Mr. Davis served as Premier of Ontario from 1971 to 1985.
Bill Davis was born William Grenville Davis on July 30th, 1929 in Toronto to Albert and Vera Davis. He was interested in politics from an early age, with former MP Gordon Graydon being a frequent guest growing up.
Mr. Davis graduated from the University of Toronto before earning a law degree from the Osgoode Hall Law School.
Mr. Davis was first elected to the Legislature in 1959, representing the riding of Peel, despite running in the riding most hurt by the 10,000 layoffs following the cancellation of the Avro Arrow by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, which lead to some anti-Progressive Conservative feelings in the riding.
After John Robarts‘ appointment as Premier in 1962, Mr. Davis was appointed Minister of Education. He would also be made Minister of University Affairs in 1964, in addition to his responsibilities as Education Minister.
Mr. Davis, as Minister of Education and University Affairs, would oversee the creation of two universities: Brock and Trent. He would also see the creation of Ontario’s college system. He would also work to update the education system, including streamlining the number of school boards in Ontario from almost 3,700 when he became Education Minister to 192 by 1967. Some of the school boards oversaw a single school.
He would also oversee the establishment of the Ontario Educational Communications Authority Television Authority. This would later become TVOntario.
When John Robarts retired as Premier in 1971, Mr. Davis would be elected Leader of Progressive Conservatives and was sworn in as the 18th Premier of Ontario.
He would lead his party to four election victories: two majorities and two minorities.
As Premier, he would accomplish many things:
- Cancellation of work on the Spadina Expressway
- Creation of Region Governments for Durham, Hamilton-Wentworth, Haldimand-Norfolk, and Waterloo
- Full funding for Ontario’s catholic Secondary School
- Expansion of Health Care
- Increased provisions of the Ontario Human Rights Code
- Rent Control
- Social Housing increases
Mr. Davis would also play a huge impact in the repatriation of the Constitution in 1982 by supporting the inclusion of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, despite the Charter not receiving support by the Federal Progressive Conservative party. Also, unlike other Premiers in Canada, Mr. Davis also supported the Federal Government’s commitment to repatriate the Constitution.
Despite opposition from members of his own party, he would support the Government’s investment in Suncor, purchasing a 25% interest in the energy company. The Province would divest its’ interest in the company in the mid 1990s.
Mr. Davis would retire in early 1985, prior to the 1985 general election. His final major act was provide full funding for Catholic schools in the province, despite it being unpopular in many rural parts of the Province. He would be succeeded by Frank Miller, who had served in Mr. Davis’ cabinet. The party would win a minority Government in 1985, only to be replaced by the Liberals after a vote of no confidence. The Progressive Conservatives would not form another government until 1995.
Despite a strained relationship with the party following his retirement as the party shifted to a more right wing policy, he continued to remain loyal to the party, and was involved in helping the merger of the federal Progressive Conservative Party and the Canadian Alliance in 2003.
Mr. Davis would support John Tory’s campaign for Mayor of Toronto in 2014. John Tory had previously been Mr. Davis’ Principal Secretary as Premier.
In retirement, Mr. Davis was made a Companion of the Order of Canada, and was also honoured with the Order of Ontario. As Premier in 1982 when the Constitution was repatriated to Canada, Mr. Davis – along with the other Premiers – would be made members of the Privy Council.
A number locations have been named after him, including:
- William G. Davis Public School in Windsor
- W. G. Davis Senior Public School and the Davis Campus of Sheridan College in Brampton
- William G. Davis Senior Public School in Cambridge
- William G. Davis Public School in Scarborough
- William G. Davis Building, University of Toronto Mississauga in Mississauga
- William G. Davis Centre for Computer Research, University of Waterloo in Waterloo
- TVOntario’s William G. Davis Studio
- William G. Davis Trail at Ontario Place
- A. Grenville and William Davis Courthouse in Brampton
- Premier Davis Blvd (Seneca College Newnham Campus) in North York
Mr. Davis was married twice, and had four children. He passed away on August 8th, 2021 – less than two weeks after his 92nd birthday.
Former premier of Ontario William Davis dead at 92
Conservatives can learn a great deal from the extraordinary record of Bill Davis
Former Ontario Premier Bill Davis dies at age 92, family says