Bert Lawrence

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Bert Lawrence
Ontario MPP
In office
Preceded byNew riding
Succeeded byPaul Frederick Taylor
ConstituencyCarleton East
In office
Preceded byGordon Lavergne
Succeeded byRiding abolished
Personal details
Born(1923-03-31)March 31, 1923
Calgary, Alberta
DiedMarch 28, 2007(2007-03-28) (aged 83)
Gatineau, Quebec
Political partyProgressive Conservative
SpouseLois Davidson
Military service
Years of service1944-1945
Unit8th Reconnaissance Regiment (14th Canadian Hussars)
Battles/warsD-Day, Liberation of the Netherlands

Albert Benjamin Rutter "Bert" Lawrence MC (March 31, 1923 – March 28, 2007) was a politician in Ontario, Canada. He was a Progressive Conservative member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1963 to 1974 who represented the ridings of Russell and Carleton East. He served as a cabinet minister in the governments of John Robarts and Bill Davis.


Lawrence was born in Calgary, Alberta, and grew up in Ottawa, Ontario. He was educated at Ashbury College and at Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario. He enlisted in the army with the rank of Lieutenant in the 8th Reconnaissance Regiment (VIII Recce). He landed in Normandy in the first week of July 1944. He was decorated with the Military Cross by King George VI for engineering a bridge in an advance action at the Risle River near Brionne, France. He was injured twice including during V2 rocket attack near Antwerp in October 1944. Lawrence reflected on his narrow escapes from death. He wrote in his journal, "Keeping alive consists of 90 per cent luck and 10 per cent soldiering."[1] He returned to action in February 1945 and participated to the end of the fighting. He was promoted to captain at the end of the war.[2]

When he returned home he acquired a law degree at Osgoode Hall Law School. He graduated in 1948 and went to work for an Ottawa firm called Honeywell, Baker, Gibson, and Wotherspoon. He married Lois Davidson in October 1949 [3] and they raised four children. He died in Gatineau, Quebec in 2007.[2]


In the 1950s he was elected to Gloucester, Ontario town council for two terms. In the 1956 Federal Conservative leadership convention he organized the campaign for Davie Fulton. While there was little chance of winning, his wife Lois said that he enjoyed immensely. She said, "They were so young, it was like they were lambs to slaughter. It was absolutely all-absorbing for what seemed like a month. There was huge hoopla and excitement."[1]

In the 1963 provincial election, Lawrence ran as the Progressive Conservative candidate in the riding of Russell. He narrowly defeated Liberal candidate Fred Barrett by only 413 votes.[4] In 1967 he ran in the redistributed riding of Carleton East. He defeated Liberal Eugene Bellemare by a comfortable margin of 4,221 votes. He was re-elected in 1971.[5][6]

In 1969, Ontario Premier John Robarts brought Lawrence into the cabinet as minister without portfolio.[7] In February 1970, he was promoted to Minister of Financial and Commercial Affairs.[8] In March 1971 he was shuffled to Minister of Health.

During his time as Minister, he began to promote the idea of no-fault insurance, the first time it was discussed in the province. Lawrence felt that the current system was unfair to consumers as judgments were applied unevenly. While he felt this would benefit consumers he did not push hard on the issue due to his mindfulness of Ontario Insurance companies.[1]

He ran in the 1971 leadership convention to succeed Robarts, and came in fifth place. The new premier, Bill Davis, appointed him as Minister of Health.[9] In February 1972, he was assigned to the super-ministry post of Provincial Secretary for Resource Development.[1][10] In March 1972, he flew to Cuba on a government jet to talk about trade. He defended the trip because he met with Cuban government officials and said that he had opened a number of doors. He was roundly criticized in the media and his influence was diminished as a result. In 1974 he said, "At that time, the government, the media and the public were much more resentful of Cuba's political position than they are today, and they were less appreciative of the trade opportunities than they are today."[1][11]

Lawrence was dropped from cabinet altogether in February 1974.[12] He decided to retire from the legislature later on in September. He returned to his law practice.[13]

He attempted a move to federal politics by running as the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada candidate for Ottawa—Carleton in the 1980 federal election but was defeated by Liberal Jean-Luc Pépin.[14]

Cabinet positions[edit]

Ontario provincial government of Bill Davis
Cabinet posts (2)
Predecessor Office Successor
New position Provincial Secretary for Resource Development
Allan Grossman
Thomas Wells Minister of Health
Richard Potter
Ontario provincial government of John Robarts
Cabinet posts (2)
Predecessor Office Successor
Leslie Rowntree Minister of Financial and Commercial Affairs
Arthur Wishart
Sub-Cabinet Post
Predecessor Title Successor
Minister without portfolio


  1. ^ a b c d e Bourdon, Buzz (April 17, 2007). "Bert Lawrence, lawyer and politician: 1923-2007". The Globe and Mail. p. S10.
  2. ^ a b "Obituary". National Post. March 28, 2007.
  3. ^ "Lois Nan Davidson Weds Albert B.R. Lawrence". The Ottawa Journal October 10, 1949 pg. 12
  4. ^ Canadian Press (September 26, 1963). "78 in Tory Blue Wave -- 23 Is All Grits Saved". The Windsor Star. Windsor, Ontario. p. 25. Retrieved 2014-04-24.
  5. ^ Canadian Press (October 18, 1967). "Tories win, but..." The Windsor Star. Windsor, Ontario. p. B2. Retrieved 2014-03-30.
  6. ^ "Riding-by-riding returns in provincial election". The Globe and Mail. October 23, 1971. p. 10.
  7. ^ Russell, Frances (August 14, 1969). "Dymond quits; new health chief Wells has 'worked for doctors for 15 years'". The Globe and Mail. p. 3.
  8. ^ "Bert Lawrence replaces Rowntree: Ontario fears crime will invade lotteries". The Toronto Daily Star. February 5, 1970. p. 1.
  9. ^ Manthorpe, Jonathan; Slinger, John (March 2, 1971). "Changes in policies promised: Davis priorities to include environment and jobless". The Globe and Mail. p. 1.
  10. ^ "The Cabinet for Ontario". The Globe and Mail. February 3, 1972. p. 4.
  11. ^ Slinger, John (March 28, 1972). "'High potential' for trade: Opposition members jeer as Lawrence defends Cuban trip". The Globe and Mail. p. 33.
  12. ^ Dunlop, Marilyn (February 27, 1974). "The new cabinet lines up like this". The Toronto Star. p. A3.
  13. ^ Mosher, Peter (September 25, 1974). "Lawrence resigns, moves out early for Ottawa mayor". The Globe and Mail. p. 1.
  14. ^ "Election '80". The Toronto Star. February 19, 1987. p. B7.

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