Dufferin Roblin

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Dufferin Roblin
14th Premier of Manitoba
In office
June 30, 1958 – November 27, 1967
MonarchElizabeth II
Lieutenant GovernorJohn S. McDiarmid
Errick Willis
Richard S. Bowles
Preceded byDouglas Lloyd Campbell
Succeeded byWalter Weir
Senator for Red River, Manitoba
In office
March 23, 1978 – June 17, 1992
Appointed byPierre Trudeau
Member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba for Wolseley
In office
June 16, 1958 – May 1, 1968
Preceded bydistrict created
Succeeded byLeonard Claydon
Member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba for Winnipeg South
In office
November 10, 1949 – June 16, 1958
Preceded bydistrict created
Succeeded bydistrict abolished
Personal details
Born(1917-06-17)June 17, 1917
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
DiedMay 30, 2010(2010-05-30) (aged 92)
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Political partyProgressive Conservative Party of Manitoba
Other political
Progressive Conservative
Mary MacKay
(m. 1958)

Dufferin "Duff" Roblin PC CC OM (June 17, 1917 – May 30, 2010) was a Canadian businessman and politician. He served as the 14th premier of Manitoba from 1958 to 1967. Roblin was appointed to the Senate of Canada on the advice of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. In the government of Brian Mulroney, he served as government leader in the Senate. He was the grandson of Sir Rodmond Roblin, who also served as Manitoba Premier. His ancestor John Roblin served in the Upper Canada assembly.[1]

Early life[edit]

Roblin was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, to Charles Dufferin Roblin and Sophie Murdoch, and was educated at the University of Manitoba and the University of Chicago. He was a car dealer before entering politics, and served as a Wing Commander in the Royal Canadian Air Force from 1940 to 1946.

Like his grandfather, Roblin was a member of Manitoba's Conservative Party, which was renamed the Progressive Conservative Party in 1942. During the 1940s, the Manitoba Conservatives were part of a coalition government with the Liberal-Progressives, and Conservative leader Errick Willis was a prominent cabinet minister in the governments of John Bracken, Stuart Garson and Douglas Campbell.

Provincial backbencher[edit]

There were opponents of the coalition in both the Liberal and Conservative ranks. Roblin was a part of the latter group and was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba in 1949 as an "Independent Progressive Conservative" opposing the coalition. Running in the multi-member riding of Winnipeg South, he finished well ahead of the official Progressive Conservative candidate and soon emerged as the leading voice for anti-Conservatives in the province.

Willis resigned as a cabinet minister in August 1950, and the Progressive Conservative delegates overwhelmingly voted to leave the coalition at their annual convention that year. Some party members tried to convince Roblin to stand against Willis for the leadership, but Roblin declined.

Roblin was re-elected for Winnipeg South in 1953, but the Progressive Conservative Party, as a whole, fared poorly by winning only 12 seats out of 57. Willis was blamed for the party's loss, and another effort was made to draft Roblin as leader.

Leadership win[edit]

When Willis called a leadership convention for 1954, Roblin quickly declared himself a candidate. He built up a strong organization throughout the province and was able to defeat Willis on the second ballot. Roblin's support came mostly from rural delegates. The Progressive Conservatives' grassroots network had atrophied during the coalition years, and for the next four years, Roblin was involved in the arduous task of rebuilding the party organization.

Ideologically, Roblin was a Red Tory. He opposed the cautionary small government ideology of Liberal-Progressive Premier Douglas Campbell and pledged to expand government services if elected.


Under Roblin's leadership, the Tories became the largest party in the legislature at the 1958 provincial election, winning 26 seats. Roblin himself was elected for the new single-member constituency of Wolseley, located in the centre of Winnipeg. The Manitoba CCF agreed to tolerate a Tory minority government, and Roblin became premier—ending 35 years of Progressive/Liberal-Progressive government in the province.

His government quickly enacted a series of progressive reforms, which were supported by the CCF. Roblin was thereby able to build up a successful legislative record and won the support of many centre-left voters who were previously uncommitted. His government lost a parliamentary vote of confidence in 1959, but was re-elected with a decisive majority in the ensuing election later in the year, taking 36 out of 57 seats.

