There are few conservatives left to fit the Bill Davis mould. When I first met him at Queen’s Park, he was the young minister of education. Compared to what we have in that job today, Bill was a beacon of hope. As a liberal, I had no problem liking and respecting Bill. And I liked the people around him.
Bill had all the trappings and jargon of the conservative but he mixed it with decency. His word could be trusted. He had a wonderful sense of humour.
He had to relinquish the education job when he became premier. We were spending almost five times the money on education. It was worth it. Our community colleges were the jewels in Bill’s political crown.
I had to introduce Bill as Premier of Ontario to a few hundred people at an international luncheon one time. There were few votes for him there. He accepted. He came. We had some good laughs. He delighted the audience.
Bill was always a great booster for Brampton and Ontario. He was a true Canadian. He enriched Ontario.
One of his standing jokes was when seeing my wife at a function, he would sidle over and implore her to run in the next election for the conservatives. He knew our neighbour was the sitting MPP but he would brush that aside. He also knew that his wife Kathy and my wife were friends. They had worked together as court of revision for our riding in a federal election.
Bill was a conservative with a conscience. When he said that ‘bland works,’ he could have also said that elegant works and that keeping your word works. He was all those things.
The only time Bill disappointed me was when he retired in 1985. He knowingly hurt his party by his last-minute repentance and giving full funding to Catholic education in Ontario. It cost his party, cost the province and ushered in the learning liberal years of David Peterson, the wasted NDP years of Bob Rae and the ‘uncommon sense’ years of Mike Harris.
Bill is gone and his party has opted for conservative cant over honesty. He will still be honoured.
Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry
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