George A. Drew

George Alexander Drew, PC CC QC (May 7, 1894 January 4, 1973) was a Canadian conservative politician who founded a Progressive Conservative dynasty in Ontario that lasted 42 years. He served as the 14th Premier of Ontario from 1943 to 1948.

George A. Drew

14th Premier of Ontario
In office
August 17, 1943  October 19, 1948
MonarchGeorge VI
Lieutenant GovernorAlbert E. Matthews
Ray Lawson
Preceded byHarry Nixon
Succeeded byThomas Kennedy
Leader of the Opposition
In office
October 2, 1948  August 1, 1956
MonarchGeorge VI
Elizabeth II
Prime MinisterW.L. Mackenzie King
Louis St. Laurent
Preceded byJohn Bracken
Succeeded byJohn Diefenbaker
Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada
In office
October 2, 1948  November 29, 1956
Preceded byJohn Bracken
Succeeded byJohn Diefenbaker
Canadian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
In office
Prime MinisterJohn Diefenbaker,
Lester Pearson
Preceded byNorman Robertson
Succeeded byLionel Chevrier
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Carleton
In office
December 20, 1948  January 8, 1957
Preceded byGeorge Russell Boucher
Succeeded byDick Bell
Ontario MPP
In office
February 14, 1939  August 4, 1943
Preceded byWilliam Finlayson
Succeeded byJohn Duncan McPhee
ConstituencySimcoe East
In office
August 4, 1943  June 7, 1948
Preceded byWilliam Alexander Baird
Succeeded byWilliam Horace Temple
ConstituencyHigh Park
Personal details
George Alexander Drew

(1894-05-07)May 7, 1894
Guelph, Ontario, Canada
DiedJanuary 4, 1973(1973-01-04) (aged 78)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Resting placeWoodlawn Memorial Park, Guelph
Political partyOntario PC Party,
Progressive Conservative
Alma materUniversity of Toronto
Osgoode Hall Law School

Early career

Drew was born in Guelph, Ontario, the son of Annie Isabelle Stevenson (Gibbs) and John Jacob Drew.[1] He was educated at Upper Canada College, graduated from the University of Toronto, where he was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Alpha Phi chapter). He then studied law at Osgoode Hall Law School. He served with distinction in World War I as an officer in the Canadian Field Artillery. After the war he became lieutenant-colonel of the 11th Field Brigade and later honorary colonel of the 11th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery. He was called to the bar in 1920. He married Fiorenza Johnson (1910–1965), daughter of Edward Johnson, noted opera singer (tenor) and later General Manager (1935–1950) of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.[2] He remarried in 1966 to Phyllis McCullagh, the widow of the former publisher of Toronto's The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Telegram newspapers, George McCullagh.[3] Drew was survived by McCullagh at his death.[3]

Entering politics

He was elected mayor of the City of Guelph in 1925 after serving as an alderman. In 1929 he left to become assistant master and then master of the Supreme Court of Ontario. As a practising lawyer, in 1931, he was appointed the first Chairman of the Ontario Securities Commission by the provincial Conservative government and was fired by the Liberal government of the colourful Mitch Hepburn after it came to power as a result of the 1934 provincial election. Drew ran for the leadership of the near moribund Conservative Party of Ontario at the 1936 Conservative leadership convention losing to Earl Rowe who subsequently appointed Drew to the position of provincial organizer for the party. Drew broke with the Tories, however, when they opposed Hepburn's attempt to crush the Congress of Industrial Organizations attempt to unionize General Motors in Oshawa. He ran as an Independent Conservative in Wellington South during the 1937 provincial election but was defeated along with the Tories with Rowe failing to win a seat in the legislature and consequently resigning as party leader. Drew ran again for the Conservative leadership in 1938, this time successfully and entered the Legislative Assembly of Ontario through a 1939 by-election as the Member of Provincial Parliament for Simcoe East. In the 1943 provincial election, he was elected in the Toronto riding of High Park.

The Liberal government went through a series of crises during World War II due to Hepburn's feud with Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King and the federal Liberals. These crises led to Hepburn's resignation.

