Reg Alcock

Reginald B. Alcock, PC (April 16, 1948 – October 14, 2011) was a Canadian politician. He represented the riding of Winnipeg South in the House of Commons of Canada from 1993 to 2006 and was a cabinet minister in the government of Prime Minister Paul Martin. Alcock was a member of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Reginald B. Alcock
Member of Parliament
for Winnipeg South
In office
October 25, 1993  January 23, 2006
Preceded byDorothy Dobbie
Succeeded byRod Bruinooge
President of the Treasury Board
In office
December 12, 2003  February 5, 2006
Preceded byLucienne Robillard
Succeeded byJohn Baird
Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board
In office
December 12, 2003  February 5, 2006
Preceded byRalph Goodale
Succeeded byChuck Strahl
Personal details
Born(1948-04-16)April 16, 1948
Winnipeg, Manitoba
DiedOctober 14, 2011(2011-10-14) (aged 63)
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Political partyLiberal
Spouse(s)Karen Taraska-Alcock
ChildrenSarah, Matthew, Christina
Alma materSimon Fraser University Harvard University
ProfessionBusinessman, consultant, politician

Early life and career

Alcock was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Simon Fraser University and a Master's Degree in Public Administration from Harvard University. He was the director of Manitoba Child and Family Services from 1983 to 1985 and in this capacity spearheaded an effort to rewrite the province's child protection legislation. As a result of his efforts, Manitoba became the first province in Canada to introduce official protocols to deal with instances of child sex abuse.[1] Alcock has also been active with the Harvard Policy Group, which studies the effects of Information Technology on the public sector. He began his political career at the provincial level, working as an organizer for the Manitoba Liberal Party in the early 1980s.[2]

Alcock was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba for the Winnipeg division of Osborne in the 1988 provincial election, in which the Manitoba Liberal Party rose from one seat to twenty under the leadership of Sharon Carstairs. He later worked as campaign manager for high-profile Liberal incumbent Lloyd Axworthy in the 1988 federal election.[3] Alcock served as official opposition house leader and finance critic and was re-elected in the 1990 provincial election despite a shift against his party. He endorsed Jean Chrétien's bid to lead the federal Liberal Party in 1990,[4] and declared his own intention to enter federal politics in 1992.[5]

Alcock won the Liberal nomination for Winnipeg South in early 1993, defeating rival candidate Linda Asper by only five votes on the third ballot of what proved to be a divisive contest.[6] He won a convincing victory over incumbent Progressive Conservative incumbent Dorothy Dobbie in the 1993 federal election and entered parliament as a government backbencher.

Government backbencher

Alcock soon developed a reputation as one of the most technologically savvy members of parliament. In 1994, he became the first MP to electronically coordinate his parliamentary office from his riding instead of relying on permanent staff in Ottawa.[7] At around the same time, he became the first Canadian MP to host an official website.[8] He was appointed to the standing committee on foreign affairs and international trade in 1995,[9] and was named chair of the standing committee on transport in 1997.[10]

The Chrétien government called a new federal election in the summer of 1997, only three-and-a-half years into its five-year mandate. The election timing was controversial in Manitoba, as it coincided with significant flooding from the Red River into Winnipeg. Alcock, along with other Manitoba Liberal MPs, requested a delay until the flooding was under control.[11] When Chrétien called the election anyway, Alcock transformed his campaign office into a volunteer relief centre.[12] He was personally involved in sandbagging and evacuation efforts and did not actively campaign in the first period of the election. He was nonetheless returned by a significant margin.[13] From 1998 to 2000, he served as parliamentary secretary to the President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. In 1998, he brought forward a private member's bill to overturn Louis Riel's conviction for high treason and recognize him as a Father of Confederation.[14]

There were frequent rumours that Alcock would be appointed to the Chrétien cabinet, but he was passed over on more than one occasion. His professional relationship with Chrétien deteriorated after 2000, and in 2002 he became the primary Manitoba organizer for Paul Martin's bid to replace Chrétien as party leader.[15] In the same year, he became one of the first Liberal MPs to openly call for Chrétien's resignation.[16] Alcock increased his public profile in 2003, after chairing a committee which forced privacy commissioner George Radwanski to resign from office after revelations of lax spending habits.[17]

