Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv

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Abstract/Résumé

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pp. v-vi

As a political pioneer, Michael Starr (1910–2000) accomplished many firsts and opened the political doors to other members of the various ethnocultural groups. The son of Ukrainian immigrants, he became involved in municipal affairs during the Depression and was elected alderman in Oshawa, Ontario in 1944. He was later elected Mayor of Oshawa, Member of Parliament and, in 1957, he was appointed to the federal cabinet in the government of the Honourable John Diefenbaker. This study focuses on Starr’s federal election campaigns in Oshawa and across Canada. As Minister of Labour, he was faced with many national...

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgements

Myron Momryk

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pp. ix-x

I would like to thank Dr. John Willis, editor of the Mercury Series, the Canadian Museum of History, for his encouragement and guidance, and the two anonymous readers for their comments and advice. Also, I am grateful to Elizabeth Schwaiger, University of Ottawa Press, for preparing the manuscript for publication. I would like to thank Prof. Bohdan Harasymiw, University of Calgary, who read a very early draft of the manuscript for his comments. In addition, I thank Danielle Peters and Janet Stanley for typing early versions of the manuscript. Thanks as well to Lee Wyndham of the Canadian Museum of History,...

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Foreword

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pp. xi-xii

Mike Starr was a notable Canadian politician: his 1957 appointment as Minister of Labour in the John Diefenbaker government created a sensation among the Ukrainian Canadian community, especially among post-Second World War immigrants challenged by social, political and economic adjustments. His appointment proved the son of Ukrainian immigrants could rise through the Canadian political system and reach the position of a cabinet minister, and provided a great morale boost. What were the steps in this political “ladder”...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-2

I first heard Mike Starr’s name from my father, who had read about Starr’s appointment as the federal Minister of Labour in the newspaper. I was only in elementary school at the time but the news made an impact. To my father, a relatively recent arrival to Canada, having a person of Ukrainian descent appointed to the Cabinet was a remarkable event. Over time, I developed an interest in Starr’s career: not only did I make him the subject of one of my Canadian history research papers while at university, I continued researching his career and compiling information. That interest only grew when I began working at Library and Archives Canada in the early 1980s; one of my areas of responsibility was community leaders and organizations, tracing...

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Chapter 1: The Early Years

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pp. 3-24

This headline, which appeared in bold letters on the front page of the Daily Times Gazette on June 21, 1957, announced the remarkable achievement of one of Oshawa’s own citizens on the national political scene. Along with Michael Starr’s photograph, a summary of his life and career outlined his modest origins and the progress of his political career from alderman to Mayor of Oshawa to Member of Parliament. Almost every reference to Starr and his new appointment to the federal cabinet included some version of the statement that he was the “country’s first federal minister of Ukrainian extraction.”1...

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Chapter 2: Oshawa Municipal Politics, 1944–1952

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pp. 25-36

On January 10, 1944, Starr was appointed to the Board of Works, Finance, Fire Protection, City Property and General Purpose Committees1 of the City Council; seven days later he resigned from the Welfare Board.2 Two months later he was appointed as the council’s representative to the Oshawa Chamber of Commerce.3 The expanding work force in Oshawa required housing, one of the more important issues during Starr’s first year as alderman. He supported a wartime housing proposal to build two hundred houses but it was defeated in council by a vote of five to four.4 Starr decided to solve his own housing problem by building his own home on Olive Avenue, where he had purchased land in 1943....

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Chapter 3: Election Campaign for Ontario Riding,1952

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pp. 37-44

On March 21, 1952, news was received that Walter C. Thomas had resigned his seat in the House of Commons in order to contest the riding as leader of the provincial Liberal Party. That meant a federal by-election would be held in Ontario riding.1 Then, on April 12,1952, Starr announced he intended to seek the Progressive Conservative Party nomination for the riding. Anne Starr originally objected to her husband’s electoral plans, however, federal Conservative leader George Drew phoned Starr and persuaded him to run. To help Starr overcome any hesitation he might have had after his recent provincial defeat, Drew promised Starr that the federal Progressive Conservative Party would assist in organizational...

