Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
William Ferguson (Ontario politician)
William A. Ferguson (born February 13, 1954 in Kitchener, Ontario) is a former politician in Ontario, Canada. He was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1990 to 1994, and served as a cabinet minister in the government of Bob Rae, but was forced to resign from office amid scandal.
Ferguson was educated at Conestoga College, and holds a degree in social work. He worked at the Grandville girls' reform school in the 1970s, and was involved with the Big Brothers Association of Kitchener in 1982-83. He then worked as an employment councillor at The Working Centre from 1984 to 1988, and was Director of Administration at Dusty's Disposal from 1989 to 1990. Ferguson was also an alderman in the City of Kitchener and a councillor in the Regional Municipality of Waterloo from 1979 to 1990.
The Ontario New Democratic Party won an unexpected majority government in the provincial election of 1990, and Ferguson was elected for the party in the provincial riding of Kitchener, defeated incumbent Liberal David Cooke by 6,019 votes. He initially served as a parliamentary assistant, and was promoted to Minister of Energy on July 31, 1991.
Shortly after his appointment, Ferguson was accused of committing an illegal activity while working at Grandville in the 1970s. Allegations were raised that some staff members (not Ferguson himself, it must be emphasized) had sexually abused girls during this period. Ferguson was accused of helping a sixteen year-old prisoner escape from the institution. While such a course of action could be interpreted as benevolent intervention under the circumstances, it constituted a serious offense all the same. Ferguson denied the charge, but nonetheless resigned his portfolio on February 13, 1992.
What happened next can only be described as a serious lapse in judgement, on several levels. The charges against Ferguson had been raised by one Judi Harris, who had an extensive history of difficulties with the law and who was one of the women charging that sexual abuse had occurred at the institution. Ferguson had a copy of Harris's criminal record (which had already been widely reported), and suggested that John Piper, Bob Rae's senior communications aide, could prove a copy of the record to a sympathetic journalist.
Piper then offered a copy of the record to Anne Dawson, a reporter with the right-wing Toronto Sun tabloid, which had a history of opposing the Rae government and the NDP generally. Dawson refused to accept the file, and instead wrote an article on Piper attempting to smear the integrity of a woman who had raised a serious criminal charge against an NDP minister. The story soon turned into a public relations disaster for the government, and Piper was fired from his position. Rae, writing on the situation in 1996, acknowledged that Piper had made a serious mistake. Ferguson subsequently apologized to Rae for passing on the file, though he refused to apologize to Harris, claiming that her charges against him remained entirely false.
Ferguson left the NDP caucus on April 30, 1993, but was re-admitted on June 21, 1994 after being acquitted of all charges. He served as a parliamentary assistant again, but was never re-appointed to cabinet.
In 2003, Ferguson pled guilty to drunk driving in Kitchener, his second such conviction.
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