Michael Foster (Ontario politician)

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Michael (Mike) Foster is a former municipal politician in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He served as an alderman in the Metro Toronto municipality of North York from 1978 to 1985, and later campaigned for Mayor of North York in 1988. He has also sought election to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Foster is a member of the New Democratic Party (NDP).

Early life and career

Foster studying political science at York University. Before entering political life, he worked in community service, produced a television problem on community affairs, and was the administrator of a legal aid clinic. In June 1978, he was listed as a worker at Etobicoke's Welfare Action Centre.[1]

North York councillor

Foster was first elected to North York's city council in 1978 via a narrow victory over incumbent alderman Marilyn Meshburg, who had defeated him in his first attempt two years earlier. Foster's challenge of Meshburg was somewhat unusual, in that both candidates were progressives on labour issues and other matters. Meshburg was supported by the Metro Reform citizens' group, while Foster was backed by the municipal wing of the NDP and the Metro Labour Council.[2] He was twenty-four years old at the time of the election.

Following his election, Foster sought to remove a legal loophole which allowed oil companies to pay lower taxes by classifying their property as farmland.[3] In 1984, he called on the provincial government to forbid companies from charging user fees for Workers Compensation Board cases.[4] Along with Howard Moscoe and Barbara Greene, Foster was considered a leading voice for reform on council and frequently criticized the development policies of Mayor Mel Lastman.[5]

He remained an alderman until 1985, when he unsuccessfully sought election to the city's Board of Control. He also campaigned for the Ontario legislature in the 1985 provincial election, and finished second in Yorkview against Claudio Polsinelli. During his provincial campaign, Foster called for tenant protection, job creation and comprehensive workers compensation reforms.[6]

Since 1985

After leaving North York council, Foster became a partner in Union Communications, an advertising and communications agency that that specializes in progressive issues. He also worked as a Toronto Star columnist for two years, writing on political issues. In one 1986 article, he called on North York to adopt progressive housing policies.[7] Foster also wrote in support of employment equity and pay equity policies, and on tax and transportation issues.[8]

Foster challenged Mel Lastman for Mayor of North York in 1988, but lost by a considerable margin. Fellow New Democrat Howard Moscoe argued that his campaign was poorly timed, and Foster later acknowledged that it had been "a longshot".[9]

Anthony Perruzza attempted to have Foster appointed as his replacement on the North York City council in 1990, following Perruzza's election to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, but this plan came to nothing.[10] Foster was awarded a Seneca College Distinguished Alumni Award in 2005, and remains active with Union Communications.[1]


  1. Olga Cyhanenko, "Overcharged senior citizens on rents, housing authority won't give refunds", Globe and Mail, 20 June 1978, P5. Foster represented the senior citizen in question.
  2. James Jefferson, "Taxes, performance of aldermen emerge as main issues in close North York fights", Globe and Mail, 11 November 1978, P4.
  3. Marina Strauss, "560 gardeners in North York seek tax break given oil firms", Globe and Mail, 6 January 1981, P5; "Imperial Oil drops farm-tax loophole", Globe and Mail, 5 December 1981, P4.
  4. "More private firms advise workers in WCB cases, legal officials says" (sic), Globe and Mail, 13 April 1984, M2.
  5. John Sewell, "Ample scope for reform", Globe and Mail, 2 January 1985, M1; John Sewell, "Strange, but true", Globe and Mail, 15 February 1985, M1.
  6. Margaret Polanyi, "NDP, Liberals in scrap over Yorkview riding", Globe and Mail, 4 April 1985, M4.
  7. Mike Foster, "It's time to act on North York housing policy", Toronto Star, 22 April 1986, N4.
  8. Mike Foster, "It's about time equal opportunity came knocking", Toronto Star, 22 July 1986, N4; Mike Foster, "Mel Lastman's anti-labor bias caused the strike", Toronto Star, 7 April 1987, N4.
  9. Royson James, "Lastman loves a fight -- but he's bored with this one", Toronto Star, 9 November 1988, A6. Moscoe described Foster's campaign as "abysmal" and "a very dumb decision"; Royson James, "Bittersweet victory for Mel as Marilyn loses", Toronto Star, 15 November 1988, B3.
  10. Stan Josey, "Lastman slams MPP over printing expense", Toronto Star, 5 November 1990, A2.