Premier of Ontario

In the 1943 provincial election, the Tories, now called the "Progressive Conservatives", won a minority government, narrowly beating the social democratic Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) led by Ted Jolliffe. (Jolliffe and Drew had attended the same high school in Guelph, Ontario, the Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute).[4]

Drew won by responding to the mood of the times, and running on a relatively left-wing platform, promising such radical reforms as free dental care and universal health care. While his government did not implement much of its promised platform (including Medicare or denticare), it did establish the basis for the Tory regimes that followed by trying to steer a moderate course. Drew's government also introduced the Drew Regulation in 1944, which made it compulsory for Ontario schools to provide one hour of religious instruction a week.

Drew was strident in his criticism of the federal government of Mackenzie King, attacking its leadership in the Canadian war effort, chastizing it during the Conscription Crisis of 1944 for not instituting full conscription, and accusing it of attempting to centralize power.

1945 Election

During the spring 1945 Ontario election, Premier Drew ran a Red-baiting campaign against the CCF's Ontario section.[5] The previous two-years of anti-socialist attacks by the Conservatives and their supporters, like Gladstone Murray and Montague A. Sanderson, were devastatingly effective against the previously popular CCF.[6] Much of the source material for the anti-CCF campaign came from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP)'s Special Investigation Branch's agent D-208: Captain William J. Osbourne-Dempster.[7] His office was supposed to be investigating war-time 5th column saboteurs.[8] Instead, starting in November 1943, he was investigating, almost exclusively, Ontario opposition MPPs, mainly focusing on the CCF caucus.[9] The fact that Jolliffe knew about these 'secret' investigations as early as February 1944 led to one of the most infamous incidents in 20th-century Canadian politics.[10]

This accusation led to Drew ordering the LeBel Royal Commission to investigate the charges made by Jolliffe.[11] The charges stemmed from Ontario's Official Opposition Leader Jolliffe, during the election campaign. He made these allegations during a campaign radio speech on 24 May 1945.[11] Drew announced in a radio speech on 26 May that he would call an inquiry, and appointed Mr. Justice A. M. LeBel to lead the commission on 28 May.[11] Jolliffe, and Liberal leader Mitchell Hepburn made offers to withhold from electioneering and have the commission report before the election.[11] Drew refused to either postpone the election, or speed up the commission process.[11] The commission began hearings on 20 June 1945,[12] and heard final arguments on 20 July 1945.[13] The report was issued on 11 October 1945,[14] with LeBel agreeing with much of what Jolliffe charged, but ultimately ruled that the Premier did not have a secret political police reporting to him, mainly due to the lack of direct documented evidence.[15] In the late 1970s, that documented evidence was found, but the provincial government at the time considered the case closed.[16]

The Conservatives got their majority, as they crushed the CCF on 4 June 1945.[17] Drew's party won 66 out the 90 seats in the legislature, and reduced Jolliffe's CCF to just 8 seats, which also meant that they were no longer the Official Opposition.[17] Drew won 20 seats from the CCF directly, including Jolliffe's.[17] The "Gestapo" claims against Drew seemed to do little if any damage, and the CCF got nearly the same percentage in the popular vote as was predicted by a Gallup poll one month earlier.[18]

Drew's government insisted on spending $400 million in a ten-year program to convert Ontario's electricity system from 25-cycles (Hertz) to 60-cycles, standardizing it with the rest of North America.[19] This standardization allowed the province to join the North American power grid to easily import and export electricity — a necessary prerequisite for the province's industrial development.[19] Drew also helped spur post-war immigration to Ontario from 1947 to 1948 by setting up immigration offices throughout the United Kingdom and initiating cheap charter flights to bring an estimated 20,000 British immigrants to the province in what has been called the world's first mass migration by air.[20] Drew, a committed British imperialist, focussed on attracting British immigrants because he felt they were "the right class of people" to bring to Canada.[3] Drew's government also increased funding for roads and highways and also increased funding for schools by increasing the provincial government's share for education spending from 15% to 50%.[20] Through a government that made investments to modernize Ontario, Drew laid the basis for the province's post-war industrial expansion and for a Progressive Conservative dynasty that lasted 42 years and saw six successive Progressive Conservative premiers.[19]

1948 Election

While the Tories won a majority in the legislature in the 1948 election, Drew himself was defeated in his High Park electoral district, in west-end Toronto, by CCFer and temperance crusader William "Temperance Willie" Temple who had targeted Drew over his softening of Ontario's liquor laws by legalizing cocktail bars in Ontario.[20][21] Whereupon Drew blamed a supposed, future Communist takeover of Ontario on the failure of Ontarians to re-elect him.[22]

Federal politics

While it would have been easy enough for Drew to re-enter the legislature by running in a by-election, Drew decided to enter federal politics. "Colonel Drew" (as he liked to be called) won the 1948 federal Progressive Conservative leadership convention, defeating John Diefenbaker on the first ballot.

