Kathryn McGarry is a community builder and advocate with a history of fighting for, and on behalf of, Cambridge and its people.
Kathryn grew up in Etobicoke, the eldest of three girls. Her parents - Norm, a salesman and Barb, a nurse -- worked hard to provide for their daughters and ensure they had the opportunity to succeed and thrive. They also worked tirelessly as volunteers, giving back to their neighbours, based on their belief that to whom much is given, much is expected.
Their approach to family, and community had a profound impact on Kathryn, shaping the way she viewed the lives of those around her and instilling in her the importance of working to make a difference in people’s lives.
Kathryn studied nursing at George Brown College and began a 35 year career in nursing, specializing in pediatrics and critical care and worked also as a community nurse and Care Coordinator for the local Community Care Access Centre. Throughout she worked not only to save lives and nurture patients back to health, but she also honed her skills and knowledge of the health care system. Those insights would serve her well in her career as a legislator as she fought for better access to health care in her own community both as a volunteer, and later as the MPP for Cambridge and a provincial Cabinet Minister.
After graduating, Kathryn’s career in nursing started at Sick kids. Her daughter Jenny was born while she worked here. Her career took her to other hospitals in Cambridge and Toronto (Mount Sinai, Cambridge Memorial and Grand River hospitals). Kathryn and her husband Fred moved their family to Cambridge in 1988, beginning their lives in the community Kathryn has called home for 30 years. Their youngest son Declan is entering Grade 10 at Southwood Secondary School.
But it was the health challenges faced by their oldest son Rory, and Kathryn’s fight for his survival, that would serve to shape Kathryn’s commitment and approach to public service.
Rory suffered from a serious lung condition. His health deteriorated in 1990 and he narrowly avoided a lung transplant in the early 1990’s. Kathryn fought for her son’s healthcare, accessibility to medication and also for his education, as he spent almost 4 years of his young life in hospitals. This searing time was a life changing event that instilled a deep desire in Kathryn to fight for people, for timely access to quality health care, and for families without medication coverage facing crippling medication costs.
As Rory’s health improved Kathryn vowed to fight for cleaner air and better health care for the 1 in 5 Ontarians affected by lung disease. Happily, Rory recovered and is now living in Boston with his wife and two young daughters.
Kathryn wanted to give back to her community in recognition of the support her family received during those difficult years. Noting the lack of Palliative Care services to help families facing life threatening illness, Kathryn and Fred joined a group of committed citizens to make the case for enhanced end of life care services. Together they founded the Hospice of Waterloo Region, in 1993.
Continuous engagement as a volunteer allowed her to contribute to many community Boards, Task Forces and Committees, in social services, cultural, heritage, environmental, health care, crime prevention and planning related sectors.
During her time as President of Heritage Cambridge, Kathryn led a team that fought for the restoration of the iconic Sheave Tower in Blair and re-establish an annual Heritage House Tour, raising funds and awareness of our valuable heritage resources. Additionally, she was a regular delegate at Cambridge City Council.
Her work with the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council for seven years gave her the tools she needed to address the root causes of crime in the community. This work is a perfect example of Kathryn’s collaborative approach to problem solving – community leaders working across all sectors to find solutions. Along with leaders from Waterloo Region’s First Responders, Kathryn contributed to early draft legislation for the Good Samaritan Act, an Act to help reduce barriers to calling 911 during overdose situations and save more lives. This work helped shape federal legislation – “The Good Samaritan Act” was passed by the Federal Government in 2017. Her work with the Council also focused on Mental Health and Addictions issues.
As a community member, and as a nurse Kathryn made it her mission to ensure that Cambridge Memorial Hospital got the funds it needed for a long overdue, badly needed expansion. By 2010, efforts had not resulted in a Provincial funding commitment. While working as a nurse at CMH in the Intensive Care Unit, Kathryn arranged a meeting in December 2010 between the Minister of Infrastructure, the Honourable Bob Chiarelli, and Hospital CEO (Patrick Gaskin) and Board Chair (Chuck Phillips) to discuss how to get this vital project funded.
This key meeting broke the logjam. From discussions at the meeting, the Hospital submitted an updated proposal to the Ministry of Health, which resulted in the announcement in summer of 2011 that the project would be funded (only 3 projects out of approx. 75 applications were approved that year). Kathryn has been credited by the Hospital and the capital Branch staff in the Ministry of Health in her role in assisting getting the project funded by the Ontario Government. The first update to Cambridge Memorial Hospital in several decades is now nearing completion.