Cabinet minister

When Paul Martin became Prime Minister of Canada on December 12, 2003, he appointed Alcock to cabinet as President of the Treasury Board, Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, and political minister responsible for Manitoba. He was also named to the government's priorities and planning committee, described as the "inner circle" of cabinet,[18] and was appointed chair of a cabinet committee that conducted a comprehensive review of government spending.[19]


As president of the Treasury Board, Alcock was responsible for overseeing the Canadian civil service and the spending details of government agencies. He also played a leading role in coordinating the Martin government's response to the federal sponsorship scandal, in which some public monies were misappropriated by bureaucrats and advertising agents in Quebec with ties to the Liberal Party.[20] Alcock announced a new appointment process for crown corporation executives in 2004,[21] and the following year he issued a new policy of management control for government agencies. He argued that these reforms would prevent similar scandals from occurring in the future.[22] One of his more notable initiatives was the establishment of a Chief Audit Executive for each government department and agency.[23]

In total, Alcock brought forward 158 separate reforms for the public service in late 2005, and promised that another eighty would follow. Critics considered this to be excessive and some suggested that Alcock was micro-managing his department.[24]

Alcock also released a comprehensive proposal for reforming Canada's regulatory system in March 2005. He argued that his reforms would reduce delays for patent drug approval and avoid the duplication of existing foreign research without compromising safety standards.[25] Critics of the plan suggested that it could jeopardize Canadian sovereignty and lead to the adoption of American regulatory standards.[26]

In February 2004, the National Post identified Alcock as a leading cabinet supporter of private-public partnerships.[27]


In early 2005, Alcock publicly criticized his government's position against the legalization of marijuana, saying, "If we actually wanted to break the back of organized crime, we would be better off to control it. When you have these things underground, what you end up fuelling is organized crime."[28]

2006 election

Alcock was unexpectedly defeated in the 2006 federal election, losing to Conservative Rod Bruinooge by just 111 votes in Winnipeg South. He took personal responsibility for the loss and acknowledged that he did not spend enough time campaigning in his own riding. Alcock also said that being the government's point man for the sponsorship scandal did not help his electoral prospects, though he ultimately defended his government's actions.[29]

One of Alcock's final acts in office was to approve a payment of up to $40,000 to assist Jean Pelletier with legal fees in a court challenge against the Gomery Commission. Representatives of other parties criticized this payment, saying that the government should only cover legal costs for working civil servants. Pelletier's lawyer argued that it followed a long-standing government policy for high-ranking functionaries in judicial proceedings.[30]

Out of parliament

In March 2006, Alcock announced that he would support Belinda Stronach if she entered the contest to succeed Paul Martin as Liberal leader.[31] Stronach announced in early April that she would not be a candidate. Several of members of Alcock's political organization later worked for Ken Dryden's campaign, and Alcock himself endorsed Dryden at the leadership convention.[32] Dryden dropped off after the second ballot and endorsed Bob Rae and then eventual winner Stéphane Dion.

In January 2007, Alcock was appointed to the faculty of the University of Manitoba as an executive in residence at the I. H. Asper School of Business.[33] He was also appointed as a Research Affiliate with the Leadership Network at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.


Alcock died on October 14, 2011, after suffering an apparent heart attack at James Richardson International Airport in Winnipeg.[34] He was 63 years old.


  • In September 2005, Alcock donated an original painting entitled, "The view from my seat in the House of Commons, May 19, 6:10 p.m.", to a charity auction in Winnipeg. The work, a parody of Edvard Munch's The Scream, depicted Alcock's impression of the opposition Conservative caucus moments after the Liberals won a crucial confidence vote that could have forced early elections. Alcock acknowledged that the painting was mostly traced. It sold for $2,200.[35]
  • Alcock suffered weight-related health problems during his political career. Facing the prospect of severe diabetes, he reduced his weight from 430 pounds to 295 pounds in the mid-2000s.[36]

