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While trade unions have existed in Ontario since at least 1834, the concept of a central labour body in this province is a relatively new one. Until 1944, Ontario had no provincial federation of labour.

The Trades and Labour Congress, the major national labour body in Canada until 1940, did not charter provincial federations. Instead, its annual conventions elected provincial executive groups with nominal responsibilities to represent the TLC at the provincial level.

The movement to establish provincial labour bodies came when the Canadian Labour Congress was formed in 1940. The CCL came from a merger between the nationalistic All-Canadian Congress of Labour (ACCL) and Canadian CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations) unions which had been expelled from the Trades and Labour Congress. The CCL established the Ontario Federation of Labour at an April, 1944 convention. Elroy Robson of the Canadian Brotherhood of Railway Employees and Other Transport Workers (now part of the Canadian Auto Workers) was elected President. William Sefton of the United Steelworkers of America became the Federation’s first Secretary-Treasurer.

The creation of the OFL led the rival TLC to reconsider its position on provincial labour bodies, and the Ontario Provincial Federation of Labour was established in January, 1957. In contrast to the OFL, however, the OPFL had no full-time paid officers or staff.

Divisions between the TLC and CCL at the national level precluded effective co-operation between the OPFL and OFL. In the immediate post-war years, political action was a particularly divisive issue. The CCL and OFL in 1943 endorsed the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (forerunner of the New Democratic Party) as labour’s political arm. The TLC and OPFL had strong minority support for the CCF but never officially endorsed the party.

The TLC and CCL merged in 1956 into the Canadian Labour Congress, paving the way for a union of the two Ontario labour centrals. Merger terms were agreed upon on January 16, 1957. A one-day convention of each federation preceded a unity convention in Toronto, March 27-29, 1957.

OFL Secretary-Treasurer Cleve Kidd was elected President, and OPFL’s Douglas Hamilton, Secretary-Treasurer. The new organization retained the name of this province’s first labour central, the Ontario Federation of Labour.

Since, then the OFL has continued to grow to meet the demands of an energetic and expanding unionized workforce. Today, the Federation speaks for over one million organized Ontario workers and provides its affiliated labour councils and local unions with services in the fields of communications, education, research, legislative and political action, human rights, health and safety, workers’ compensation and basic education skills.

The OFL regularly makes presentations and submissions to the provincial government. It provides internal education and mounts public campaigns to achieve labour’s objectives.

Policy conventions are held every two years. The Federation’s Executive Board is elected every two years and is the OFL’s governing body between conventions. The board consists of a full-time President, Secretary-Treasurer, Executive Vice-President and 33 vice-presidents representing a cross section of affiliates. Officers and Federation staff sit with affiliate nominees on a number of standing committees in several policy areas.

The OFL Executive Council is made up of the Executive Board and one delegate from each of Ontario’s 45 labour councils.

Below is a list of all of the officers of the OFL since its inception:


  • Cleve Kidd
    1957 – 1958
  • David Archer
    1958 – 1976
  • Cliff Pilkey
    1976 – 1986
  • Gord Wilson
    1986 – 1997
  • Wayne Samuelson
    1997 – 2009
  • Sid Ryan
    2009 – 2015
  • Chris Buckley
    2015 – 2019
  • Patty Coates
    2019 – Present

Secretary Treasurer

  • Douglas Hamilton
    1957 – 1970
  • Terry Meagher
    1970 – 1984
  • Sean O’Flynn
    1986 – 1988
  • Wally Majesky
    1984 – 1986
  • Julie Davis
    1988 – 1995
  • Ethel Birkett-LaValley
    1995 – 2005
  • Irene Harris
    2005 – 2009
  • Marie Kelly
    2009 – 2011
  • Nancy Hutchison
    2012 – 2015
  • Patty Coates
    2015 – 2019
  • Ahmad Gaied
    2019 – Present

Executive Vice-President

  • Julie Davis
    1986 – 1988
  • Ken Signoretti
    1988 – 1997
  • Irene Harris
    1997 – 2005
  • Terry Downey
    2005 – 2011
  • Irwin Nanda
    2012 – 2015
  • Ahmad Gaied
    2015 – 2019
  • Janice Folk-Dawson
    2019 – Present
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