Bette Stephenson

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Bette Stephenson
Ontario MPP
In office
Preceded by Dalton Bales
Succeeded by Brad Nixon
Constituency York Mills
Personal details
Born Bette Mildred Stephenson
(1924-07-31) July 31, 1924 (age 92)
Aurora, Ontario
Nationality Canadian
Political party Progressive Conservative
Spouse(s) G. Allan Pengelly
Alma mater University of Toronto
Profession Physician

Bette Mildred Stephenson, OC OOnt M.D., (born July 31, 1924) is a Canadian medical doctor and former politician in Ontario. She served in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1975 to 1987, and was a cabinet minister in the Progressive Conservative governments of Bill Davis and Frank Miller.


Stephenson was born in Aurora, Ontario.[1] She attained her medical degree from the University of Toronto in 1946. Stephenson practised medicine for more than 40 years. She was a member of the medical staff, a Director of the Outpatient Department, and Chief of the Department of General Practice at Women's College Hospital. She was also a member of the medical staff at North York General Hospital.[1]

She was a founding member of the College of General Practice in Canada, now known as the College of Family Physicians Canada. She was also the first female member of the board of directors of the Ontario Medical Association and the Canadian Medical Association, and served as the first female president of both organizations.[2] In 1974, she released a report stating that there were too many foreign-born students at the University of Toronto, particularly from China. The statements she made led some Chinese physicians to create the Federation of Chinese Canadian Professionals of Ontario which later became the Chinese Canadian Medical Society.[3][4][5]


Stephenson was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in the 1975 provincial election, representing the constituency of York Mills in North York.[6] She was appointed to Bill Davis' cabinet as Minister of Labour on October 7, 1975.[7] she won a convincing re-election victory over Liberal candidate Wilfred Caplan in the 1977 election.[8]

On August 18, 1978, she was named Minister of Education and Minister of Colleges and Universities.[9] As Minister, she ordered Toronto schools to use the Lord's Prayer during opening or closing exercise instead of silent meditation. Stephenson was not informed of Davis's decision to extend full-funding to Catholic high schools until the policy had already been decided, and was privately opposed. She was returned to the legislature was the largest majority of her career in the 1981 provincial election.[10]

Stephenson was a prominent supporter of Frank Miller's bid to become party leader in 1985. When Miller replaced Davis as Premier of Ontario on February 8, 1985, he named Stephenson as the Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet.[11]

Under Miller's leadership, the Progressive Conservatives were reduced to a tenuous minority government in the 1985 provincial election. Stephenson, who was personally re-elected without difficulty,[12] was named as Ontario's first female Treasurer and Deputy Premier on May 17.[13] She accomplished little in these roles before the Miller government was defeated by a motion of non-confidence in June 1985. In opposition, she served as her party's Critic for Health. She retired from politics at the 1987 provincial election.

Cabinet positions[edit]

Provincial Government of Frank Miller
Cabinet Posts (3)
Predecessor Office Successor
Bob Welch Deputy Premier
1985 (May–June)
Robert Nixon
[note 1]
Larry Grossman Treasurer
1985 (May–June)
Robert Nixon
George McCague Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet
1985 (February–May)
George Ashe
Provincial Government of Bill Davis
Cabinet Posts (3)
Predecessor Office Successor
Thomas Wells Minister of Education
Keith Norton
Harry Parrott Minister of Colleges and Universities
Keith Norton
John MacBeth Minister of Labour
Robert Elgie

After politics[edit]

In the 1990s, Stephenson was appointed as a Board Member on the province's new Education Quality and Accountability Office, which monitors and reports to the public on the performance of the education system. From 1997 to 2005, she was Chairman of the Learning Opportunities Task Force.[14] She is a founding member of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and is involved with the group, the Gwillimbury Foundation who is attempting to build a university in Queensville, Ontario.

In 1992, she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in recognition for having "made exceptional contributions to society throughout her career".[15] In 1999, she was awarded the Order of Ontario. The Bette Stephenson Centre for Learning was named after her.[16] In 2013, she was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.[17]



  1. ^ Post vacant until 1987 when Nixon named Deputy Premier.


  1. ^ a b Elizabeth Lumley (2003). Canadian Who's Who 2003. University of Toronto Press. p. 1295. ISBN 0-8020-8865-1. 
  2. ^ "OMA women physician pioneers" (PDF). Ontario Medical Association. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 26, 2007. Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  3. ^ "The Doctor's Dilemma—Circa 1975". The Empire Club of Canada. Archived from the original on October 16, 2016. Retrieved October 15, 2016. 
  4. ^ Du, J (1975). "To the editor" (PDF). Canadian Medical Association Journal. Canadian Medical Association. 112: 27. PMC 1956346Freely accessible. PMID 1109742. Retrieved 15 October 2016. 
  5. ^ "Chinese Canadian Medical Society: History". Federation of Chinese Canadian Professionals. Archived from the original on August 17, 2016. Retrieved October 15, 2016. 
  6. ^ "Table of vote results for all Ontario ridings". The Globe and Mail. September 19, 1975. p. C12. 
  7. ^ "Davis rebuffs Rhodes after appointing him housing portfolio". The Globe and Mail. October 8, 1975. pp. 1, 2. 
  8. ^ "Ontario provincial election results riding by riding". The Globe and Mail. June 10, 1977. p. D9. 
  9. ^ Oziewicz, Stan; Yaffe, Barbara (August 19, 1978). "McCague, Baetz are demoted in cabinet shuffle". The Globe and Mail. pp. 1, 2. 
  10. ^ Canadian Press (1981-03-20). "Winds of change, sea of security". The Windsor Star. Windsor, Ontario. p. 22. Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  11. ^ "The Ontario Cabinet". The Globe and Mail. February 9, 1985. p. 4. 
  12. ^ "Results of vote in Ontario election". The Globe and Mail. May 3, 1985. p. 13. 
  13. ^ "The new Cabinet". The Globe and Mail. May 18, 1985. p. 11. 
  14. ^ "Board Member Profile". Ontario Innovation Trust. Archived from the original on February 14, 2012. Retrieved April 5, 2009. 
  15. ^ Order of Canada citation
  16. ^ Learning Centre Archived November 22, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  17. ^ "Dr. Bette Stephenson". Canadian Medical Hall of Fame. 2013. 

External links[edit]