Electoral record

2006 Canadian federal election: Winnipeg South
Party Candidate Votes%Expenditures
ConservativeRod Bruinooge17,32841.42$68,461.08
LiberalReg Alcock17,21741.15$57,453.38
New DemocraticRobert Page5,74313.73$1,973.24
GreenWesley Owen Whiteside1,2893.08
Christian HeritageHeidi Loewen-Steffano2590.62$503.33
Total valid votes 41,836 100.00
Total rejected ballots 111
Turnout 41,947 70.39
Electors on the lists 59,594
Sources: Official Results, Elections Canada and Financial Returns, Elections Canada.
2004 Canadian federal election: Winnipeg South
Party Candidate Votes%Expenditures
LiberalReg Alcock19,27051.31$63,885.73
ConservativeRod Bruinooge12,77034.00$67,207.73
New DemocraticCatherine Green4,21711.23$6,919.66
GreenRon Cameron1,0032.67$702.79
Christian HeritageJane MacDiarmid2960.79$4,202.05
Total valid votes 37,556 100.00
Total rejected ballots 110
Turnout 37,666 63.23
Electors on the lists 59,572
Percentage change figures are factored for redistribution. Conservative Party percentages are contrasted with the combined Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative percentages from 2000.
Sources: Official Results, Elections Canada and Financial Returns, Elections Canada.
2000 Canadian federal election: Winnipeg South
Party Candidate Votes%Expenditures
LiberalReg Alcock21,43350.94$61,348.98
AllianceBill Hancock12,63830.04$32,684.49
New DemocraticDuane Nicol4,22410.04$2,006.24
     Progressive Conservative Geoffrey Lambert 3,599 8.55 $4,149.75
     Independent Didz Zuzens 183 0.43 $355.12
Total valid votes 42,077 100.00
Total rejected ballots 145
Turnout 42,222 66.43
Electors on the lists 63,562
Sources: Official Results, Elections Canada and Financial Returns, Elections Canada.
1997 Canadian federal election: Winnipeg South
Party Candidate Votes%Expenditures
LiberalReg Alcock18,80049.57$53,378
ReformGreg Yost7,51019.80$35,545
     Progressive Conservative Bill Mackness 6,547 17.26 $38,748
New DemocraticIris Taylor4,62912.21$3,062
     Ind. (Rhinoceros) M. Rhino Olito 191 0.50 $0
Natural LawLarry Decter1530.40$582
Marxist–LeninistDiane Zack940.25$11
Total valid votes 37,924 100.00
Total rejected ballots 252
Turnout 38,176 67.37
Electors on the lists 56,670
Sources: Official Results, Elections Canada and Financial Returns, Elections Canada.
1993 Canadian federal election: Winnipeg South
Party Candidate Votes%Expenditures
LiberalReg Alcock25,95049.60$39,157
ReformMark Hughes14,82228.33$49,384
     Progressive Conservative Dorothy Dobbie 6,432 12.29 $23,095
NationalShirley Loewen2,5124.80$21,347
New DemocraticRose Buss2,1804.17$424
Natural LawRichard Lepinsky1970.38$231
     Ind. (Rhinoceros) Mike Olito 113 0.22 $728
Marxist–LeninistRubin Kantorovich680.13$216
Canada PartyBill Martens440.08$140
Total valid votes 52,318 100.00
Total rejected ballots 214
Turnout 52,532 72.35
Electors on lists 72,611
Source: Thirty-fifth General Election, 1993: Official Voting Results, Published by the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada. Financial figures taken from official contributions and expenses provided by Elections Canada.
1990 Manitoba general election: Osborne
Party Candidate Votes%
LiberalReg Alcock3,94140.21
New DemocraticDonald Bailey2,86129.19
     Progressive Conservative Sondra Braid 2,859 29.17
LibertarianJim Weidman1391.42
Total valid votes 9,800 100.00
Rejected ballots 41
Turnout 9,841 71.64
Registered voters 13,737
1988 Manitoba general election: Osborne
Party Candidate Votes%±%
LiberalReg Alcock4,33444.90
New DemocraticMuriel Smith2,75328.52
     Progressive Conservative Rosemary Vodrey 2,421 25.08
LibertarianClancy Smith1451.50
Turnout 9,691 78.85
Liberal gain Swing
Source: Elections Manitoba[37]

All electoral information is taken from Elections Canada and Elections Manitoba. Italicized expenditures refer to submitted totals, and are presented when the final reviewed totals are not available.


