Thatcher, Wilbert Ross
Wilbert Ross Thatcher, premier of Saskatchewan (b at Neville, Sask 24 May 1917; d at Regina 23 July 1971). Educated locally and at Queen's U, Thatcher was a businessman. After holding aldermanic office, he was elected CCF member of Parliament in 1945, 1949 and 1953, but left his party in 1955, sitting first as an Independent and then as a Liberal. He ran unsuccessfully in the 1957 and 1958 federal elections. Critical of CCF administration, he termed Saskatchewan's crown corporations a dismal failure, a charge which led to the Mossbank debate (May 1957) with CCF premier T.C. DOUGLAS
and established him as the anti-CCF standard bearer. In Sept 1959 Thatcher defeated 3 other challengers for the provincial Liberal leadership. Under him Saskatchewan Liberals became identified with free-enterprise rhetoric but pragmatic policies and won the provincial election in 1964 - the first time in 20 years a provincial Liberal government had ruled west of Québec. His devotion to economic development led to friction with federal Liberals, whose priorities differed: social welfare under Lester PEARSON
and constitutional reform under Pierre TRUDEAU
. Party organizational disputes so fractured Saskatchewan Liberals that Thatcher entered the 1971 provincial election beleaguered by partisan allies and partisan foes alike, losing 20 of 35 seats to the NDP under Allan BLAKENEY
. He died one month later.
DAVID E. SMITH
D. Eisler, Rumours of Glory: Saskatchewan and the Thatcher Years (1987); David E. Smith, Prairie Liberalism (1975); J. Wearing, The L-Shaped Party (1981).