Monte Kwinter (born March 22, 1931 in Toronto, Ontario) is a politician in Ontario, Canada. He has been a member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario since 1985, was a cabinet minister in the government of David Peterson from 1985 to 1990, and was re-appointed to cabinet by Dalton McGuinty in 2003.
Kwinter was educated at the Ontario College of Art, Syracuse University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Institute of Contemporary Art (Boston), and the University of Montreal. He has a degree in fine arts, specializing in industrial design. Kwinter worked in real estate before entering political life, eventually owning his own firm within the field. He was also a founding member of the Toronto Regional Council of B'nai Brith Canada, served on the board of directors of the Upper Canadian Zoological Society, was chair of the Toronto Harbour Commissioners, and served as an executive member on the League for Human Rights.
He was also involved in the Liberal Party of Canada as a fundraiser and organizer and worked on John Turner's 1984 leadership campaign.
Kwinter was first elected to the Ontario legislature in the provincial election of 1985 as a Liberal, defeating incumbent Progressive Conservative David Rotenberg and New Democrat city councillor Howard Moscoe in the North York riding of Wilson Heights (which has a large immigrant population and a prominent Orthodox Jewish community; Kwinter is himself Jewish). Ironically, Kwinter's daughter, Lisa, later married Rotenberg's son.
On June 26, 1985, he was appointed Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations and Minister of Financial Institutions. Kwinter was easily re-elected in the provincial election of 1987, and was named Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology in September of that year.
The Liberals were upset by the New Democratic Party in the 1990 provincial election, although Kwinter himself was again re-elected without difficulty. He faced a more serious challenge in the 1995 election, which was won by the Progressive Conservatives; Tory candidate Sam Pasternak came within 3000 votes of upsetting him. Kwinter was not a prominent figure in the Legislative Assembly during his time in the opposition, though he was nevertheless regarded as a strong community representative.
In 1996 Kwinter, despite having a reputation for being on the right wing of the party, supported left wing candidate Gerard Kennedy for the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party.
The Progressive Conservative government of Mike Harris reduced the number of provincial ridings from 130 to 103 in 1996, forcing several incumbent MPPs to compete against one another for re-election. In some cases, MPPs from the same party were forced to compete against one another for their riding nominations. Kwinter was challenged for the Liberal nomination in the new riding of York Centre by fellow MPP Anna-Marie Castrilli, who had unsuccessfully competed for the party's leadership in 1996.
Castrilli's challenge to Kwinter was extremely controversial, and was marked by serious divisions in the local riding association. Kwinter was subjected to a number of anti-Semitic attacks during this period, including on one occasion receiving hate mail at his legislative office. (It should be noted that the individuals or groups behind these attacks were never identified, and that no link to Castrilli's supporters has been uncovered. Castrilli herself was certainly not involved, although the incidents were seen by some as reinforcing the unpleasant character of the nomination battle.)
Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty tried to convince Castrilli to run in a different riding, but was unsuccessful. Rumours began to circulate that Kwinter was planning to defect to the Progressive Conservatives in the event that he was defeated. As it happened, there was never an opportunity to test this speculation -- Kwinter was able to defeat Castrilli, who ironically defected to the Tories herself shortly thereafter.
Kwinter's nomination difficulties proved to be his only real challenge of the 1999 campaign, and he was again returned by a significant margin in the general election. The Progressive Conservatives were again victorious across the province, and Kwinter remained on the opposition benches.
In 2002, Kwinter publicly opposed the Liberal Party's position on tax credits for parents who send their children to private and non-Catholic denominational schools. The party opposes such credits as a detrimental to the public system. Kwinter referred to the distinction between publicly funded Catholic Separate Schools and non-Catholic denominational schools as one of discrimination, though he also opposed funding for non-denominational private schools. (It should be noted that Ontario has long provided financial support to its Catholic school system as the result of an historical compromise, made at a time when the public system was dominated by Protestant interests. Other faiths have not received such funding; this is a very important issue for some members of Toronto's Jewish community.)
Kwinter's loyalty to the Liberal Party was not in question during this period, however, and he was again re-elected in the 2003 election without difficulty. The election was won by the Liberals, and there was considerable media speculation as to whether or not Dalton McGuinty would appoint the septuagenerian Kwinter to cabinet again. Ultimately, Kwinter's public disagreements with party policy were not enough to sideline his career: he was appointed Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services (essentially a retitled Solicitor-General's position) on October 23, 2003.
Kwinter has recently put forward a plan to combat marijuana grow-ops in Ontario, which would permit local utilities to cut off electrical power to those in the illegal industry. There are many who oppose this plan on the grounds that innocent citizens could see their power cut off without warning in the event of an administrative or legal error. Despite his previous comments on the subject, Kwinter also showed cabinet solidarity by voting against funding for private and non-Catholic denominational schools.