Hamilton’s John Munro was a key figure in the cabinets of Pierre Trudeau

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In the June 18, 1962, federal election, an up-and-coming politician named John Munro managed to unseat Conservative Quinto Martini, who had the distinction of being the first Italian Canadian elected to Parliament.

Munro never looked back; he became one of the most successful and, at times, controversial federal MPs the city has had.

Munro (1931-2003), who was a lawyer and served as a municipal alderman before becoming an MP, is remembered for a political machine that helped him hold onto the Hamilton East federal riding for 22 years.

He was a key player in Pierre Trudeau’s cabinets of the 1970s. At various times he served as Minister of Health and Welfare, Minister of Labour, and Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. He was forced to resign after contacting a judge in 1978 to give a character reference to man facing an assault conviction.

Later, after a failed Liberal Party leadership bid, Munro and some members of his campaign faced charges alleging illegal kickbacks and other irregularities. Eventually, the charges were dropped, but it left him with a tattered reputation — and horrendous legal expenses for which he was compensated after suing the federal government in 1992.

He attempted political comebacks, including runs at Hamilton mayor, but was unsuccessful. Hamilton’s airport was named the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport in his honour.