Kathryn’s successful work on the hospital, and her involvement as a community volunteer led to her being asked to run provincially. She was elected as MPP for Cambridge in 2014 and appointed as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Transportation, handling the reform of public transportation projects and strengthening provincial legislation for cycling and road safety.
In June 2016, Kathryn was appointed to Cabinet as the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF). During her tenure at MNRF she led the passage of two important pieces of legislation modernizing aggregate resources and Conservation Authorities, and advocated for Ontario producers in the Softwood Lumber trade dispute.
She was promoted as Ontario’s Minister of Transportation in January 2018. Kathryn fought for, and secured funding for the first step in establishing a new option to connect Cambridge to the GO network through Guelph, and eventually to the High Speed Rail link. The Environmental Assessment is now underway and is a critical first step in building these kinds of important infrastructure projects.
This spring, when the public raised safety concerns about the proposed Franklin Blvd bridge design for the cycling and pedestrian route, she quickly brought all the stakeholders together with MTO engineers to successfully improve the design of the bridge, which is now being built.
As the MPP for Cambridge, Kathryn fought for and delivered $200 M in funding for local businesses, retaining and creating good local jobs for people in Cambridge, and attracting further investment. Kathryn worked closely with companies including Toyota, Frito Lay, Cambridge Brass, Heroux Devtec, Desch, Kromet, Dare, and Grand River Brewing, securing important government investments that secured local jobs in Cambridge.
Kathryn worked to support important local businesses such as BWXT, Aecon and ATS – all part of the vital nuclear supply chain in Ontario. Kathryn strongly supported the refurbishment of Ontario’s nuclear plants while at the Cabinet table – and strongly advocated for them, given their impact on Cambridge area businesses. As a result, Cambridge continues to be a center of excellence in the nuclear supply chain and more long-term good jobs and a good future for BWXT were the result of her efforts in this regard.
In recognition of the importance of continued investment by Toyota of $1.4 billion, Kathryn advocated at the Cabinet table and got $110 million to support the investment and creation of 450 new jobs for Cambridge.
As MPP, Kathryn secured important investments in people and infrastructure in Cambridge. These included new schools such as Grandview and St. Gabriel’s, Community Living-owned building repairs, Kidsability, cycling infrastructure, the critical expansion of Highway 401, water treatment plants, small businesses via the Main St Digitalization Project, Nurse Practioner support, in addition to millions of dollars more invested into the vital operating and capital budgets for Cambridge Memorial Hospital.
As a legislator, Kathryn continued her fight for cleaner air and improved health care services to help the thousands of people with lung disease in our community – a legacy of her and her son’s fight for lung health. In Nov 2014, she presented her Private Member’s Bill, The Lung Health Action Plan, to establish an overall strategy for the Province of Ontario. The bill was adopted by the Ministry of Health and passed with All Party support in 2017. The first Lung Health Advisory Committee includes an appointed health professional from Cambridge, an appointment Kathryn fought for.
Kathryn received the YWCA Women of Distinction Award in 2009 and the Bernice Adam’s Special Trustee Award in 2011 for her long service as a volunteer.
The decision to run for Mayor of Cambridge was prompted both by Kathryn’s desire to continue serving her community and its people — and a response to a growing number of residents who asked her if she would consider the work she had started as MPP, fighting for her community, fighting for a healthy, safe, connected community that attracts jobs and investments. Fighting for a prosperous future for her neighbours. Fighting for you.
As Kathryn explored the possibility of serving as Mayor she reached out to people in her community for their advice — and began to hear about a desire for change, for a new style of leadership at city hall. Believing strongly in the style of leadership embodied in the proverb “If you want to go fast, go alone — but if you want to go far, go together” Kathryn’s collaborative and decisive “get it done” style is one she will bring to her role as Mayor.
The future of Cambridge does not rest with the Mayor alone — but in the Mayor’s ability to make decisions in the best interests of residents and work together with everyone focused on the shared priority of a healthy, safe, connected, prosperous Cambridge: Councillors and community leaders, local businesses, social service and not for profit community service agencies.
Kathryn’s husband Fred was born in Toronto and works in Waterloo as a software developer. They have been married for 28 years and remain deeply rooted in Cambridge. Together they have six children – sons Rory, Geordie, Alex, Liam and Declan and a daughter Jenny. They have two granddaughters and a third grandchild on the way.