Izzy Asper

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Israel Asper

Leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party
In office
Preceded byRobert Bend
Succeeded byCharles Huband
Member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba for Wolseley
In office
Preceded byLeonard Claydon
Succeeded byRobert Wilson
Personal details
Israel Harold Asper

(1932-08-11)August 11, 1932
Minnedosa, Manitoba
DiedOctober 7, 2003(2003-10-07) (aged 71)
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Political partyLiberal
Spouse(s)Ruth "Babs" Asper
ChildrenDavid, Gail, and Leonard
Alma materUniversity of Manitoba
OccupationLawyer, politician, media owner

Israel Harold "Izzy" Asper, OC OM QC (August 11, 1932 – October 7, 2003) was a Canadian tax lawyer and media magnate. He was the founder and owner of the defunct TV and media company CanWest Global Communications Corp[1] and father to its former CEO and President Leonard Asper, former director and corporate secretary Gail Asper, as well as former Executive Vice President David Asper.[2] He was also the leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party from 1970 to 1975 [1] and is credited with the idea and vision to establish the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Life and career[edit]

Israel Asper was born to a Jewish family in Minnedosa, Manitoba, the son of musicians[3] Leon Asper and Cecilia Swet,[4] who had emigrated from Ukraine.[5] Asper attended the University of Manitoba. In 1957 he received his law degree from the University of Manitoba, and was called to the bar shortly thereafter. He founded the firm of Asper, Freedman & Co. in 1959,[1] and was also a partner and co-founder of the firm Buchwald, Asper, Henteleff (now Pitblado LLP)along with Harold Buchwald and Yude Henteleff. In 1970 he wrote The Benson Iceberg: A critical analysis of the White Paper on Tax Reform in Canada.[2]

He married Ruth Miriam "Babs" Asper on May 27, 1956[6] at Shaarey Zedek Synagogue (Winnipeg).[7]

Also in 1970, Asper was elected leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party (defeating university professor John Nesbitt). Asper represented a right-libertarian strain within the party. In the Manitoba election of 1973, he promoted a laissez-faire economy, and advocated the elimination of the welfare state. He also advocated the public financing of election campaigns, to ensure that politics would not be dominated entirely by monied interests. His Liberals won only five seats, and Asper was elected in Wolseley by only four votes. He resigned as party leader and MLA in 1975, though he continued to support the Manitoba Liberal Party in later years.[1]

His media empire started with the Winnipeg television station CKND-TV in 1975. CanWest grew to encompass the Global Television Network, the daily newspaper National Post and over 60 other Canadian newspapers.[1]

Asper was noted for his fierce loyalty to Manitoba, refusing enticements to move east to Toronto. The faculty of management at the University of Manitoba renamed itself the Asper School of Business in 2000. He was also a noted philanthropist, making major donations to the arts and education; in 2001 he donated $5 million CAD to the St. Boniface Hospital & Research Foundation in Winnipeg. Asper became an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1995.[8] Also in 1995, he was inducted into the Canadian Broadcast Hall of Fame.[1]

He was a prominent member of Canada's Jewish community, and a vocal supporter for Israel.[5]

Asper was also a close friend of many of Canada's prominent political and business elite, including Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin.

Controversially, Asper's newspaper chain fired journalist Russell Mills when he wrote an article which was critical of Jean Chretien and demanded he resign.[9]

In 1956, he married Ruth Miriam Bernstein known as "Babs."[10] Asper died in St. Boniface Hospital at the age of 71[3] after suffering a heart attack.[11]

Further reading[edit]

  • Marc Edge, Asper Nation (2007)
  • Peter C. Newman (2008). Izzy: The Passionate Life and Turbulent Times of Izzy Asper, Canada's Media Mogul. HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 978-1-55468-089-4.


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Israel Harold (Izzy) Asper". The Canadian Encyclopedia.
  2. ^ a b Holmes, Gillian K; Davidson, Evelyn (2001). Who's Who in Canadian Business 2001. University of Toronto Press. pp. 24–25. ISBN 0-920966-60-8. Retrieved 2014-01-01.
  3. ^ a b "Izzy Asper dead at 71". CBC News. October 17, 2003. Retrieved 2014-01-01.
  4. ^ Normandin, Pierre G (1975). Canadian Parliamentary Guide.
  5. ^ a b "Obituary Israel Asper, Son of Immigrants and Founder of Media Empire, Dies". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. October 9, 2003. Retrieved 2014-01-01.
  6. ^ Sinclair, Gordon (July 31, 2011). "Ruth Asper: Matriarch of prominent Asper family". Calgary Herald. Archived from the original on January 2, 2014. Retrieved 2014-01-01.
  7. ^ "Winnipeg Free Press April 21, 1956".
  8. ^ Order of Canada citation
  9. ^ "Fired Canadian publisher superhero of free press". Global Journalist. October 1, 2002. Archived from the original on March 1, 2012. Retrieved 2014-01-01.
  10. ^ Toronto Star: "Winnipeg matriarch ‘Babs’ Asper dies at 78" By John Goddard July 31, 2011
  11. ^ Sinclair, Gordon (June 19, 2010). "Fathers and Sons". Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved 2014-01-01.

External links[edit]