Progressive Conservative Party Member of Parliament (MP) George Russell Boucher resigned his Carleton seat so that Drew could then contest it in a by-election in order to enter the House of Commons.[23] The federal Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) was determined to defeat him, so they ran Eugene Forsey as their candidate.[24] Bill Temple was brought up from Toronto to appear at a political meeting in Richmond, Ontario's Town Hall, where Forsey and Drew were speaking.[25] He accused the Tory leader of being "a tool of the liquor interests" and also made suggestions about Drew's sobriety.[25] Throughout the evening Drew grew more red-faced and explosive every time Temple spoke.[24] Finally, after Drew misheard Temple calling him dishonest, the two men were restrained before they could come to physical blows with each other.[24] A riot was barely averted, and the meeting had to be terminated.[25] On December 20, 1948, Drew soundly defeated Forsey by over 8,000 votes — forcing the CCF candidate to lose his deposit — and went on to sit in Parliament.[26] As leader of the federal Progressive Conservative Party and now an MP, he became Leader of the Opposition.[27]

In the 1949 and 1953 federal elections, Drew's Tories were defeated handily by the Liberals, led by Louis St. Laurent. As a federal politician, Drew alienated potential supporters in Quebec when it was remembered that he had called French-Canadians a "defeated race". This rhetoric may not have been as damaging among some Anglophone Ontario voters when he had been a provincial politician, but it was now used against him by his federal opponents. His support for conscription during World War II also hurt his prospects among French-Canadian voters. He ran against Forsey again in the Carleton district, and defeated him by an even wider margin on June 27, 1949.[28]

Drew led the PCs into one more general election, in 1953, with slightly better results than the previous election. In poor health following a nearly fatal attack of meningitis Drew resigned as Progressive Conservative leader in 1956 and was succeeded by John Diefenbaker. On 12 December 1956 he received the Key to the City of Ottawa.[29]

Post-political career and death

From 1957 to 1964 he served as Canadian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and during this period worked with newspaper baron and fellow Canadian Lord Beaverbrook in an attempt to influence British public opinion against joining the European Common Market, which Drew saw as a threat to the British Commonwealth.

He served as the first Chancellor of the University of Guelph from 1965 until 1971. In 1967, "for his services in government" he entered the newly created Order of Canada as a Companion.[30] In November 1972, he had a heart-attack and was admitted to Wellesley Hospital on November 19.[31] His condition worsened due to congestive heart failure, and he was slipping in and out of consciousness in late December and early January.[31] In 1973, Drew died of heart failure in his Wellesley Hospital room at age 78.[2] He requested that he not receive a state funeral, and had a public family funeral in Toronto.[32] He was buried in his family's plot, next to his first wife Fiorenza Johnson, in the Woodlawn Cemetery in Guelph.[32]

Honorary degrees

George Drew received honorary degrees from several universities including

 Ontario1945University of TorontoDoctor of Laws (LL.D) [33]
 Ontario11 June 1947University of Western OntarioDoctor of Laws (LL.D) [34]

