John Robarts

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John Robarts

PC CC QC
John Robarts, Premier of Ontario.jpg
Robarts in 1960
17th Premier of Ontario
In office
November 8, 1961 March 1, 1971
Monarch Elizabeth II
Lieutenant Governor John Keiller MacKay
William Earl Rowe
William Ross Macdonald
Preceded by Leslie Frost
Succeeded by Bill Davis
Member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario
In office
June 9, 1955 October 21, 1971
Preceded byNew riding
Succeeded by Gordon Walker
Constituency London North
In office
November 22, 1951 June 9, 1955
Preceded by Campbell Calder
Succeeded byRiding abolished
Constituency London
Personal details
Born
John Parmenter Robarts

(1917-01-11)January 11, 1917
Banff, Alberta, Canada
DiedOctober 18, 1982(1982-10-18) (aged 65)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Resting place St. James Cemetery
Political party Progressive Conservative
Spouse(s)
  • Norah McCormick (div. 1970s)
  • Katherine Sickafuse (m. 1976
ChildrenTimothy (1956–1977), Robin Hollis Jeffrey (1953–2010)
Alma mater University of Western Ontario
Osgoode Hall Law School
Cabinet Minister without portfolio (1958-1959)
Military service
AllegianceCanadian
Branch/service Royal Canadian Navy
Years of service1942–1945
RankLieutenant
Unit HMCS Uganda
Battles/wars Pacific War

John Parmenter Robarts, PC CC QC (January 11, 1917 October 18, 1982) was a Canadian lawyer and statesman who served as the 17th premier of Ontario for nearly a decade, from November 8, 1961, to March 1, 1971.

Contents

Early life

Robarts was born in Banff, Alberta, making him the only Ontario premier not to have been born in Ontario. As a young man, he moved to London, Ontario, with his family, where he studied at Central Collegiate (today, London Central Secondary School) and at the University of Western Ontario (UWO) in business administration. While attending UWO, he joined the Delta Upsilon fraternity. [1]

Robarts enrolled to study law at Osgoode Hall Law School, but his education was interrupted by service with the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II. He served as an officer on HMCS Uganda. After the war, he returned to law school and graduated in 1948.

Early political career

Robarts practiced law in London, Ontario, and was elected to city council in 1948. In 1951, he was elected as a member of provincial parliament (MPP) to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, as a Progressive Conservative (PC) from the city. In that era, MPPs not in cabinet were essentially working part-time due to relatively light legislative duties. Robarts commuted by train from the Queen's Park legislature in Toronto–the provincial capital–to his family and law practice in London, effectively combining his legislative work with his legal career. His wife Norah disliked Toronto and remained at home in London for most of their marriage. The couple raised two children. [2]

He entered the cabinet of Leslie Frost in 1958 as minister without portfolio, and was promoted to minister of education in 1959. The province was in the midst of a major building phase with its education system, to accommodate an enormous increase in enrollment following the Baby Boomer generation of the post-World War II era, and Robarts played an important role as education minister, with the establishment of new institutions such as York University. [2]

Premier of Ontario

In 1961, Robarts became the 17th premier of Ontario, and served in that capacity until 1971. He was an advocate of individual freedoms, and promoted the rights of the provinces against the centralizing initiatives of the federal government. He also promoted national unity against Quebec separatism, and hosted the 1967 "Confederation of Tomorrow" conference in Toronto in an unsuccessful attempt to achieve an agreement for a new Constitution of Canada.

He initially opposed Canadian Medicare when it was proposed, but later endorsed it fully following New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate Kenneth Bolton's upset by-election victory on the issue in the London-area riding of Middlesex South.

As a civil libertarian, and a strong believer in the promotion of both official languages, Robarts opened the door to French language education in Ontario schools. In 1972 he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada.

Nicknamed "the Chairman of the Board" during his tenure, Robarts is remembered for his steps to promote and improve education, he was responsible for the construction of five new universities including York University, the establishment of the Ontario Science Centre and Ontario Place, the creation of numerous teacher's colleges, the creation of the community college system, the GO Transit commuter rail system, introducing nuclear power to Ontario's electricity grid, and launching the Ontario Scholar fund for high school students graduating with an A average. [3]

Post-political life

After retiring from office, Robarts co-chaired the Task Force on Canadian Unity with Jean-Luc Pépin, and joined a Toronto law firm as well as the boards of directors of several major corporations.

He served as chancellor of UWO from 1971 to 1976. He served as chancellor of York University from 1977 to 1982.

Robarts and his wife divorced in the early seventies and he remarried to a woman 28 years his junior. [3]

Robarts committed suicide on October 18, 1982. He had been suffering from depression as a result of both the 1977 suicide of his son, Timothy, and a series of debilitating strokes. [4]

He is buried in St. James Cemetery in Toronto.

Legacy

The Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies at York University was founded in 1982 in his name. The John P. Robarts Research Institute (renamed The Robarts Research Institute in 2005) at the University of Western Ontario was officially opened in 1986. Also in London is the Robarts School for the Deaf, and the John P. Robarts elementary school. The 14-storey John P. Robarts Research Library at the University of Toronto is also named in his honour.

Biographies

University of Western Ontario professor A. K. McDougall authored the first full-length biography: Robarts, in 1985. Steve Paikin wrote a biography, Public Triumph, Private Tragedy: The Double Life of John P. Robarts (Viking, 2005).

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References

  1. Delta Upsilon UWO alumni Archived 2009-09-12 at the Wayback Machine
  2. 1 2 Robarts, by A.K. McDougall, 1985
  3. 1 2 Paikin, Steve (October 18, 2007). "Twenty-five years ago, the end of a double life". TVOntario . Retrieved October 29, 2019.
  4. Gallagher, Noel (2001-11-29). "Robarts 'A man for his time'". The Life And Death Of John Robarts. Canoe.ca. Archived from the original on 2013-01-15. Retrieved 2011-07-02.
Ontario Provincial Government of Leslie Frost
Cabinet post (1)
PredecessorOfficeSuccessor
William James Dunlop Minister of Education
1959–1962
Bill Davis
Academic offices
Preceded by
Albert Trueman
Chancellor of the University of Western Ontario
1971–1976
Succeeded by
J. Allyn Taylor
Preceded by
Walter L. Gordon
Chancellor of York University
1977–1982
Succeeded by
John S. Proctor