Margaret Birch

Bill Davis Scarborough East (provincial electoral district) Ontario
Margaret Birch
Ontario MPP
In office
Preceded byTim Reid
Succeeded byEd Fulton
ConstituencyScarborough East
Personal details
Born (1921-06-13) June 13, 1921 (age 99)
Leamington, Ontario
Political partyProgressive Conservative
Spouse(s)Guy Cochran Birch
ResidenceScarborough, Ontario

Margaret Birch (born June 13, 1921) is a former politician in Ontario, Canada. She was a Progressive Conservative member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1971 to 1985 who represented the east Toronto riding of Scarborough East. She served as a cabinet minister in the government of William Davis. She was the first female cabinet minister in Ontario.


Birch was born in Leamington, Ontario, and was educated in the area. She was chair of the Scarborough Board of Health from 1963 to 1971, was on the Mental Health Council from 1967 to 1971, and was vice-chairman of the Social Planning Council from 1967 to 1970. She also served on the Board of Governors for Scarborough Centenary Hospital.[1] Birch became the first woman member of the conservative Albany Club of Toronto, proposed by the then premier, Bill Davis.[2] She married Guy Birch in 1949, a newspaper editor. They raised two children. Guy died in 1992.[3] The Margaret Birch Wing was opened at the Centenary Hospital in 1986, now part of the Rouge Valley Health System.[4]


Birch ran for Scarborough council, ward 6 in 1962. She came in 3rd behind winner F.D. Cummings.[5]

She was elected to the Ontario legislature in the 1971 provincial election, defeating incumbent Liberal Tim Reid by 670 votes in Scarborough East.[6] She was re-elected in 1975, 1977 and 1981.[7][8][9]

On September 28, 1972, she was appointed to cabinet as a Minister without portfolio responsible for youth. This made her the first woman to be appointed to an Ontario cabinet.[10] Birch was promoted to Provincial Secretary for Social Development on February 26, 1974.[11] In July 1983, she resigned from cabinet and assumed the role of Parliamentary assistant to Premier Bill Davis in charge of the 1984 Ontario Bicentennial celebration. Birch had wanted to leave office in 1981 but was persuaded by Davis to stay on.[12]

In 1974, Birch became involved in policy discussions about child care. A series of recommendations were announced which became known as the Birch Proposals. The initiative was driven by cost reduction and they would have increased the child/adult ratio in day cares, decreased standards in staff qualifications and training, and reduced fire and safety regulations.[13] The proposals were criticized by both non-profit and for profit day care associations for different reasons. The government eventually shelved the recommendations.

The Social Development secretariat was designed as a "super-ministry", overseeing several different ministries and agencies (e.g., health, social services, education, women's secretariat, youth secretariat, etc.). As such, the 'super minister' had direct authority over the funding, policies and directions of the individual ministries under its jurisdiction and worked to coordinate policies and programs that previously conflicted across disparate ministries but with somewhat related responsibilities (e.g., health and home care, and social services and home care). As such, it had few specifically defined responsibilities beyond the coordination function.

Birch endorsed Dennis Timbrell to succeed Davis as party leader in February 1985.[14]

Cabinet positions

Ontario Provincial Government of Bill Davis
Cabinet posts (2)
Predecessor Office Successor
Bob Welch Provincial Secretary for Social Development
Bruce McCaffrey
Sub-Cabinet Post
Predecessor Title Successor
Minister without portfolio
Responsible for Youth


  1. ^ "Mrs Margaret birch named Scarborough citizen of the year". Toronto Star. January 28, 1970. p. 1.
  2. ^ TVO, local history programme, 2009 March 27 00:30
  3. ^ Barnes, Al (May 7, 1992). "Ex-editor Guy Birch a career 'newsman'". Toronto Star. p. A8.
  4. ^ John Stackhouse, "Margaret Birch wing opens at Centenary", Toronto Star, 24 January 1986.
  5. ^ "Results of election in suburban communities". The Globe and Mail. December 5, 1962. p. 17.
  6. ^ "Riding-by-riding returns in provincial election". The Globe and Mail. October 23, 1971. p. 10.
  7. ^ "Table of vote results for all Ontario ridings". The Globe and Mail. September 19, 1975. p. C12.
  8. ^ "Ontario provincial election results riding by riding". The Globe and Mail. June 10, 1977. p. D9.
  9. ^ Canadian Press (March 20, 1981). "Election results for Metro Toronto". The Windsor Star. Windsor, Ontario. p. 22.
  10. ^ Manthorpe, Jonathan (September 29, 1972). "Davis names two as super-ministers, 4 to Cabinet posts". The Globe and Mail. pp. 1, 4.
  11. ^ Dunlop, Marilyn (February 27, 1974). "The new cabinet lines up like this". The Toronto Star. p. A3.
  12. ^ Speirs, Rosemary; Stead, Sylvia; Cruikshank, John (July 6, 1983). "Shuffle gives Treasury job to Grossman". The Globe and Mail. pp. 1, 2.
  13. ^ Barnett, Marian (January 9, 1975). "Day care". The Globe and Mail. p. 6.
  14. ^ Stead, Sylvia (January 23, 1985). "Young professionals claim Timbrell as their spokesman". The Globe and Mail.