See also

Media related to George A. Drew at Wikimedia Commons

References and notes

  1. Lloyd, Richard Douglas (1995). "Pride, Prejudice and Politics: A-B. The Ontario years".
  2. "George Drew Ontario's premier in the '40s dies at 78". The Toronto Star. Toronto. 4-Star Edition. 1973-01-04. pp. 1, 12–13.
  3. Duffy, Robert (1973-01-05). "George Drew — served as Premier of Ontario for five years, then led Opposition in Ottawa for eight". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. p. 11.
  4. Star Staff (1945-06-02). "The Man Who Makes the Charges". The Toronto Daily Star. Toronto. p. 4.
  5. MacDonald, Donald C. (1998). The Happy Warrior: Political Memoirs, 2nd Ed. Toronto: Dundurn Press. pp. 291–297. ISBN 1-55002-307-1.
  6. Caplan, Gerald (1973). The Dilemma of Canadian Socialism: The CCF in Ontario. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart. p. 157. ISBN 0-7710-1896-7.
  7. "Dempster explains report inaccuracies". The Windsor Daily Star. Windsor, Ontario. The Canadian Press. 1945-07-07. p. 12. Retrieved 2011-08-21.
  8. Star Staff (1945-06-02). "Special set-up all new under Drew–Jolliffe". The Toronto Daily Star. Toronto. pp. 1–2. Retrieved 2011-08-21.
  9. Caplan (1973), pp. 182184,187
  10. Caplan (1973), p. 168
  11. Star Staff (1945-05-29). "Mr. Justice Lebel to probe C.C.F. Drew Gestapo charge". The Toronto Daily Star. Toronto. p. 4. Retrieved 2011-08-21.
  12. Star Staff (1945-06-21). "Jolliffe is on stand in first day of inquiry". The Toronto Daily Star. Toronto. p. 8. Retrieved 2011-08-21.
  13. "Segwick and Jolliffe wind up probe argument". The Toronto Daily Star. Toronto. 1945-07-21. p. 26. Retrieved 2011-08-21.
  14. The Canadian Press (1945-10-12). "Premier Drew and his government absolved of forming "Gestapo"". The Evening Citizen. Ottawa. p. 13. Retrieved 2011-08-21.
  15. Star Staff (1945-10-15). "Principles involved most important-Lebel Report". The Toronto Daily Star. p. 3. Retrieved 2011-08-21.
  16. UPC (1981-12-03). "Former Ontario premier 'knew of police spy unit'". The Montreal Gazette. Montreal. Retrieved 2011-08-21.
  17. The Canadian Press (1945-06-05). "C.C.F. routed in Ontario; Drew wins 66 of 90 seats". The Calgary Herald. Calgary, Alberta. p. 1. Retrieved 2011-08-21.
  18. Caplan (1973), p. 171
  19. "George Drew: A builder of Ontario". The Toronto Star. Toronto. 4-Star Edition. 1973-01-04. p. 6.
  20. "George Drew personified the Conservative image". The Toronto Star. Toronto. 4-Star Edition. 1973-01-04. p. 12.
  21. Downey, Donn (1988-04-11). "William Horace Temple: Tub-thumping prohibitionist kept pocket of Toronto dry". The Globe and Mail. Toronto: CTVglobemedia. p. A14.
  22. Bradburn, Jamie (2008-10-07). "Vintage Toronto Ads: Booted by a Billboard". Torontoist. Toronto: Ink Truck Media. Archived from the original on 2011-08-21. Retrieved 2011-08-21.
  23. "Drew Will Seek Federal Seat in Carleton County: Boucher Will Resign In Favor of Leader". The Evening Citizen. Ottawa. 1948-10-29. p. 17.
  24. MacDonald, p. 296–297.
  25. Swanson, Frank (1948-12-07). "Name-calling joust at Richmond meeting". The Evening Citizen. Ottawa. p. 12. Retrieved 2011-08-21.
  26. Hickey, Harvey (1948-12-21). "Drew Sweeps Carleton with Record Vote: Forsey Loses his Deposit; Carson Wins". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. p. 1.
  27. 1949 Canadian federal election
  28. "How Ontario Voted in Monday's Election". The Toronto Daily Star. Toronto. 1949-06-28. p. 7.
  30. "It's an honour: Order of Canada, George A. Drew". Governor General of Canada Website. Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada. Archived from the original on 2012-01-14. Retrieved 2012-01-14.
  31. "George Drew semi-conscious". The Toronto Star. Toronto. 1973-01-03. p. 2.
  32. "Funeral at St. Paul's, burial in Guelph". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. 1973-01-05. p. 11.
Political offices
Preceded by
George Stewart Henry
Leader of the Opposition in the
Ontario Legislature

Succeeded by
Ted Jolliffe
Preceded by
John Bracken
Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party
Succeeded by
John Diefenbaker
Leader of the Official Opposition in the House of Commons of Canada
Parliament of Canada
Preceded by
George Russell Boucher
Member of Parliament from Carleton
Succeeded by
Dick Bell
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Norman Robertson
Canadian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
Succeeded by
Lionel Chevrier
Academic offices
New office Chancellor of the University of Guelph
Succeeded by
Emmett Hall
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