Paul Robert: The accidental Leasider

Paul Robert
Paul Robert

Unlike some of our neighbours who choose Leaside to make their home, Paul Robert falls more into the accidental category of Leasider.

He and his wife, Sally Spofforth, were shopping at the Bayview & Moore Loblaws when they were renting in Deer Park. They drove around the block after they left, and noticed a house for sale on Mallory Crescent, which had been sub-divided into two apartments. Interest rates were high in 1982, and house prices seemed high too, but they decided they could swing it. They raised their family here, and they’ve never left.

Paul comes from a long-lived family in Canada. We describe this country as a land of immigrants, some of whom arrived earlier than others. On Paul’s father’s side, an ancestor arrived in Lower Canada in 1665 as a member of a regiment sent by Louis XIV of France. Moving from Trois Rivières to Chambly, by the time of his grandfather, the family lived in Pain Court, a French community near Chatham, Ont. Paul’s grandfather studied medicine and was one of the doctors involved in the foundation of St. Michael’s Hospital as it transitioned from being an infirmary.

His mother’s Catholic family were McLaughlins from Omagh, County Tyrone in Northern Ireland. They arrived in 1820 and first headed north up the Humber to Mono Mills to build a mill. When Orangeville was chosen for the railway route, instead of Mono Mills, they moved back south where Francis McLaughlin established his flour mill at York and Front Sts., then at the base of the city, on the Toronto waterfront.

Paul Robert is probably best known to Leasiders as a local politician. He first became active when a proposal came before the Borough of East York Council to build on Mallory Green in the 1990s. The neighbourhood resistance, along with one resident’s documentation firmly establishing Mallory Green as a park, saved this lovely green space. Robert served time on the Leaside Property Owners’ Association board, and his civic involvement continued with the strong anti-amalgamation committees across the city in the late 1990s. It was during this fight that he first met Kathleen Wynne, and was pleased to support her when she first ran as a provincial Liberal candidate in 2003.

At the same time as amalgamation, the Mike Harris government aligned the provincial ridings with their federal counterparts, which locally meant that the new provincial riding of Don Valley West comprised what had been pieces of four different provincial ridings. Paul became active in riding association politics, to the extent that he was the president of the Don Valley West Provincial Riding Association for a number of years until stepping aside recently to bring in new blood.

Paul’s professional career was originally as a drama teacher, first at North Toronto Collegiate and then at Northern Secondary when its drama program expanded. His early career dovetails nicely with one of his retirement interests, acting on the board of Storytelling Toronto, which attracts story-tellers from all over the world. He is also a lover of early music, puns, and is an avid recreational sailor.

And one last thing you need to know, even though it has been 352 years since a Robert first arrived on this continent, Paul’s surname is still pronounced à la française.

About Lorna Krawchuk 177 Articles
Lorna Krawchuk is publisher of Leaside Life. She is actively involved in St. Cuthbert’s Church. Her volunteer activities with the Leaside Property Owners’ Association led to her being elected a Councillor in the Borough of East York for 9 years before amalgamation in 1998. She also held a variety of volunteer leadership positions with the Girl Guides of Canada for over 30 years. Lorna has been a Leasider since 1968.