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John Parmenter Robarts
The Hon. John Parmenter Robarts
|17th Premier of Ontario|
November 8, 1961 – March 1, 1971
|Lieutenant Governor||John Keiller MacKay
William Earl Rowe
William Ross Macdonald
|Preceded by||Leslie Frost|
|Succeeded by||Bill Davis|
|Member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario for London|
November 22, 1951 – June 9, 1955
|Preceded by||Campbell Calder|
|Succeeded by||District abolished|
|Member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario for London North|
June 9, 1955 – October 21, 1971
|Preceded by||District created|
|Succeeded by||Gordon Walker|
January 11, 1917|
|Died||October 18, 1982
|Resting place||St. James Cemetery|
|Political party||Ontario PC Party|
Robarts was born in Banff, Alberta, making him the only Ontario premier not to have been born in Ontario. As a young man, he moved to London, Ontario with his family, where he studied at Central Collegiate (today, London Central Secondary School) and at the University of Western Ontario in Business Administration. While attending Western, he joined the Delta Upsilon fraternity.
He enrolled to study law at Osgoode Hall Law School, but his education was interrupted by service with the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II. He served as an officer on HMCS Uganda. After the war, he returned to law school and graduated in 1948.
Early political career
He practiced law in London, Ontario, and was elected a city alderman / councillor in 1948. In 1951, he was elected as a Progressive Conservative member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from the city. In that era, MLAs not in cabinet were essentially working part-time, due to relatively light legislative duties. Robarts commuted by train from the Queen's Park legislature in Toronto to his family and law practice in London, effectively combining his legislative work with career. His wife Norah disliked Toronto and remained at home in London for most of their marriage. The couple raised two children.
Joins Frost cabinet
He entered the cabinet of Leslie Frost in 1958 as minister without portfolio, and was promoted to Minister of Education in 1959. The province was in the midst of a major building phase with its education system, to accommodate an enormous increase in enrollment following the Baby Boomer generation of the post World War II era, and Robarts played an important role as Education Minister, with the establishment of new campuses such as York University.
In 1961, he became the 17th Premier of Ontario, and served in that capacity until 1971. A popular and well-respected leader, Robarts epitomized power and dignity. He was an advocate of individual freedoms, and promoted the rights of the provinces against the centralizing initiatives of the federal government. He also promoted national unity against Quebec separatism, and hosted the 1967 "Confederation of Tomorrow" conference in Toronto in an unsuccessful attempt to achieve an agreement for a new Constitution of Canada.
He initially opposed Canadian Medicare when it was proposed, but later endorsed it fully following NDP candidate Kenneth Bolton's upset by-election victory on the issue in the London-area riding of Middlesex South.
As a civil libertarian, and a strong believer in the promotion of both official languages, Robarts opened the door to French language education in Ontario schools. In 1972 he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada.
Remembered for his steps to promote and improve education, he was responsible for the construction of York University, the Ontario Science Centre, the expansion of numerous teacher colleges, and launching the Ontario Scholarship fund.
After retiring from office, John Robarts co-chaired the Task Force on Canadian Unity with Jean-Luc Pépin, and joined the boards of directors of several major corporations.
He is buried in St. James Cemetery in Toronto.
The Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies at York University was founded in 1982 in his name. The John P. Robarts Research Institute (renamed The Robarts Research Institute in 2005) at the University of Western Ontario was officially opened in 1986. He served as Chancellor of UWO from 1971 to 1976. He served as Chancellor of York University from 1977 to 1982. Also in London is the Robarts School for the Deaf, and the John P. Robarts elementary school. The 14-storey John P. Robarts Research Library at the University of Toronto is also named in his honour.
University of Western Ontario professor A.K. McDougall authored the first full-length biography: Robarts, in 1985. Steve Paikin wrote a biography, Public Triumph, Private Tragedy: The Double Life of John P. Robarts (Viking, 2005).
|Chancellor of the University of Western Ontario
J. Allyn Taylor
Walter L. Gordon
|Chancellor of York University
John S. Proctor