Party History

John Sandfield Macdonald
Premier of Ontario (1867-1871)
Premier Macdonald and his government accomplished much in their four years in office. He set up, for the first time, registration facilities for births, marriages and deaths, and introduced important political and educational reforms. Provincial elections would be held in one day instead of over prolonged periods, and the modern high school system was established.

Sir Matthew Crooks Cameron
Leader of the Party (1871-1878)
Sir Matthew Crooks Cameron, a lawyer, was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada in 1861; he was defeated two years later but elected again in an 1864 by-election. Cameron opposed Confederation, preferring a legislative union. He was appointed Provincial Secretary and Registrar of Ontario in the Cabinet of Premier John Sandfield Macdonald in 1867. When Macdonald’s government was defeated in 1871, Cameron became leader of the Ontario Conservative Party, but stepped down in 1878 to become a judge. He was knighted shortly before his death in 1887.

William Ralph Meredith
Leader of the Party (1878 – 1894)
Chief Justice William Ralph Meredith was a long-time leader of the Ontario Conservatives. He served for 16 years, from 1878 to 1894. Although a Conservative, Meredith was considered radical by many Tories. He advocated legislation in favour of workers, and is considered to be the father of Ontario’s workers’ compensation system. An ardent federalist, Meredith was a strong supporter of Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald. In 1894, he was appointed to a judgeship and, in 1912, he became Chief Justice on the Supreme Court of Ontario.

Sir James P. Whitney
Premier of Ontario (1905 – 1914)
James Whitney returned the Conservatives to power in 1905 in the wake of Liberal Party scandals. His administration was a progressive one, creating the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario, as well as one of the most important labour measures in the province — the Workmen’s Compensation Act. Whitney died in office, shortly after winning the 1914 election.

George Frederick Marter
Leader of the Party (1894 – 1896)
George Frederick Marter, essentially an interim leader, led the Ontario Conservative Party from 1894 to 1896, following the defeat of William Ralph Meredith during the 1894 election. The Conservative Party he led was aligned with the Protestant Protective Association in the legislature, and was divided by religious conflict and narrow bigotry. Marter established himself as a vigorous exponent of prohibition, a view that proved to be very unpopular. In 1896, he resigned and was replaced by James P. Whitney.

Sir William H. Hearst
Premier of Ontario (1914 – 1919)
Succeeding Whitney was one of his leading ministers, Sir William Hearst. Like many wartime governments, the Hearst Administration was not very popular. While he established a sound record in housing and labour laws, Hearst supported conscription and banned the retail sale of alcoholic beverages under the 1916 Ontario Temperance Act. His government was defeated by the United Farmers of Ontario in 1919. The first world war brought changes to Ontario. In recognition of their contributions to the war effort, women were granted the right to vote provincially by the Hearst government in 1917.

G. Howard Ferguson
Premier of Ontario (1923 – 1930)
G. Howard Ferguson was one of the most popular Conservative leaders ever. His government conducted a vigorous program of highway development, established the Department of Public Welfare and the Liquor Control Board, and encouraged rapid development of health facilities. Ferguson’s government also created the first old age pension in Ontario, in cooperation with the federal government. Ferguson stepped down as Premier in 1930.

George S. Henry
Premier of Ontario (1930 – 1934)
Ferguson’s successor was George S. Henry, an able administrator who strove with great success to balance the budget and reduce provincial expenditures. Unfortunately, because of the Great Depression, there was no money for bold new programs. This, combined with the distress of the unemployed, and the airy promises of the Liberal Party’s colourful new leader, Mitchell F. Hepburn, spelt defeat for the Henry Government in 1934.

William Earl Rowe
Leader of the Party (1936 – 1938)
William Earl Rowe, a farmer and cattle breeder, served as a Member of Provincial Parliament from 1923 to 1925, and then as a federal Member of Parliament from 1925 until 1935. In 1936, he returned to provincial politics to lead the Conservative Party of Ontario. He served as Leader of the Party from 1936 until 1938, but never won a seat in the legislature, and, therefore, George S. Henry remained Leader of the Opposition. Rowe was a longtime federal Member of Parliament as well as lieutenant governor of Ontario from 1963 to 1968. A champion and supporter of agriculture and rural affairs, he died in 1984.

Col. George Drew
Premier of Ontario (1943 – 1948)
Under the leadership of George Drew, the Progressive Conservative Party defeated the incumbent Liberals in 1943, to once again form the Government of Ontario. It was a position they would retain for the next 42 years. Drew’s government passed some of the most progressive labour and social legislation in Canadian History, including a new labour code and the first anti-discrimination legislation in Canada.

Thomas L. Kennedy
Premier of Ontario (1948 – 1949)
Thomas L. Kennedy was chosen to carry on as Premier in 1948, when Premier Drew stepped down to accept the national leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party. Kennedy carried on his duties with distinction until a leadership convention could be held the following year. In 1949, Leslie Frost was chosen by a large majority of the convention delegates.

Leslie M. Frost
Premier of Ontario (1949 – 1961)
Leslie Frost was one of the longest-serving and most popular Premiers of Ontario. The support he enjoyed during his twelve-year term — never less than 72% of the seats in the Legislature — has rarely been equalled. Among Frost’s achievements were the Ontario Hospital Insurance Program, the provision of equal pay for women, and vast expansion of hospitals, schools and highways. Frost was re-elected in 1951, 1955 and 1959, before retiring in 1961. The 1960’s were a period of incredible growth and change. Demand for school space was so high by the mid-sixties that new facilities were being opened every one-and-a-half days. Community colleges — a bold and innovative step in the education field — were established during this time, and plans were announced for several new Ontario universities.

