Lyn McLeod (born 1942) is a politician in Ontario, Canada. She served in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1987 to 2003. McLeod was a cabinet minister in the Liberal government of David Peterson from 1987 to 1990, and was herself the leader of the Ontario Liberal Party from 1992 to 1996.
McLeod holds as Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Manitoba and a Master of Arts degree in Psychology from Lakehead University, in the northern Ontario community of Thunder Bay. She was trustee on the Lakehead Board of Education for seventeen years and its chair for seven. McLeod was also appointed to the Board of Governors of Lakehead University in 1986.
She was elected for the riding of Fort William in the provincial election of 1977, defeating incumbent Progressive Conservative Michael Hennessy by 1,463 votes. The Liberals won a landslide majority in this election, and made several historical breakthroughs in northern Ontario. McLeod was appointed Minister of Colleges and Universities on September 29, 1987. Following a cabinet shuffle on August 2, 1989, she was named Minister of Energy and Minister of Natural Resources.
The Liberals were upset by the New Democratic Party in the provincial election of 1990, although McLeod was able to retain her riding against a strong challenge from NDP candidate Dan Hutsul (winning by 1,345 votes). Unlike most other Liberal candidates in 1990, McLeod was supported by prominent members from the Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers Federation in her region.
Peterson was personally defeated in the 1990 campaign, and the Liberal party went through a series of interim leaders before holding a convention in early 1992. McLeod was one of six candidates for the position, and was widely regarded as the primary challenger to frontrunner Murray Elston. She finished a strong second on the first ballot, and overtook Elston on the third with support from Steve Mahoney's delegates. She finally defeated Elston on the fifth ballot by nine votes, becoming the first woman to lead a major party in Ontario. (See Ontario Liberal Party leadership conventions.)
McLeod's Liberals held a steady lead in the polls for most of the period from 1992 to 1995, and were generally expected to win the 1995 campaign. The party, however, damaged its credibility by a number of high-profile policy reversals in the period leading up to the election. The most notable of these occurred when McLeod withdrew Liberal support for a same-sex benefits package introduced by the NDP government of Bob Rae in 1994. Many regarded McLeod's decision as cynical and opportunistic, and some believe that it was intended to boost Liberal fortunes in rural areas following a by-election loss in the rural, socially-conservative riding of Victoria-Haliburton. The result, however, was simply that the party earned a reputation for "flip-flopping" and inconsistency, while offending many of its socially progressive supporters.
McLeod also offended some immigrant voters, who usually vote Liberal, by criticizing the Rae government's handling of Somali refugee claims. Her intent was to draw attention to criminal gangs forcing Somalis to immigrate to Ontario to defraud the provincial welfare system; some, however, interpreted her comments as being directed toward the entire community.
During the campaign itself, McLeod further alienated many voters with an overly aggressive performance in the party leaders' debate (which included waving her party's platform before the cameras on several occasions). Even before this performance, provincial Liberal support was regarded by many insiders as soft and unsteady; after the debate, many voters who were previously leaning Liberal shifted to the Progressive Conservatives. The result was a Tory majority, with the Liberals winning only 30 out of 130 seats in the house.
Sexism may have played a role in McLeod's defeat. One poll taken after the election showed that one in five voters cast their ballots against McLeod because she was a woman.
McLeod herself was easily re-elected in Fort William, defeating Tory candidate Evelyn Dodds (see Shelley Martel) by over 8,000 votes. Other Liberals called for her to resign as party leader on the day following the election, and it came as little surprise when she actually announced her resignation two months later.
McLeod remained a prominent Liberal MPP under new party leader Dalton McGuinty, serving as Education Critic from 1996 to 1999. She was generally regarded as more successful in this role, and proved an especially strong opponent of Education Minister John Snobelen's restructuring policies.
McLeod was re-elected in a landslide in the provincial election of 1999, in the redistributed riding of Thunder Bay--Atikokan. The Tories won the election with a reduced majority, and McLeod served as her party's Health Critic during her last term in the legislature. She did not seek re-election in 2003.
Following her retirement, McLeod was appointed to the newly-founded Health Council of Canada. She also named as the first Chancellor of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in June 2004, and is a Vice-Chair of the Board of Governors in Confederation College in Thunder Bay.