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Chapter 4: Member of Parliament, 1952–1957

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pp. 45-58

On December 2, 1952, Mike Starr delivered his maiden speech in the House of Commons. He began by describing himself as the son of a poor immigrant from Ukraine. Starr said:

My presence here, I venture to say is to some Canadians a readily understood symbol of the reality of Canadian democracy. I refer first of all to my fellow Canadians in Ontario constituency who know me as a plain man working at an everyday job. I refer also to an even larger group of my fellow Canadians whom it is in current fashion to call “new Canadians” for I am one of these, though having the honour and good...

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Chapter 5: Appointment as Minister of Labour, 1957

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pp. 59-70

When Mike Starr was attending the funeral of Dr William G. Blair, a Conservative Member of Parliament from Perth, Ontario, the new Prime Minister, John Diefenbaker called and asked to see him in Ottawa.1 Starr arrived in Ottawa but was told to wait and reassured that Diefenbaker had something important to tell him. He waited two days. It was only then, on June 21, 1957, that he was informed of his appointment as Minister of Labour—and then, only three hours before he was due to be sworn in by the Governor General. Starr was a bit nervous during his trip to Rideau Hall. He lit a cigarette in the taxi but arrived at Rideau Hall before actually smoking it. He extinguished the cigarette and placed it in...

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Chapter 6: The 1958 Federal Election

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pp. 71-76

On January 20, 1958, Opposition Leader Lester B. Pearson stood in the House of Commons and demanded the resignation of the Conservative government. On February 1, 1958, Diefenbaker obliged and called a federal election, to be held on March 31, 1958. Starr explained to his constituents that Diefenbaker had no choice; the minority government situation in the House of Commons was “intolerable.” The government had to plan its actions on a day-to-day basis and was unable to make long-range plans because it was uncertain about support in the House.1

With his cabinet appointment in June 1957, Starr had assumed new political...

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Chapter 7: Minister of Labour, 1958

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pp. 77-86

Mike Starr’s tenure as Minister of Labour was marked by numerous complex problems competing simultaneously for his attention and demanding immediate action. Labour unions, the unemployed, ethnocultural groups and constituents from his riding of Ontario filled his daily agenda. Starr had to deal with these and other issues and also to promote and defend his policies at every opportunity across the country, in his own riding and, especially, in the House of Commons.

Starr’s first month after the election began with his attempts to deal with the growing labour problems. His efforts to find practical solutions to the national labour problems were...

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Chapter 8: Minister of Labour, 1959

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pp. 87-100

In the midst of these developments and other problems, especially in the battle against unemployment, Starr was confronted with a new and special problem. On December 29, 1958, the production of the regular programs at Radio-Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) French network, was halted. The French-language producers went on strike against the CBC, demanding recognition of their right to organize and recognition of their association as the producers’ bargaining agent with the CBC. In effect, the CBC French-language producers in Montreal had gone on an illegal strike to establish the first executive union. The CBC management resisted this demand because it would have created...

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Chapter 9: Minister of Labour, 1960

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pp. 101-108

When the House resumed sitting on January 14, 1960, it was soon obvious that the continuing unemployment problem had become the dominant issue in the political debates between the Conservatives and the opposition parties. In December 1959, there were 370,000 unemployed, constituting 7.2 per cent of the national labour force. The political parties sought to dominate the debates by arguing the accuracy of the monthly unemployment statistics. On one occasion, Starr, pointing at Paul Martin, claimed that the figures he cited on unemployment had been exaggerated and manipulated “by that man over there.” Martin objected to the use of the term “manipulated” and stood by his privilege. The Speaker tried...

