Theresa Oswald, like Nellie McClung, began her career as a teacher. Oswald brought a magical combination of intellect, creativity, and verve to Glenlawn Collegiate where she taught English for 11 years. She was a natural choice to promote student leadership as the Coordinator of Glenlawn’s Student Leadership Program. Oswald later taught at Hastings School prior to her promotion to the vice principalship of Victor Mager School. Oswald cannot help but to inspire, mentor and empower others to do their best work, just as she did with her students and colleagues.
Oswald, like McClung, is a powerful orator who uses wit, humour and heart to shine a light on issues. No stranger to loss, setback and controversy, Oswald has always followed her moral compass, doing what she feels is the right thing, even when the path is not smooth or unanimously popular. McClung would agree with a favorite quote of Oswald’s: “Well behaved women rarely make history.”
Oswald has accomplished several ‘firsts’ throughout her careers. She was the first NDP candidate to win the Seine River riding. She was the first female Minister for Healthy Living in Manitoba. She was the first female chair of the Healthy Child Committee of Cabinet, and the first cabinet minister in Manitoba to give birth while holding office. She was the first female Minister of Health in Manitoba and remains the longest consecutive serving Minister of Health in Canada since the introduction of Medicare. She is currently the first female CEO of Doctors Manitoba.
There is no shortage of accomplishments in those firsts. As Minister of Health, Oswald advocated for the construction of Manitoba’s’ first mental health ER, an urgent care clinic dedicated to cancer patients, and the new Women’s Hospital. She worked tirelessly to fund oral cancer drugs, introduce a fertility tax credit, promote organ donation and require defibrillators in public places. She oversaw record increases in the number of physicians and nurses practicing in Manitoba.
In February 2013, Oswald was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for her work driving the government to fully fund oral cancer drugs. Tellingly, she was nominated by the Canadian Cancer Society, the only Health Minister in Canada to be chosen by CCS to receive the award.
Although she downplays this, Oswald has lived experience with challenges faced by working women, including breast-feeding her infant son Jack in her legislative office and juggling family priorities with a hectic schedule. Oswald humbly recognizes that her late husband Sam’s strength permitted successful coparenting that many women cannot rely upon, and now, as a single parent, compassion for women’s struggles is more than ever in her heart.
Oswald is not just admired as a trailblazer, she is cherished as a woman with humanity, vitality, and the sense to keep her priorities straight. Her friendships are deep and lasting. She brings fun with her, even to work.
Brave, wise leadership coupled with a brilliant mind and spiced with infectious joie de vivre.