  1. Reg Alcock, official biographical sketch, 2006 campaign material.
  2. Paul Samyn, "Doer, Alcock crusaders again", Winnipeg Free Press, 11 April 2005, A7.
  3. Derek Ferguson, "Liberal gains no fluke", Toronto Star, 23 November 1988, A21.
  4. Paul Samyn, "Alcock wants PM to retire early", Winnipeg Free Press, 18 December 2002.
  5. John Dafoe, "Post-referendum populism turns into lassitude in the West", Globe and Mail, 21 November 1992, D2.
  6. Jim Carr, "Ready for a fight", Winnipeg Free Press, 25 March 1993, Editorial. Asper later attempted to challenge the results, and subsequently left the Liberal Party.
  7. John Douglas, "MP is wired for politics", Winnipeg Free Press, 2 May 1994, City Page. Reform Party MP Stephen Harper said that many in his party were trying to adapt similar systems.
  8. "Manitoba lawmaker enters cyberspace", Associated Press Political Service, 19 April 1995.
  9. "Alcock named to powerful panel Staff", Winnipeg Free Press, 9 February 1995, Canadian Wire Stories.
  10. Dan Lett, "Two Winnipeg Liberal MPs move up power structure", Winnipeg Free Press, 5 March 1996, A5.
  11. Dan Lett, "MPs want vote delayed", Winnipeg Free Press, 15 April 1997.
  12. Bud Robertson, "Politicians unite against flood", Winnipeg Free Press, 29 April 1997, A7.
  13. Tim Harper, "McDonough says election call 'insensitive'", Toronto Star, 29 April 1997, A11.
  14. Paul Samyn, "MPs eye clean slate for Riel", Winnipeg Free Press, 17 March 1998, A1.
  15. "Winnipeg voters love Martin", Winnipeg Free Press, 18 June 2002, A1.
  16. Anne Dawson, "16 Liberal MPs willing to declare PM should resign", National Post, 25 July 2002, A01.
  17. "Radwanski quits under pressure", Kitchener-Waterloo Record, 24 June 2003, A1.
  18. "New PM names 15 to inner circle", National Post, 13 December 2003, A4.
  19. Darren Yourk, "Ottawa freezes capital spending",, 16 December 2003, Breaking News.
  20. "Tory hopes to slay Grit giant", Winnipeg Free Press, 12 June 2004, A13.
  21. "President of the Treasury Board Announces New Appointment Process", Canada NewsWire, 15 March 2004, 13:45 report.
  22. Campbell Clark, "Liberals to unveil new bureaucratic controls", Globe and Mail, 26 October 2005, A4.
  23. Peter Larson, "Gomery: The cure may be worse than the disease", Toronto Star, 14 November 2005, A17.
  24. "Harper hints at easing up on rules", Hamilton Spectator, 24 March 2006, A17.
  25. Paul Vieira, "Alcock aims to put new rules into regulation", National Post, 26 March 2005, FP3.
  26. "Loss of sovereignty feared over 'smart regulation'", Winnipeg Free Press, 28 March 2005, A10.
  27. Bill Curry, "Liberals building a case for privatizing", National Post, 9 February 2004, A1.
  28. "Alcock at odds with party over pot", Winnipeg Free Press, 5 March 2005, B4.
  29. "Alcock unseated by Conservative in Winnipeg South". CBC News. 24 January 2006. Retrieved 2014-12-12.
  30. Tu Thanh Ha, "Treasury Board to review legal-fees offer to Pelletier", Globe and Mail, 26 April 2006, A10.
  31. "Stronach gets veteran's support for an undeclared leadership bid", National Post, 4 March 2006, A6.
  32. Paul Samyn, "Dryden's team trails in score", Winnipeg Free Press, 8 October 2006, A1.
  33. "U of M adds Alcock to faculty", Winnipeg Free Press, 31 January 2007.
  34. "Former MP Alcock remembered as "true champion for Manitobans"". Winnipeg Free Press. 14 October 2011. Retrieved 2014-12-12.
  35. Jane Taber, "Alcock rises to the artistic challenge", Globe and Mail, 1 October 2005, A4.
  36. John Ivison, "Losing the election was 'my own damn fault'" Archived 2012-10-25 at the Wayback Machine, National Post, 26 January 2006, online edition.
  37. "Historical Summary" (PDF). Retrieved 2018-11-29.
27th Ministry – Cabinet of Paul Martin
Cabinet post (1)
Predecessor Office Successor
Lucienne Robillard President of the Treasury Board
John Baird
Special Cabinet Responsibilities
Predecessor Title Successor
Ralph Goodale Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board
Chuck Strahl
Parliament of Canada
Preceded by
Dorothy Dobbie
Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South
Succeeded by
Rod Bruinooge
Legislative Assembly of Manitoba
Preceded by
Muriel Smith
Member of the Manitoba Legislature for Osborne
Succeeded by
Norma McCormick
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