Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Crombie was a lecturer in politics and urban affairs at Ryerson in the 1960s when he became involved in Toronto's urban reform movement. At the time, the city had a very pro-development city council that approved projects that levelled neighbourhoods to make way for the construction of huge apartment blocks and office towers. Crombie became a leader with John Sewell and other urban reformers in a grassroots pro-neighbourhood movement that favoured curtailing development in favour of improving social services and prioritising community interests.
Crombie was elected to Toronto's city council in 1970, and became Mayor of Toronto in 1972, ushering in a reform era inspired by thinkers such as Jane Jacobs. Under Crombie's leadership, the city council developed city plans to manage development, imposed a 40 foot limit on new buildings, promoted public transit, opposed the construction of new highways, and enhanced community input in local government.
Crombie was enormously popular as mayor, being re-elected in 1974 and 1976 with large majorities. He was described as the city's "tiny, perfect mayor". He left City Hall in 1978 to move to federal politics, winning a by-election as a Progressive Conservative candidate that gave him a seat in the Canadian House of Commons. Crombie served as Minister of Health and Welfare in the short-lived minority government of Prime Minister Joe Clark which was elected in 1979 but lost power the next year.
Crombie stood as a candidate at the 1983 Progressive Conservative leadership convention. He finished fourth and urged his supporters to vote for John Crosbie, rather than Brian Mulroney. This move probably hurt his chances at being appointed to a senior position in a future Tory cabinet.
After Mulroney led Conservaties to power in the 1984 election, Crombie became minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, and later Secretary of State and Minister of Multiculturalism. Frustrated in Ottawa, as a Red Tory in an increasingly conservative government, Crombie decided not to run in the 1988 election, and returned to urban affairs as head of the royal commission on the future of Toronto's waterfront.
Throughout the 1990s, he served in various advisory capacities to city and provincial governments relating to urban issues in the Toronto area. He serves as CEO of the Canadian Urban Institute.
On May 13, 2004, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada.
David Crombie is the father of actor Jonathan Crombie .
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