Percy Hatfield MPP, Windsor-Tecumseh

Government of Ontario

MPP Hatfield re-introduces poet laureate legislation in memory of Gord Downie

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September 20, 2018 QUEEN'S PARK -- For the third time in two years, Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Percy Hatfield re-introduced a bill in Ontario’s Legislature creating the position of Ontario’s first poet laureate. The bill passed first reading with unanimous consent this afternoon.

The act names the position after Ontario artist, musician and activist Gord Downie, the late frontman of the Tragically Hip.

“Gord Downie was a poet, a singer and advocate for Indigenous issues,” Hatfield said. “Our country celebrated with the Tragically Hip knowing it was his last tour when he fell ill last year. It’s only fitting that we dedicate an Ontario Poet Laureate in his name. It’s also imperative to ensure that our country’s art and artists are well-preserved in our cultural fabric and remembered and celebrated accordingly.”

Canada has a poet laureate, as does Toronto, Windsor, Brantford, Mississauga and Sudbury, along with other places in Ontario. This is the third time Hatfield is pushing the legislation through the house. 

“Downie viewed Canada through a distinctly poetic lens, and I believe this is a beautiful way to honour him, to mark his legacy, and to ensure he’s remembered through the generations that come.”

Downie had a rare form of brain cancer which prompted a final tour for the band and a summer of national bonding.  He died at the age of 53 in October 2017.

The role of poet laureate would include writing poetry, occasionally for use in the legislature if called upon by the speaker or the lieutenant governor. The role also includes visiting schools, presenting or arranging poetry readings, and assisting with writing workshops or other activities. The poet laureate would also advise the legislative library regarding its collection and acquisitions.