Frank Drea

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Frank Drea
Ontario MPP
In office
Preceded by Margaret Renwick
Succeeded by William C. Davis
Constituency Scarborough Centre
Personal details
Born James Francis Drea
(1933-07-07)July 7, 1933
St. Catharines, Ontario
Died January 15, 2003(2003-01-15) (aged 69)
Political party Progressive Conservative
Spouse(s) Jeanne
Children 3
Profession Journalist

James Francis "Frank" Drea (July 7, 1933 – January 15, 2003) was a Canadian journalist, broadcaster, politician and racehorse enthusiast. He was a Progressive Conservative member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1971 to 1985 representing the riding of Scarborough Centre. He served as a cabinet minister in the government of Premier Bill Davis.


Drea was born in St. Catharines, Ontario, and educated at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. He was hired by the Toronto Telegram in 1955, and was a long-time reporter and columnist at the paper. In 1961, he won the National Newspaper Award and the Heywood Broun Award for Crusading Journalism for his work as a labour reporter for his coverage of a strike by Italian-Canadian building trade workers.

From 1963 to 1965, he worked as public relations director for the United Steel Workers of America in Sudbury, Ontario. A fervent anti-Communist, Drea played a leading role in the Steelworkers' unsuccessful campaign to raid and destroy the Communist Party influenced Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Union which had dominated the mining industry in Sudbury. Drea's campaign was a failure, and he was fired.

He returned to the Telegram in 1965 as the paper's Action Line columnist, serving as an early consumer advocate. He remained with the newspaper until shortly before its demise in 1971. He also served with Dale Goldhawk as an outspoken, open-line host at CHIC Radio in Brampton, Ontario and worked for CTV on the public affairs program W5.


Drea was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in the 1971 provincial election as the Progressive Conservative Member of Provincial Parliament for Scarborough Centre. He defeated incumbent New Democrat Margaret Renwick by 4,873 votes.[1] Drea was re-elected with smaller pluralities in the 1975[2] and 1977 elections,[3] and by a larger percentage in 1981.[4]

After serving for several years on the backbench, he was brought into the provincial cabinet of Bill Davis following the 1977 provincial election as Minister of Correctional Services.[5] He initiated reforms in the province's system of jails, including the closure of the original Don Jail. On entering cabinet, Drea publicly revealed his battle with alcoholism, pledging to stop drinking in order to set an example for prisoners.

In 1978, he was appointed Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations.[6] After the 1981 provincial election, he became Minister of Community and Social Services, and is credited with improving the status of people with disabilities.[7] In September 1983 he was hospitalized with circulation problems. He briefly gave up his cabinet position from September 29, 1983 to November 21, 1983. Citizenship and Culture minister Bruce McCaffrey was named to act in his place during this time.[8]

He served in cabinet until Bill Davis retired as Premier of Ontario in 1985. Drea supported Roy McMurtry's bid to succeed Davis as party leader, and voted for Larry Grossman on the second ballot following McMurtry's elimination. He supported Frank Miller over Grossman on the third and final ballot. Drea explained that he had planned to support Miller after McMurtry's elimination, and only went to Grossman for one ballot on McMurtry's recommendation. He was not re-appointed to Miller's cabinet and instead served as parliamentary assistant to the premier. Drea was disappointed at being dropped from cabinet and decided not to run in the 1985 election. He said, "I'm not wanted so, I won't be running." He reflected on his time in politics. "I'm happy," he said. "I've had 14 marvellous years with Mr. Davis ... the greatest living Canadian."[9]

Cabinet posts[edit]

Ontario Provincial Government of Bill Davis
Cabinet posts (3)
Predecessor Office Successor
Keith Norton Minister of Community and Social Services
Robert Elgie
Larry Grossman Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations
Gordon Walker
John MacBeth Minister of Correctional Services
Gordon Walker

Later life[edit]

Drea was appointed to the Ontario Municipal Board by Miller in May 1985. His tenure there was short as Miller's successor, Liberal Premier David Peterson, appointed Drea as chairman of the Ontario Racing Commission four month later.[10] Drea remained chairman until 1994 when Bob Rae's NDP government decided not to reappoint him. He would not speculate on the reason for dropping him from the position. "I don't know why they're doing it," he shrugged. "It's like ball players. You get hired. You get fired." During his tenure as chairman he introduced teletheatres for simulcasting races across the province and was responsible for saving racetrack operations in Windsor, Elmira and Sudbury.[11] He died on January 15, 2003 from pneumonia.


  1. ^ "Riding-by-riding returns in provincial election". The Globe and Mail. October 23, 1971. p. 10. 
  2. ^ "Table of vote results for all Ontario ridings". The Globe and Mail. September 19, 1975. p. C12. 
  3. ^ "Ontario provincial election results riding by riding". The Globe and Mail. June 10, 1977. p. D9. 
  4. ^ Canadian Press (1981-03-20). "Election results for Metro Toronto". The Windsor Star. Windsor, Ontario. p. 22. Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  5. ^ Johnson, Arthur; Mosher, Peter (September 22, 1977). "Three join Cabinet and speak out on beer, jails, farms". The Globe and Mail. p. 1. 
  6. ^ Mosher, Peter; Oziewicz, Stan (October 19, 1978). "Grossman, Drea shifted; Walker in Cabinet". The Globe and Mail. p. 4. 
  7. ^ Speirs, Rosemary (April 10, 1981). "Norton gets Environment as Davis shuffles Cabinet". The Globe and Mail. p. 1. 
  8. ^ "McCaffrey standing in for convalescing Drea". The Globe and Mail. September 30, 1983. p. P3. 
  9. ^ "Former minister to quit politics; 'I'm not wanted'". The Montreal Gazette March 15, 1985. p. D15. 
  10. ^ Campbell, Neil (September 19, 1985). "Drea first full-time chairman after ORC overhaul". The Globe and Mail. p. S2. 
  11. ^ "Drea won't be reappointed head of racing commission". The Kitchener Record. August 8, 1994. p. A4. 

External links[edit]