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Chapter 10: Minister of Labour, 1961

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pp. 109-122

The fourth session of the twenty-fourth Parliament opened on November 17, 1960. The Diefenbaker government immediately became involved in a diplomatic controversy that was, no doubt, influenced by Diefenbaker’s strident anti-Communist speech at the United Nations. Dr. John Kucherepa, Member of Parliament for High Park in Toronto, had been appointed head of the Canadian parliamentary delegation to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Parliamentarians Conference that met in Paris, November 19–26.1 At this conference, Kucherepa introduced a resolution to ban the Communist Party in all NATO countries. He was supported by Arthur Maloney, Member of Parliament for Toronto Parkdale and Starr’s parliamentary assistant since August 7, 1957. This proposal was met with...

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Chapter 11: Minister of Labour, 1962

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pp. 123-126

During his official visits across the country, Starr was frequently invited to meet with the local Ukrainian communities. In November 1961, while visiting St. Thomas, Ontario, Starr was a guest at a “New Canadian Night.” When he was in Cornwall, Ontario, attending a “Do It Now” meeting, part of the campaign to develop winter works, he met with representatives of the local Ukrainian community and attended an impromptu Ukrainian concert. The Toronto Ukrainian newspaper Homin Ukrainy (Ukrainian Echo) noted approvingly that Starr was proud of his Ukrainian origins and that such contacts were beneficial for the Ukrainian Canadian community.1...

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Chapter 12: Politics in Ontario Riding, 1962

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pp. 127-134

On May 1, 1962, Norman Cafik, a Pickering Township businessman, was nominated as the Liberal Party candidate in the Ontario riding. Cafik won the nomination over John Lay, the Liberal candidate in the two previous federal elections. The main issue revolved around the question of whether the Liberals would be successful with a new candidate. In their speeches to the nominating convention, both candidates stated that they held no personal antagonism toward Starr. In fact, both admitted that Starr was quite a likeable person. Lay said that the Liberal candidate would find a good target in this election if he sought to unseat a cabinet minister. He added:

He [Starr] is a very nice person and I don’t think there is anyone who knows him who does not like him. But as a Minister in the Diefenbaker government, he has to share...

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Chapter 13: Minister of Labour in a Minority Government, 1962–1963

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pp. 135-144

Like other Canadian newspapers, the ethnocultural press commented on the results of the federal election and the Conservative minority government: most expressed concern that “a strong government” had not been formed at a time when Canada was faced with serious economic problems—and a strong government was considered as necessary to legislate appropriate measures and solve the country’s economic problems. The speculation was that a new federal election would soon be held.1

Prime Minister Diefenbaker spoke at the seventh congress of the Ukrainian Canadian Committee held in Winnipeg on July 5–7, 1962. Diefenbaker said he had instructed the...

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Chapter 14: The 1963 Federal Election

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pp. 145-152

No longer willing to support Diefenbaker’s leadership, George Hees and Pierre Sévigny resigned from cabinet on February 8. Starr could neither believe nor understand this news and refused to join in any opposition to Diefenbaker in the Progressive Conservative Party.1 In Oshawa, he called a two-hour closed-door meeting of senior Progressive Conservative riding organizers “to explain the government’s position” in the coming federal elections. The meeting was actually called to address various rumours of discontent with Diefenbaker’s policies. The attendees at the Hotel Genosha meeting, numbering over seventy-five, were considered to be “members of Starr’s inner court circle from all parts of Ontario...

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Chapter 15: Member of Parliament and House Leader, 1963–1965

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pp. 153-166

For several weeks the results of the federal election were regularly debated in Canadian newspapers, including the ethnocultural press. Most newspapers deplored that Canada would again have a minority government, and several suggested the Conservatives were defeated because of their unrealistic defence policies. According to some election observers, the conflicts within the cabinet had fragmented the Conservative Party and Diefenbaker ran an essentially one-man campaign. There was no solid effort on the part of cabinet ministers for the Progressive Conservatives at the national level as there had been in previous elections. Instead they concentrated on their home ridings. The friction between Prime Minister Diefenbaker and President Kennedy regarding the Canadian response to the Cuban Crisis...

