Politicians aren't what they used to be - Robarts and Davis delivered in their day.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

March 10th, 2018



As publisher it is no secret that I am a Liberal but that does not mean the Gazette is a Liberal newspaper.

John Robarts - one of the best Premiers the province ever had: knew how to balance a budget.

John Robarts – one of the best Premiers the province ever had: knew how to balance a budget.

The first political event I attended in Ontario was in 1967 while I was at university. I watched a debate between John Robarts and Robert Nixon at the Grand Theatre on Princes Street and turned to my friend and said “Robarts is a very impressive candidate”; he went on to win his eighth election to remain one of the best Premiers the province has had. He was more than the leader of a party and the Premier of the Province, he was also an outstanding Statesman. His Confederation of Tomorrow Conference was about two things: leadership and dialogue.

He was replaced by Bill Davies as Premier. Davis was a little on the bland side but he represented what the province was at that time. The changes he made to the province’s education system is something we are still benefiting from today.

Bill Davis had problems learning how to balance a budget; never really did learn.

Bill Davis had problems learning how to balance a budget; never really did learn.

His brilliant decision to cede a couple of metres of the Spadina Expressway stopped that road driving into the center of Toronto.

Ontario had good government – we were all well served. Think really hard to recall anything that either man did to embarrass the province.

Fast forward to David Petersen. A Liberal; how did he compare with Robarts or Davis ? – not all that good.

From a purely Conservative political perspective – Doug Ford is just not cut from the same cloth that Robarts and Davis came from.

To be completely honest Dalton McGuinty wasn’t cut from the same cloth either.

Wynne Kathleen - looking guilty gas plant hearing

Kathleen Ford will have to give the performance of her political career to win this one. The choice for the public is crystal clear.

Too early to say anything as definitive for Wynne. She realized that Canadians had to save more for their pension years; her push to create a pension fund for Ontario forced the federal government to change the Canada Pension Plan. She was willing to abandon her proposal to create a provincial pension plan when the federal government went along with a deal to make improvements to the Canada Pension Plan.

The way Wynne bird dogged Stephen Harper into meeting with her was impressive. How does the leader of a federal government ignore meeting with the Premier of the biggest province in the country.

Let’s be clear however – Ms Wynne has some explaining to do – how she hopes to get away with presenting yet another deficit budget at the end of the month is a stretch.

Ford Doug

Will Doug Ford be the next Premier of the province?

The point here is – what has happened to the quality of the men and women who put themselves forward as leaders?

The results of the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership are now official- Doug Ford will lead the Progressive Conservatives in the June election

A John Robarts he ain’t. He has a lot to explain. Has he ever said anything contrite about the much reported drug dealing he was involved in? We don’t believe he has ever said he did not deal drugs.

We hear much about the business successes – the family labeling business is not something he is involved in on a daily basis. He benefits from the profits.

Our issue is not that he is a Conservative – it is that he is Doug Ford.

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3 comments to Politicians aren’t what they used to be – Robarts and Davis delivered in their day.

  • Tom Muir

    I am a child of these two great men, and indebted to them.

    Without their vision and commitment to building and greatly expanding the university and college systems of the Province, and, for me, providing the opportunity to seek financing loans and fellowships, I would never have had a life that turned out beyond my wildest dreams.

    I cannot see any such accomplishment or great deeds, with contributions to the province’s economic, social, and educational infrastructure with what I have seen of the PC platform.

    Robarts and Davis were builders, and we still enjoy the en-trained fruits of their legacy. The current crop of PCs only want to tear things down, to pick up where Harris and his ilk left off.

    I agree that God help us if Doug Ford becomes premier. With all due respect, his brother was a clown, and we don’t need such disrespectful family ties in that office.

  • Stephen White

    Great editorial Pepper! I think your analysis is insightful, fascinating and very timely.

    John Robarts and Bill Davis shared many unique qualities and commonalities. They both possessed presence, stature and gravitas. They both grew up in what were once smaller communities, and both gentlemen were closely identified with local issues. They were both lawyers (not that this, in itself, is a prerequisite for public service, but they at least had a career), they both served on local councils, and they were both heavily involved in their local party riding associations prior to running for their respective provincial nominations. They both held important Cabinet posts prior to being elected leaders of the PC Party. They also had a vision of where they wanted to take this province, and presided over significant changes in this province’s economic and social infrastructure. Also important was the fact that they weren’t rigid ideologues, and they knew how to compromise and accommodate divergent viewpoints to get meaningful things done.

    What disappoints me about the calibre of so many candidates running for public office of all political stripes is that many are professional politicians. Their focus is short-sighted. Many join their political party just to seek the nomination. Few of them developed any credibility or expertise in a career prior to running for office. Several seem to be advocates for special interests, or are essentially “one issue” candidates with strong allegiances to specific stakeholder groups. What seems to motivate many is not so much a deep commitment to improving society as much as advancing their political career.

    When I see Vic Fedeli, a successful businessman, a major financial donor to several charities and educational institutions in North Bay, an accomplished former Mayor, and a decent, sincere and well-motivated gentleman who had the overwhelming support of the PC caucus, I was reminded how he was cut from the same political cloth as Bill Davis and John Robarts. He would have made an excellent leader and premier. Then when I watched him get summarily brushed aside because the PC Party “brain trust” thought a leadership convention was a good idea, I have to wonder. Watching the convention fiasco on television yesterday I’m left wondering how Davis and Robarts would react to the prospect of their Party being headed by Doug Ford. Not favourably I suspect.

  • Alide Camilleri

    God help Ontario should Doug Ford become our premiere. We must be prepared for the gutting of social programs, loss of hospital beds, even more beleaguered nurses and doctors, loss of teachers, and abandon all hope for help for seniors, and for the homeless. At the same time, be prepared for the rich getting richer and the poor getting nothing. He fashions himself after Trump, is as vain, as intellectually challenged and as crooked as his model. Yes, a Robarts he is not. I cannot see any library named for him, nor any program such as the one named for Bill Davis.