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Conservative rule for 42 years in Ontario

The Story

Aug. 4, 1943: At the height of the Second World War, Ontario elects a colonel who promises social and economic reform. George Drew becomes the first of six Progressive Conservative premiers who will oversee a 42-year empire for that party. This CBC Television clip profiles Drew and his successors whose dynasty appears invincible. But what becomes known as The Big Blue Machine finally falters in 1985 after a power-broking deal between the NDP and Liberals.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: June 18, 1985
Reporter: Larry Stout
Duration: 2:56

Did You know?

• The Conservative premiers during the 42-year reign were as follows: George Drew (1943-1948), Thomas Kennedy (1948-1949), Leslie Frost (1949-1961), John Robarts (1961-1971), William Davis (1971-1985) and Frank Miller (1985).
• The first premier of Ontario was also Progressive Conservative. John Sandfield Macdonald held office for one term (1867-1871). During that time he set up the province's high school system.

• Premier Macdonald was of no relation to the Prime Minister of the same era, John A. Macdonald (1867-1873).
• Under Premier Drew, Ontario passed revolutionary social legislation, including the first laws against discrimination and a new criminal code.
• Drew went on to become leader of the federal PCs from 1948 to 1956.

• In 1971 Ontario elected William G. Davis, a lawyer from Brampton, as premier. Davis was touted as a "practical" premier. A 1984 CBC report said Davis's spin doctors handled him so well he was reported to have never once made a political slip-up in public.

• In the same 1984 report, political commentator Dalton Camp described the extent of Davis's practicality.
• Camp said: "If you can't sleep, just put your mind to Bill Davis, and think about him — that massive, cool, calm, dispassionate, reasonable, sensible, practical man — and suddenly you find yourself going off to sleep."

• Davis often made political decisions outside traditional Conservative doctrine. The best example of this was when he sided with Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau on constitutional amendments.
• He was one of only two premiers to support Trudeau's 1982 patriation initiative. The other was New Brunswick Premier Richard Hatfield.

• Ottawa Hill Times journalist Claire Hoy claims to have coined the phrase "The Big Blue Machine" after the successful baseball team The Cincinnati Reds who were nicknamed "The Big Red Machine." Even though the PC party itself is now referred to as The Big Blue Machine, Hoy originally used the phrase to describe Davis in about 1971, when he first became premier.


Ontario Elections: 25 Tumultuous Years more