimously carried by all parties in the Legislature and became one of two private members bills submitted and passed by Lankin, a very rare accomplishment for a third-party opposition MPP. She was inspired to propose the bill after discovering that her own mother suffering from dementia had been tied to her bed in a Toronto area hospital.

In the 1999 Ontario election, which reduced the NDP to only nine seats, Lankin scored a convincing re-election victory in the redistributed riding of Beaches—East York. Lankin resigned her seat in June 2001 to accept a position as president and CEO of United Way Toronto.


Lankin was the president and CEO of United Way Toronto from 2001 to 2011, guiding the organization through its transformation from a trusted fundraiser to an organization dedicated to addressing underlying root causes of social problems. Under Lankin’s leadership, United Way Toronto has engaged in a number of strategic initiatives that aim to improve the lives of individuals, families and neighbourhoods in Toronto including:

  • a five-year plan to develop social infrastructure and engage residents in priority neighbourhoods identified in conjunction with the City of Toronto
  • partnerships with government, business and labour to focus attention and resources on United Way Toronto’s key priority areas: neighbourhoods, youth and newcomers
  • development of social research reports such as Losing Ground: The Persistent Growth of Family Poverty in Canada’s Largest City, Decade of Decline: Poverty and Income Inequality in the City of Toronto in the 1990s and Poverty by Postal Code: The Geography of Neighbourhood Poverty to identify and highlight challenges faced by the most underserved inner-suburbs of Toronto
  • building and strengthening United Way Toronto’s network of health and social service agencies through funding and development of agency capacity and leadership
  • mobilization of the community’s volunteer and financial resources

Lankin retired from the United Way in 2011.


Lankin has served on the boards of several not-for-profit and charitable organizations in addition to her leading role at United Way Toronto. Over the years, she has served on the boards of Equal Voice, The Canadian Club, The Canadian Foundation for Economic Education (CFEE), Altruvest Charitable Services Seneca College, the Toronto City Summit Alliance, the University of Toronto’s School of Public Policy Advisory Committee, the Board of the Ontario Hospital Association, the Board of the Literary Review of Canada, the Mowat Centre’s Advisory Committee, the Ontario Press Council and is Chair of the TELUS Toronto Community Board. She co-chaired the Toronto City Summit in June 2002 and 2003.

In 2006, she co-chaired a federal government Blue Ribbon Panel, which made recommendations for improving how the federal government distributes grants and contributions to charities and other organizations. Currently, she is a member of .

In 2009, Lankin was sworn into the Queen’s Privy Council of Canada, appointed by the Prime Minister as a member of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which provides an external review of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

On November 30, 2010, the provincial government announced the appointment of Lankin and Munir Sheikh to lead the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario. They are expected to issue their final report in June 2012.

In 2012, Lankin was named a 2012 Trudeau mentor by the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation.


On June 29, 2012, Lankin was made a Member of the Order of Canada. Her citation reads, “For her contributions to social justice as a politician and as a social service administrator, championing the rights of women and the disadvantaged.” She has received numerous awards including honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from Queen’s University and Ryerson University.

Lankin is also a recipient of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.

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