John P. Robarts
Premier of Ontario (1961 – 1971)
John P. Robarts was chosen to succeed Leslie Frost, when he stepped down as Premier in 1961. Ontario’s decade-long record of progress was prodigious; Ontario’s rate of unemployment was the lowest in Canada and its rate of economic expansion one of the highest in the world.

William (Bill) G. Davis
Premier of Ontario (1971 – 1985)
In 1971, William Davis, Minister of Education in the Robarts Government, became the new Progressive Conservative leader and Premier. Davis put his administration into high gear, with 150 items of legislation and policy statements in its first 150 days in office. New legislation touched upon practically every aspect of life — medicare, public transit, mental health programs and ecology. Davis was Premier for 14 years.

Frank S. Miller
Premier of Ontario (1985)
The 1985 General Election, held only three months after Frank Miller succeeded Davis, resulted in a minority government for the Progressive Conservative Party. A pact was immediately formed between the Liberals and New Democrats to defeat the government in a non-confidence motion, ending over four decades of Conservative government in Ontario. Miller stepped down as Premier, and shortly after, as leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

Lawrence (Larry) S. Grossman
Leader of the Party (1985 – 1987)
Larry Grossman was first elected in 1975 in the riding vacated by his father, Allan, a veteran Conservative cabinet minister. He entered cabinet at the age of 33, and served as a Cabinet Minister in both the Davis and Miller governments. In 1985, he ran to replace retiring premier Bill Davis, but lost to Frank Miller. Miller’s government was defeated by the Liberals after a no-confidence vote in the Legislature and, a few months later, Miller stepped down and Grossman took his place as Leader. However, only two years later in the 1987 general election, Grossman lost both the election and his seat in a Liberal landslide, before resigning as Leader.

Andrew (Andy) S. Brandt
Leader of the Party (1987 – 1990)
Andy Brandt, a former Sarnia mayor, was first elected to the Ontario Legislature in 1981. He served as a Cabinet Minister in both the Davis and Miller governments. The 1987 general election proved disastrous to the Conservatives, with their numbers reduced to only 16. Brandt was popular and able to hang onto his seat, and was named by his caucus colleagues as interim Leader. He served in that capacity until 1990, when Mike Harris took over the helm. Brandt left politics that same year and, in 1991, was appointed CEO of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) – a position in which he served for 15 years, until his retirement in 2006.

Michael D. Harris
Leader of the Party (1990 – 2002), Premier of Ontario (1995 – 2002)
Mike Harris was elected Party Leader in May, 1990 in the party’s first ever ‘One member, one vote’ leadership process. Shortly afterwards, Liberal Premier David Peterson called a snap election hoping to catch the PCs unprepared. The result was an NDP victory for Bob Rae. Mike Harris spent the next five years rebuilding the party organization, recruiting candidates and carrying out a grass-roots policy development process which led to the Common Sense Revolution platform on which he was elected premier in June, 1995. The Harris Government implemented unprecedented change in its efforts to create jobs and restore prosperity to Ontario. Its achievements included welfare reform, health care restructuring, major reductions in public spending and more efficient government. Harris retired as Premier and party leader in 2002 and now acts as Senior Business Advisor with Goodmans LLP and serves on a number of corporate boards.

Ernie Eves
Leader of the Party (2002 – 2004), Premier of Ontario (2002 – 2003)
Ernie Eves was elected leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party on March 23, 2002 and was sworn in as Ontario’s 23rd premier on April 15, 2002. Before briefly leaving politics for a position in the private sector, Eves had served as Ontario’s Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance from June 1995 until February 2001. Eves was first elected to the Ontario legislature in 1981 as the member for Parry Sound. Since his retirement from politics, Eves has served as Executive Chairman of Jacob & Company Securities Inc., an independent investment bank.

John Tory
Leader of the Party (2004-2009)
John Tory, was elected Leader of the Ontario PC Party on September 28, 2004 after a career in law, business and politics that included stints as Principal Secretary to former Premier Bill Davis, Chair of the 1993 Federal PC election campaign, President and CEO of Rogers Media, and Commissioner of the Canadian Football League. Shortly after his election as leader, Tory was elected to the Ontario Legislature in a by-election in the riding of Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey. Tory put an emphasis on fundraising and significantly reduced the party debt. In the 2007 election Tory ran in the Toronto riding of Don Valley West where he had lived for most of his life but, in a campaign dominated by the issue of funding faith-based schools, was not able to unseat an incumbent Liberal minister. Following an unsuccessful attempt to win a seat in a by-election, Tory resigned as party Leader in March 2009.

Bob Runciman
Leader of the Party (March – June 2009)
Bob Runciman was first elected to the Ontario Legislature in 1981 from the riding of Leeds-Grenville in eastern Ontario. Bob served briefly in the cabinet of Premier Frank Miller in 1985, and again under Premier Mike Harris as Solicitor General, Minister of Consumer and Business Affairs, Minister of Economic Development and Minister of Public Safety. Later, he twice served as Leader of the Official Opposition when party leader John Tory was without a seat in the Legislature. In March 2009, Runciman was chosen as interim Leader of the Party.

Tim Hudak
Leader of the Party (June 2009-Present)
Tim Hudak is currently the Leader of the Ontario PC Party and the Official Opposition.

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