Gerard Kennedy (born 1960 in The Pas, Manitoba) is a Canadian politician, who represents the riding of ParkdaleHigh Park in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. He is a member of the Liberal Party, and currently serves as the province's Minister of Education.
Kennedy was educated at the University of Alberta and at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario. He worked as a historical researcher for the Government of Alberta in the early 1980s, and founded the Edmonton Food Bank in 1983.
After moving to Ontario, Kennedy gained fame as the executive director of Toronto, Ontario's Daily Bread Food Bank, serving in this capacity from 1986 to 1996. The food bank distributed $30 million dollars worth of food each year, despite never receiving government aid; 150,000 people are estimated to have used its services every month. Kennedy was named in Toronto Life Magazine's list of fifty influential people in 1992, and was named newsmaker of the year by the Toronto Star in 1993. Kennedy was also given an honorable mention in the Financial Post Magazine's C.E.O. awards in 1995.
Kennedy entered political life in May 1996, running in a by-election for the Ontario legislature in the Toronto riding of York South (previously held by provincial NDP leader Bob Rae). The NDP (and its predecessor, the CCF) had held the riding continuously since 1955; nevertheless, Kennedy's left-leaning credentials allowed him to take the riding as a Liberal. He received 7774 votes; his nearest competitor was NDP candidate (and future Toronto Mayor) David Miller, who took 6656 votes.
Despite his political inexperience, Kennedy became the front-runner to replace Lyn McLeod as leader of the Ontario Liberal Party in late 1996. However, Kennedy's inexperience and perceived left-wing ideology proved his undoing on the leadership convention floor where he encountered a strong "anyone-but-Kennedy" movement. Kennedy finished first on the first, second, third and fourth ballots, but was defeated on the fifth ballot by Dalton McGuinty. McGuinty subsequently named Kennedy as the party's Health Critic.
Kennedy wanted to run in the redistributed riding of York SouthWeston in the Ontario provincial election of 1999, but was forced to step aside for former leadership rival Joseph Cordiano. He instead ran in the neighbouring riding of Parkdale-High Park where he faced an interesting challenge from Anna-Marie Castrilli, another former Liberal leadership challenger who had defected to the governing Progressive Conservatives on the last sitting day of the legislature. Many anticipated that this would be a very close race. It was not: Kennedy won by over 10,000 votes.
The 1999 election was won by the Progressive Conservatives, and Kennedy became opposition critic for Education (another high-profile portfolio).
The Liberals won a landslide majority in the Ontario provincial election of 2003, and Kennedy was easily re-elected in Parkdale-High Park with about 58% of the vote (his nearest opponent received 16%). He was appointed Minister of Education on October 23, 2003.
Kennedy's appointment was welcomed by the province's public sector teacher's unions, who generally regard him as a strong supporter of public education.