Stephen J. "Steve" Peters (born January 19, 1963) is a Canadian politician. He is presently a Member of Provincial Parliament of Ontario and currently serves as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. Peters served as a Cabinet Minister in the first term of the government of Dalton McGuinty.
Peters was born in St. Thomas, in the southwestern section of Ontario. Both of his parents were the children of Ukrainian immigrants. He was educated at the University of Western Ontario, and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history in 1985. Peters subsequently worked as an archivist at Victoria Hospital in London, Ontario, and at Alma College in St. Thomas. He also worked as a stock clerk at the A&P food store in St. Thomas.
Peters began his political career at the municipal level, being elected to the St. Thomas city council in 1988. He became the city's mayor in 1991, an accomplishment which made him the youngest mayor in the country at the time. Peters was re-elected by significant majorities in 1994 and 1997.
Peters shifted from municipal to provincial politics in 1999, running as a candidate of the Ontario Liberal Party in that year's provincial election. Peters defeated incumbent Progressive Conservative (PC) MPP Bruce Smith in the riding of Elgin—Middlesex—London, 20,417 votes to 19,246. Many regarded this as an upset, in that most other ridings with a similar demography (i.e., rural and socially conservative) supported PC candidates in this election. Peters' victory was likely due to personal popularity, rather than his party affiliation.
The election was won by the Progressive Conservatives, and Peters became the opposition critic for Disability issues on June 26, 1999. In September 2000, he was named opposition critic for Agriculture. For the next three years, most of his interventions in the legislature were focused on agricultural and rural issues.
Peters was easily re-elected in the Ontario provincial election of 2003, receiving over 57% of the vote in Elgin—Middlesex—London (Bruce Smith, again running for the Progressive Conservatives, received just over 30%). The election was won by the Liberals; many political commentators predicted that Peters would be named Agriculture Minister in the event of a Liberal victory, a factor which undoubtedly contributed to his re-election.
Peters was, in fact, named Minister of Agriculture and Food on October 23, 2003. In late September 2004, he announced that the provincial government would provide thirty million dollars to farmers affected by the BSE crisis, which had prevented Canadian beef from reaching the American market.
Though he was re-elected in the general election of October 2007, he was dropped from cabinet in a post-election cabinet shuffle and was instead on November 28th 2007, elected by his fellow members as the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario on the 4th ballot, defeating Michael A. Brown, Ted Arnott, David Zimmer and Lorenzo Berardinetti. In doing so, Peters became the first Ukrainian-Canadian to ever hold the position.