Sidney Spivak

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Sidney Joel Spivak, QC (May 23, 1928 – July 8, 2002) was a Manitoba politician. He was a Cabinet Minister in the governments of Dufferin Roblin, Walter Weir and Sterling Lyon,[1] and was himself leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba from 1971 to 1975.[2]

Spivak was born to Jewish parents, Malick and Rose Spivak, in Winnipeg, and was educated at the University of Manitoba and Harvard University. He worked as a barrister,[2] and also became Vice-President of Golden Age Beverages Limited and Mathers Investments Limited. In 1955, Spivak married Mira Steele. He was named Queen's Counsel in 1966.[3]

Spivak was first elected to the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba in the provincial election of 1966, in the southwest Winnipeg riding of River Heights.[4] A Progressive Conservative, Spivak was appointed Minister of Industry and Commerce in Dufferin Roblin's government. He continued to hold this position after Walter Weir became Premier in 1967.[1]

Weir's Progressive Conservatives were defeated in the election of 1969, although Spivak was easily re-elected in his own riding.[1] Two years later, he defeated Harry Enns by 46 votes to become the party's leader.

Ideologically, Spivak was a Red Tory. He represented an urban and progressive wing within the party, and did not have the complete confidence of his caucus (which was dominated by more right-wing figures). In the election of 1973, Spivak presented himself as being to the right of Edward Schreyer's New Democrats, but to the left of the Liberals under Israel Asper. He specifically rejected Asper's laissez-faire economic policies, and promised to govern as a centrist.

The Progressive Conservatives won 21 seats in the 1973 election, up one from their position at the dissolution of parliament. Schreyer's New Democrats, however, were re-elected with a majority, and Spivak was blamed for the party's loss by many in the Progressive Conservative ranks. (Some have suggested that the Tory defeat was due in part to anti-Semitism.[5] This interpretation has never been verified, however, and has been rejected by some prominent Jewish figures in Manitoba.)

In 1975, Spivak was challenged for the leadership of the party by former Cabinet Minister Sterling Lyon. This challenge was extremely divisive, pitting Spivak's left-leaning ideology against Lyon's conservatism and dividing the Progressive Conservative membership accordingly. There have also been suggestions that some of Lyon's supporters conducted an anti-Semitic "whispering campaign" against Spivak, suggesting that the party would be unable to form government under a Jewish leader.[5] Lyon had several prominent Jews on his leadership campaign team.

When the delegates gathered on December 6, Lyon defeated Spivak by 57 votes. Shortly after the vote, Spivak claimed that the party would have difficulty being elected on a right-wing platform.

Lyon was able to win the 1977 election, however, and Spivak was appointed as a Minister without Portfolio in the Lyon cabinet (also becoming Co-Chairman of a Task Force on Government Organization and Economy). On October 20, 1978, he became the Minister of Government Services.[1]

Spivak resigned from the Manitoba legislature in 1979,[1] to run for the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada in the federal riding of Winnipeg—Fort Garry. He was narrowly defeated by Liberal Lloyd Axworthy, later a high-ranking federal cabinet minister.[6]

Spivak returned to the business world after this defeat. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he served as chair of the Canada-Israel Committee;[2] this organization opposed the Oslo Peace Accord of 1993, although Spivak himself was subsequently a promoter of peace in the Middle East. He also served on the Churchill Regional Health Authority Board in the late 1990s. Spivak wanted to be appointed Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba in 1993, but was passed over in favour of Yvon Dumont by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

He served on the board of governors of the University of Manitoba and on the board of directors for the St. Boniface Hospital.[2]

Sidney Spivak died of a heart attack in Winnipeg in 2002.[3] His widow Mira Spivak was a member of the Senate of Canada from Manitoba from 1986–2009.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e "MLA Biographies - Deceased". Legislative Assembly of Manitoba. Retrieved 2013-11-25. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Sidney Spivak". Winnipeg Free Press. July 12, 2002. Retrieved 2013-11-29. 
  3. ^ a b "Sidney Joel Spivak (1928-2002)". Memorable Manitobans. Manitoba Historical Society. Retrieved 2013-11-29. 
  4. ^ "Former Conservative leader dies". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. July 9, 2002. Retrieved August 19, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b "The Jewish factor". Winnipeg Free Press. May 10, 2009. Retrieved August 19, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Winnipeg--Fort Garry, Manitoba (1976 - 1987)". History of Federal Ridings since 1867. Library of Parliament. Retrieved 2013-11-29. 
  7. ^ "Manitoba Senate seat sits wide-open". Winnipeg Free Press. August 8, 2009. Retrieved August 19, 2012.