Roblin (centre left) cutting the ribbon at the 1963 opening of the St. Vital Library

Roblin's government upgraded highways, created parks, and built the Red River Floodway around Winnipeg, popularly known as "Duff's Ditch." It reintroduced French instruction in schools, modernized hospitals, expanded social spending, and strengthened social welfare programs. It also improved postsecondary education and promoted urban development by consolidating the various municipalities in the Winnipeg area into a single metropolitan entity. For primary education, Roblin's ministry brought Manitoba's system of one-room schoolhouses into the modern era by building consolidated schools.

The Progressive Conservatives were re-elected with landslide mandates in the 1962 and 1966 elections, and Roblin never faced any serious competition in his own riding.

Federal politics[edit]

Roblin resigned in 1967 to run for the leadership of the federal Progressive Conservative Party at its 1967 leadership convention. He ran a strong campaign but came second to Nova Scotia Premier Robert Stanfield.

Roblin was a candidate in Winnipeg South Centre for the 1968 federal election but lost to Liberal E.B. Osler by over 10,000 votes. Roblin was hurt by an unpopular provincial sales tax introduced by his government as well as the more general "Trudeaumania" phenomenon. After the election, he was named as vice-president of Canadian Pacific Investments.[2] In 1970, he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada.

In the 1974 federal election, Roblin ran for the House of Commons in the Ontario riding of Peterborough. He was soundly defeated by Liberal Hugh Faulkner and later referred to the entire campaign as a lapse in judgement.

In 1978, Roblin was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, officially representing the Manitoba region of Red River. He was the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate during Joe Clark's brief tenure as Prime Minister (1979–1980) and served as Deputy Opposition Leader from 1980 to 1984.

After Brian Mulroney's landslide victory in the 1984 election, Roblin was appointed Leader of the Government in the Senate, and served in Mulroney's cabinet until June 29, 1986. In that capacity, he was particularly interested in matters relating to African economic development.

Roblin retired from the Senate on June 17, 1992, having reached the mandatory retirement age of 75. He received the President's Award of the Winnipeg Press Club in 1999, and published his memoirs (entitled Speaking for Myself) in the same year.

Roblin, a veteran of World War II who fought in the Normandy Campaign, represented Manitoba at the 60th Anniversary of D-Day in France. He, along with Prince Charles and the Prime Ministers of Canada and France, commemorated the Canadian Servicemen who were lost that day in 1944.[3]

At the time of his death, he was the oldest living former provincial premier. Roblin died at the age of 92 on the afternoon of May 30, 2010 at the Victoria General Hospital. Upon his death, former provincial NDP leader Ed Schreyer said that "Duff Roblin led a Conservative administration the likes we’ve not seen elsewhere in Canada and not likely to see again. It was positive in every respect. He brought Manitoba into the modern era, with desired changes in education, hospital finance, roads, social assistance and flood protection."[4]


There are Dufferin Roblin fonds at the Archives of Manitoba[5] and Library and Archives Canada.[6]

Electoral history[edit]

1968 Canadian federal election: Winnipeg South Centre
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal E. B. Osler 23,775 51.8 +15.5
Progressive Conservative Duff Roblin 13,268 28.9 −12.9
New Democratic Frances Thompson 8,240 17.9 −1.8
Independent Conservative John McDowell 632 1.4
Total valid votes 45,915 100.0


  1. ^ a b Martin, Sandra (May 31, 2010). "Duff Roblin, former Manitoba premier, dies at 92". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2013-11-02.
  2. ^ Winnipeg Free Press, 21 January 1969, p. 10.
  3. ^ "Province of Manitoba | News Releases | Duff Roblin to Represent Manitoba at D-Day Anniversary Celebrations in France".
  4. ^ "Province loses 'tremendous premier'". Winnipeg Free Press. May 30, 2010.
  5. ^ "Duff Roblin fonds, Archives of Manitoba".
  6. ^ "Duff Roblin fonds, Library and Archives Canada". 20 July 2017.

External links[edit]

24th Ministry – Cabinet of Brian Mulroney
Cabinet post (1)
Predecessor Office Successor
Allan MacEachen Leader of the Government in the Senate
Lowell Murray