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John Snobelen (born 1954 in Guelph, Ontario) is a former politician in Ontario, Canada. He was a Progressive Conservative member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1995 to 2003, and served as a cabinet minister in the government of Mike Harris.
Snobelen was raised in Meadowlark, Ontario , and dropped out of high school in Grade 11. He eventually became a successful businessman, making a fortune in the waste-haulage business.
Snobelen served as President of Jarnso Environmental Inc., Mid-Ontario Equipment Limited and the Cameron Group. He was also a chair of the Hunger Project, and an associate of the Carter Centre , a human-rights organization started by former United States President Jimmy Carter.
Snobelen first ran for the Ontario legislature in the provincial election of 1990, placing third behind incumbent Liberal Steve Offer and a New Democrat in Mississauga North . In the provincial election of 1995, he ran in the same riding and defeated Offer by about 4,500 votes.
The Progressive Conservatives won a majority government in the 1995 election, and Snobelen was appointed as Minister of Education and Training in Mike Harris's government on June 26, 1995. The appointment of a high-school dropout to this position was generally regarded as a calculated insult to the teaching community, and set the stage for a lengthy dispute between the Harris government and the provincial teachers's unions. (Snobelen was awarded an honourary high school degree after his appointment. It is not clear if this was intended as sarcasm.)
Shortly after his appointment, Snobelen was caught on film claiming that the PC government had to create a "crisis" in the education system, so to initiate wholescale reforms. This controversy provoked several calls for his resignation, and further poisoned the relationship between the government and the teaching community.
In 1997, Snobelen introduced Bill 160, which cut teaching preparation time, allowed the government to determine class sizes and granted early retirement initiatives to older, more experienced teachers. The purpose of this bill was to lower public education costs and reduce the power of the teachers's unions. Many criticized the bill as threatening the quality of Ontario's education system, and as unnecessarily confrontational.
Snobelen was demoted to the Ministry of Natural Resources on October 10, 1997, amid speculation that the Harris government needed a more skilled hand to manage the Education portfolio. Shortly after his transfer, Ontario's public school teachers entered a six-week strike against the Harris government, with much of their anger directed against the reforms proposed by Snobelen.
Snobelen is still considered by many to have been an inept Education Minister, and his appointment is still generally regarded as having been a provocation to the teaching community.
As Natural Resources Minister, Snobelen helped push through the Harris government's "Lands For Life" program, which transferred a significant amount of crown land to the private sector. He also angered many Ontario hunters by cancelling the Spring Bear Hunt.
In late 2002, it was reported that Snobelen was spending most of his time at a private cattle ranch in Oklahoma while still drawing an MPP's salary. Faced with criticism, he reluctantly returned to the legislature for most of the 2003 session and resigned his seat on March 17.
As of 2004, he still resides in Oklahoma.
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