Dennis Roy Timbrell (November 13, 1946—) is a politician in Ontario, Canada. He served in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1971 to 1987, and was a cabinet minister in the governments of William Davis and Frank Miller.
Timbrell was born in Kingston, Ontario, and educated at Woburn Collegiate Institute in Scarborough and York University in Toronto. He worked as a teacher before entering provincial politics, and served as an alderman in North York from January 1970 until September 1, 1972.
Timbrell contested 1971 provincial election as a candidate of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, and won election in the Toronto constituency of Don Mills. He was re-elected without difficulty in the campaigns of 1975, 1977, 1981 and 1985.
He became a minister without portfolio in Davis's government on February 26, 1974, and was named as Minister of Energy on July 18, 1975. On February 3, 1977, he was promoted to Minister of Health. After serving in this high-profile position for five years, he became Ontario's Minister of Agriculture and Food on February 13, 1982. Many believe Timbrell was already planning a leadership bid to replace Davis, and wanted to build a support base among rural voters.
Following Davis's resignation as PC leader and as premier, Timbrell sought the party leadership at the January 1985 leadership convention. He positioned himself as a centre-right candidate, further to the right of Red Tory rivals Larry Grossman and Roy McMurtry, but not as far to the right as Frank Miller. Timbrell was the only candidate to favour eliminating rent controls during the campaign. His supporters included Keith Norton, Leo Bernier, Margaret Birch, Robert Eaton, Gordon Dean, Bob Welch and Norman Sterling.
Timbrell placed second on the first ballot, but was eliminated when he fell to third place on the second ballot, six votes behind Grossman who had the backing of McMurtry's campaign. Many believe that Timbrell would have defeated Miller on the final ballot, and it has been suggested that some Miller supporters voted for Grossman to prevent him from advancing. Lou Parsons, a senior Miller adviser, later acknowledged, "We wouldn't have won it against Dennis [...] Our winning strategy was always to be against Larry ... and in the end we were lucky". (Rosemary Speirs, Out of the Blue, Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1986, p. 81.)
Timbrell reluctantly endorsed Grossman after the results were confirmed by a recount. He however did not bring enough delegates on the third ballot and that resulted in Miller's victory. He was retained in Miller's cabinet as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing with responsibility for Women's Issues.
The Progressive Conservative Party under Miller's leadership was reduced to a narrow minority government in the 1985 election. Following a cabinet shuffle on May 17, 1985, Timbrell was demoted to Provincial Secretary for Resource Development, also retaining responsibility for Women's Issues. He accomplished little in this position before Miller's government was defeated in the house in June 1985. In opposition, Timbrell served as his party's critic for Education and Women's Issues.
Miller resigned as leader, and the party called another leadership convention for November 1985. This contest was an extremely divisive struggle between Timbrell and Grossman, which exposed deep divisions in the party. A third candidate, Alan Pope, drew attention to the animosity between the candidates with his slogan, "Don't choose sides, choose Pope". Alan Eagleson was a co-chairman of Timbrell's campaign.
In this leadership race, Timbrell announced he would not support the full funding of Catholic schools (which had previously been agreed to by all parties in the legislature) unless amendments were put forward guaranteeing entry to non-Catholic teachers and students. Norman Sterling, an inveterate opponent of Catholic school funding, derided Timbrell's position as opportunistic and crossed over to Grossman. Timbrell's change of position may have turned away other potential supporters as well.
Pope finished third on the opening ballot and some believed that he could have given Timbrell a second-ballot victory over Grossman, though Pope chose not to endorse either side. Grossman defeated Timbrell on the second ballot by nineteen votes, effectively ending Timbrell's career in provincial politics. He did not seek re-election in 1987.
Timbrell served as president of the Ontario Hospital Association from 1992 to 1995 and received $583,000 when the OHA sold its Ontario Blue Cross subsidiary.
In 1997 and again in 2000, Timbrell campaigned for the Canadian House of Commons as a federal Progressive Conservative candidate in the eastern Ontario riding of Prince Edward—Hastings. In the 1997 election, Timbrell placed second to Liberal Lyle Vanclief, with 21.5% of the vote. In the 2000 election, Timbrell placed third, behind Vanclief and a Canadian Alliance candidate, with 20.3% of the vote.
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