Mike Starr of Oshawa: A Political Biography


How did a son of Ukrainian immigrants rise through the Canadian political system and reach the position of a cabinet minister? What were the steps in this political “ladder” to Ottawa? How did the ethnocultural communities contribute to Starr’s political success? This study examines Mike Starr’s career in an attempt to answer some of these questions.

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Mike Starr of Oshawa: A Political Biography
by Myron Momryk

2018, 978-0-7766-2591-1
Mercury Series, History Paper 57
256 pp., 37 illustrations, 17 x 24 cm, paperback

Mike Starr, the son of Ukrainian immigrants, had a remarkable career in Canadian politics. This political biography examines that extraordinary path.

In June 1957, Starr was appointed Minister of Labour in John Diefenbaker’s cabinet and created a sensation, especially among Canadian ethnocultural groups. He made political history as the first Ukrainian Canadian appointed to the federal cabinet. As Minister of Labour, Starr was faced with numerous national problems, including seasonal unemployment, regional disparities, union negotiations and emerging militant nationalism in Quebec.

When the Diefenbaker government was defeated in 1963, Starr returned to his earlier role as Member of Parliament. With the changing political landscape, he was defeated by the slimmest of margins in the federal election of 1968. Starr continued his distinguished career of public service until 1980 and promoted the increasing engagement of ethnocultural groups in Canada’s political life. In recent decades, it has become a political norm to have members of various ethnocultural and visible minority groups elected to the House of Commons, or appointed to cabinet and other senior government positions. For breaking this barrier, Mike Starr was indeed a pioneer in Canadian politics.

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