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Famous Like Me > Director > D > Bill Davis

Profile of Bill Davis on Famous Like Me

Name: Bill Davis  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 29th September 1952
Place of Birth: San Antonio, Texas, USA
Profession: Director
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia
The Hon. William Davis
Bill Davis
Rank: 18th
Term of Office: March 2, 1971 - February 1985
Predecessor: John Robarts
Successor: Frank Miller
Date of Birth: July 30, 1929
Place of Birth: Brampton, Ontario
Profession: Lawyer
Political Party: PC

For the actor, professor, and waterskiier, see William B. Davis

The Honourable William (Bill) Grenville Davis, PC , CC , O.Ont. , QC , BA , LL.D. (born July 30, 1929 in Brampton, Ontario) was the Progressive Conservative Premier of Ontario, Canada, from 1971 to 1985.

Davis was politically active from a young age. Local Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) Gordon Graydon was a frequent guest at his parents' house, and Davis himself became the first delegate younger than seventeen years to attend a national Progressive Conservative convention in Canada. He frequently campaigned for local Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) Thomas Laird Kennedy, who briefly served as Premier of Ontario in 1949.

He graduated from the University of Toronto in 1951 and attended Osgoode Hall Law School. Davis was a football player during his university years, and his teammates included Roy McMurtry and Thomas Wells, both of whom would later serve in his cabinet.

He was first elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in 1959 provincial election, for the southern Ontario constituency of Peel. Although Peel was an extremely safe Conservative seat for most of its history, Davis's majority in this election was surprisingly narrow. The election took place soon after the federal Progressive Conservative government of John Diefenbaker cancelled the Avro Arrow program. Most of the 14,000 Canadians put out of work by this decision were residents of Peel, and many cast protest ballots against Diefbaker by supporting Bill Brydon, the provincial Liberal candidate. Davis won, but by only 1,203 votes.

Davis served for two years as a backbench supporter of Leslie Frost's government. When Frost announced his retirement in 1961, Davis became the chief organizer of Robert Macaulay's campaign to succeed him as premier and party leader. Macaulay was eliminated on the next-to-last ballot, and, with Davis, delivered crucial support for John Robarts to defeat Kelso Roberts on the final vote. Davis was appointed to Robarts's cabinet as Minister of Education on October 25, 1962, and was re-elected by a greatly increased margin in the 1963 provincial election.

Davis was given additional responsibilities as Ontario's Minister of University Affairs on May 14, 1964, and held both portfolios until 1971. He soon developed a reputation as a strongly interventionist minister, and oversaw a dramatic increase in education expenditures throughout the 1960s (education spending in Ontario grew by 454% between 1962 and 1971). He established many new public schools, often in centralized locations to accommodate larger numbers of students. Davis also undertook dramatic revisions of Ontario's outdated and inefficient school board system, reducing the 3,676 boards of 1962 to only 192 in 1967. Many boards had presided over a single school prior to Davis's reforms.

Davis also created new universities, including Trent University and Brock University, and established twenty-two community colleges, the first of which opened its doors in 1966. He established the TV Ontario educational television network in 1970.

Davis's handling of the education portfolio made him a high-profile minister, and there was little surprise when he entered the leadership contest to succeed Robarts in 1971. He was quickly dubbed as the frontrunner, though his awkward speaking style and image as an "establishment" candidate hindered his campaign. He defeated rival candidate Allan Lawrence by only 44 votes on the final ballot, after receiving support from third-place candidate Darcy McKeough. Shortly after the convention, Davis invited Lawrence's campaign team to join his inner circle of advisors. This group became known as the Big Blue Machine, and remained the dominant organizational force in the Progressive Conservative Party until the 1980s.

Shortly after taking office as premier, Davis announced that his government would not permit construction of the proposed Spadina Expressway in downtown Toronto (an initiative that had been unpopular with many of the area's residents). He also rejected a proposal to grant full funding to Ontario's Catholic high schools, which some regarded as an appeal to the Progressive Conservative Party's rural Protestant base. Davis's team ran a professional campaign in the 1971 provincial election, and was rewarded with an increased majority government.

Davis's first full term as premier was by most accounts his least successful, with public confidence in his government weakened by a series of scandals. There were allegations that the Fidinam company had received special consideration for a Toronto development program in return for donations to the Progressive Conservative Party. In 1973, it was revealed that Davis's friend Gerhard Moog had received a valuable untendered contract for the construction of Ontario Hydro's new head office and related projects. Attorney General Dalton Bales, Solicitor General John Yaremko and Treasurer McKeough were all accused of conflicts-of-interest relating to government approval for developments on properties they owned. The government was cleared of impropriety in all cases, but its popular support nonetheless declined. The Conservatives lost four key by-elections in 1973 and 1974.