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Chapter 16: The 1965 Federal Election in the Ontario Riding

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pp. 167-176

When Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson called a federal election for November 8, 1965, thirty months had not yet passed since the previous, 1963, election. The announcement caught the local politicians in a state of semi-preparedness but Starr was confident of success and claimed that he had actually started to campaign the day after the last election. Although Starr began his campaign without being officially nominated, Oshawa Progressive Conservative Association President George Martin acknowledged the nomination meeting was “just a formality. We go with a winner.” The Liberal candidate, Dr. Claude Vipond, was forming his campaign committee and poll workers were being organized. Vipond’s...

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Chapter 17: The Leadership Race, 1967

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pp. 177-190

The first session of the twenty-seventh Parliament opened on January 18, 1966. In Ottawa, Starr continued serving as Progressive Conservative House Leader in the House of Commons and reaffirmed his intention announced earlier to seek the Conservative Party leadership if Diefenbaker resigned.1 There were rumours Diefenbaker would resign within two years of the election but Starr said that he had not heard from Diefenbaker regarding his retirement plans.

Although Starr was among the first to declare his candidacy for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party, Diefenbaker, who sat beside him in the House, continued to remain on the best of terms with him. Diefenbaker did not demonstrate any hostility...

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Chapter 18: The 1968 Federal Election

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pp. 191-204

Starr knew his future as Conservative Party House Leader would be decided by Robert Stanfield, the newly elected leader and, on September 11, 1967, said he did not plan to do anything until hearing from Stanfield. After a Conservative caucus meeting on September 25, Stanfield announced Starr would be interim Opposition Leader of the Conservative Party and also the House Leader until Stanfield took his seat in the House of Commons.1 Prime Minister Lester Pearson rose in the House to congratulate Starr on his appointment as acting leader of the Opposition. Pearson said,

He is an old friend and a doughty foe. We on this side—and I am sure that this is true of members of the House on whatever side they may sit—appreciate his quiet, sincere...

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Chapter 19: Public Service, 1968–1973

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pp. 205-214

The various political factors that influenced the federal election in Oshawa had a much stronger impact in the rest of Canada. Trudeaumania in particular was credited for the substantial Liberal victory. The results of the 1968 federal election were as follows:...

Many prominent and well-known Conservative politicians were defeated. In addition to Mike Starr, there were Wallace McCutcheon and Dalton Camp in Ontario, Roblin in Manitoba, Hamilton in Saskatchewan and Fulton in British Columbia. Only three of the...

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Chapter 20: Public Service, 1973–1988

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pp. 215-230

On January 5, 1973, Ontario Premier William Davis asked Starr to participate in a task force established to investigate the Workmen’s Compensation Board (WCB) of Ontario. The WCB had acquired many of the negative characteristics of a faceless bureaucracy, neglecting many aspects of public service, avoiding change and with an unmotivated staff. Starr’s appointment was criticized by an NDP member of the provincial legislature as “obvious Conservative management bias.” Starr replied that he was certainly not management.1 Starr served seven months on the task force, which submitted its report at the end of August, 1973. The report...

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Chapter 21: Final Years and Mike Starr’s Legacy

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pp. 231-236

At the local level, Starr continued to maintain his membership in various local voluntary organizations in 1987. He was Director of the Oshawa Arthritis Society’s Residential Campaign and an honorary member of the Oshawa Rotary Club and Canadian Corps Association. He continued to head many fund-raising campaigns for Oshawa and the Durham Region.

Starr suffered a personal tragedy when his son, Robert, passed away on March 13, 1988, at age fifty-four in Thunder Bay. At that time, he was practicing dentistry for the Ontario Ministry of Health in northwestern Ontario. Robert Starr was a former member of the...

Bibliography

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pp. 237-243

Back Cover

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