Richard Bennett Hatfield
|26th Premier of New Brunswick|
November 11, 1970 – October 26, 1987
|Lieutenant Governor||Wallace Samuel Bird
|Preceded by||Louis Robichaud|
|Succeeded by||Frank McKenna|
|Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick|
|Preceded by||Charles Van Horne|
|Succeeded by||Malcolm MacLeod|
April 9, 1931|
Hartland, New Brunswick
|Died||April 26, 1991(aged 60)|
|Political party||Progressive Conservative|
The youngest of five children of Heber Hatfield and Dora Robinson, Richard was brought up with politics in the household. His father, already a well known potato shipper, was Hartland's mayor when he was born. In 1938, at 7 years old, his father brought him to Winnipeg at the Conservative Party of Canada leadership convention where he met his namesake, R. B. Bennett. In 1940 Heber was elected Victoria-Carleton county Conservative Member of Parliament and served until his death due to cancer in 1952. Young Richard spent a lot of time in Ottawa even getting to know John Diefenbaker and his first wife Edna.
After graduating from high school in 1948 in his home town Hartland, Hatfield attended Acadia University for four years majoring in chemistry and English where he became a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. He also got involved in drama, an experience that seemed to have the most lasting impact of any during his years at Acadia. "That was extremely valuable" he said. "It would benefit every politician to have a bit of theatre training... too many politicians get caught up using big words to impress, but don't know how to project feelings." After Acadia, he attended Dalhousie University to become a doctor but after a year he turned to law.
Hatfield left Halifax in 1957 and moved to Truro to take a job with the firm Patterson, Smith, Matthew and Grant so he could do his six months articling period. After successfully completing his articles, he left Truro to join Gordon Churchill who was at the time Minister of Industry in Ottawa. He declined a job offer at the firm and he never practised law again. He stayed in Ottawa for nine months until he called his brother Fred for a job back home. Fred Hatfield, who was managing the potato shipping and processing operation since Heber died, agreed and Richard became vice-president of sales. He worked with his brother until 1965.
In 1961, Hugh John Flemming left his Carleton county seat to run successfully in the federal seat of Royal. Fred, who was at the time president of Carleton County PC Association, offered the nomination to Richard which he accepted. He ran against his brother-in-law Gerald Clark, and won easily with a majority of 1,736 votes. Years later he recalled that his father's reputation "had helped me to be elected, and now I was on my own."
When the New Brunswick Legislature was not sitting, Hatfield sold potato chips all over the Maritimes. There aren't any milestones to characterise Hatfield in his first few years as an MLA; he did however spend a lot of time talking to reporters about politics in Fredericton and Montreal.
When his family sold their potato chip plant to Humpty Dumpty Snack Foods, he decided to be a politician full-time.
He became Leader of the Opposition and interim leader of the Progressive Conservatives following the 1967 general election and was elected party leader in 1969. He led the party to victory in the 1970 provincial election. During Hatfield's long tenure, he became prominent on the national stage, allying with federal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau during the constitutional negotiations that led to the 1982 patriation of the Canadian constitution and the creation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He also took leadership in helping create equality between the province's Acadian minority and English Canadian majority.
His attempts at attracting investment to the province and developing the economy were less successful. In the 1970s, the Hatfield government financed the manufacture of the Bricklin SV-1 in hope of creating an auto industry in the province. Although a visionary project that produced an advanced sports car, huge cost overruns and poor management led to the company's demise.
Hatfield's last years in office were plagued by personal scandal. In October 1984, he was charged with criminal possession of marijuana after 26.5 grams of the drug were found in his suitcase during a routine inspection of luggage during that year's royal visit by Queen Elizabeth II. He was acquitted on the charges. Several days after the acquittal, allegations emerged that Hatfield had given cocaine to several young men who were in his company at a Montreal hotel. Hatfield denied the charges, and no legal action was taken.
In the 1987 election, Hatfield's PC Party lost every seat in the legislature, a wipeout not seen in Canada in over half a century. Hatfield himself was soundly defeated in his own riding by Liberal Allison DeLong, losing by 18 points. It is almost unheard of for a major party leader in Canada to lose their own seat. Hatfield resigned as Premier of New Brunswick and party leader immediately. In 1990, he was appointed to the Senate of Canada by Governor General Ray Hnatyshyn, on the advice of Brian Mulroney. Just after taking up his appointment, he was soon stricken with an inoperable brain tumour and died in 1991, at the age of 60. His memorial service, which was held at the Christ Church Cathedral in Fredericton, New Brunswick, was attended by Premiers and Prime Ministers, friends and opponents.
It was a widely known "open secret" that Hatfield was gay; in the 1978 provincial election, New Brunswick Liberal Party leader Joseph Daigle attracted criticism for a campaign speech in which he referred to Hatfield as a "faded pansy". Despite this, he never officially came out as such during his lifetime, and his sexual orientation only began to be discussed on the record in media and biographical sources after his death.
- Richard Starr, Richard Hatfield, The Seventeen Year Saga, 1987, ISBN 0-88780-153-6
- Warren Kinsella, "Not everyone loves a parade". Toronto Sun, June 26, 2011.
- "Definitely out now". Perceptions, September 14, 1994.
- Richard Starr, Richard Hatfield: The Seventeen Year Saga. Goodread Biography, 1988. ISBN 0887801536.
- "Gay politicians come out of the closet and into the cabinet". The Globe and Mail, November 13, 2009.