On the policy front, the Davis administration introduced regional governments for Northumberland—Durham, Hamilton—Wentworth and Haldimand—Norfolk, but shelved further plans in response to popular protests. The government was also forced to cancel a planned 7% energy tax in 1973 following protests from the Progressive Conservative backbench. In the buildup to the 1975 provincial election, Davis imposed a ninty-day freeze on energy prices, temporarily reduced the provincial sales tax from 7% to 5%, and announced rent controls for the province.

The 1975 campaign was far more bitter than that of 1971, with Davis and Liberal leader Robert Nixon repeatedly hurling personal insults at one another. The Progressive Conservatives won only 51 seats out of 125, but were able to remain in power with a minority government. The New Democratic Party (NDP) won 38 seats under the leadership of Stephen Lewis, while Nixon's Liberals finished third with 36. The Tories were able to stay in power due to the competition between the Ontario New Democratic Party and the Ontario Liberal Party, and because of the inability of either opposition party to become the clear alternative. There was no serious consideration of a Liberal-NDP alliance after the election, and Davis was able to stay in power by appealing to other parties for support on particular initiatives. Soon after the election, Davis hired Hugh Segal as his legislative secretary.

Davis appointed right-wingers Frank Miller and James Taylor to key cabinet portfolios after the election, but withdrew from a proposed austerity program following a negative public response. In 1977, he introduced a policy statement written by Segal which became known as the "Bramalea Charter", promising extensive new housing construction for the next decade. Davis called a snap election in 1977, but was again returned with only a minority. The Progressive Conservatives won 58 seats, against 34 for the Liberals and 33 for the NDP.

The Tories were able to avoid defeat in the legislature during both minority governments by moving to the left on policy issues, so as to win support from the other parties. This period of the Davis government was one of expansion for the province's public health and education systems, and Davis held a particular interest in ensuring that the province's community colleges remained productive. The government also expanded the provisions of the Ontario Human Rights Code, and expanded bilingual services without introducing official bilingualism to the province.

Davis had an awkward relationship with federal Progressive Conservative leader Joe Clark. Clark and Davis held differing views over fuel prices, and the Davis government actively opposed Clark's austerity budget in 1979. In the 1980 federal election, the Liberal Party used the Davis government's budget criticisms in official campaign documents.

Unlike most provincial premiers in Canada, Davis strongly supported Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's plans to patriate the Canadian Constitution from the United Kingdom and rewrite it significantly. Davis' role in the constitutional negotiations of 1981 were pivotal in achieving a compromise that resulted in the passage of the 1982 Constitution.

The Progressive Conservatives were returned a majority government in the 1981 provincial election, with both the Liberals and NDP suffering losses. Soon after the election, Davis announced that John Tory had been hired to succeed Segal as his principal secretary. He also announced that Ontario would purchase a 25% share in the energy corporation Suncor, despite opposition from within his own caucus.

Davis considered moving to federal politics by running to lead the federal Progressive Conservatives in 1983, but he decided not to do so when he realized that he would not receive support from western Canada. His candidacy had been strongly opposed by Peter Lougheed, the Premier of Alberta.

He retired a few months before the election of 1985. One of his last major acts as premier was to reverse his 1971 decision against the full funding of Catholic schools, and announce that such funding would be provided to the end of Grade Thirteen.

Davis was succeeded by Frank Miller, who was elected leader at a February 1985 leadership convention. The Progressive Conservatives were reduced to tenuous minority government in the 1985 provincial election and were soon defeated in the house, ending the party's 42 year period of rule over the province.

Davis was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1985, and has served on numerous corporate boards since his retirement from politics.

Davis's reputation within the Ontario Progressive Conservatives was compromised during the 1990s by the party's shift to the right under Mike Harris. Many Conservatives parliamentarians were openly dismissive of Davis-era spending policies, and frequently highlighted the differences between Davis and Harris on policy issues. Davis remained a supporter of the party, but seldom appeared at official events.

More recently, Davis has returned to an honoured position within the party. He was a keynote speaker at the 2004 Progressive Conservative leadership convention, and was singled out for praise in speeches by outgoing party leader Ernie Eves and new leader John Tory. Davis was also present for Tory's first session in the Ontario legislature, following the latter's victory in a 2005 by-election.

In 2003, Davis played a role in the successful negotiations to merge the federal Progressive Conservatives with the Canadian Alliance, and create the new Conservative Party of Canada.

Throughout his political career, Davis often remarked upon the lasting influence of his hometown of Brampton, Ontario. He is known, primarily by Bramptonians, as "Brampton Billy".

External Links

  • Order of Canada Citation

Preceded by:
John Robarts

Premier of Ontario

Succeeded by:
Frank Miller

Preceded by:
John Robarts

Ontario Conservative Leaders

Succeeded by:
Frank Miller

Premiers of Ontario Flag of Ontario
Macdonald | Blake | Mowat | Hardy | Ross | Whitney | Hearst | Drury | Ferguson | Henry | Hepburn | Conant | Nixon | Drew | Kennedy | Frost | Robarts | Davis | Miller | Peterson | Rae | Harris | Eves | McGuinty

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Bill Davis