Sir Oliver Mowat
Mowat's greatest contribution was made as premier. A skilful electoral politician, he built a pragmatic and moderate Liberal Party, representative of all Ontario - Protestant and Catholic, rural and urban. Under Mowat's leadership, Ontario came of age economically, socially and politically.
Mowat, Sir OliverSir Oliver Mowat, politician, premier of Ontario 1872-96 (b at Kingston, Upper Canada 22 July 1820; d at Toronto 19 Apr 1903). Mowat was privately educated in Kingston before becoming John A. MACDONALD's first articled law student. He was admitted to the bar in 1841 and quickly became a successful equity lawyer in Toronto. Mowat was brought up a Conservative, but as an adult opted for the Reform Party. After a brief interlude in Toronto municipal politics he sat in the Assembly of the Province of Canada 1858-64 where he was a prominent Reform leader. He served as provincial secretary in the brief administration of George BROWN and A.A. DORION in 1858, was postmaster general in the John Sandfield MACDONALD-Dorion regime in 1863-64, and returned to that portfolio during the GREAT COALITION of 1864. Mowat, as an active participant in the QUÉBEC CONFERENCE, was a FATHER OF CONFEDERATION. In November 1864 he was appointed chancellor of Ontario, a post he held until 1872 when he succeeded Edward BLAKE as premier. He served as premier and attorney general until 1896 when he was appointed to the Senate and became federal minister of justice. Knighted in 1892, he left Ottawa in 1897 to become lieutenant-governor of Ontario.
Mowat's greatest contribution was made as premier. A skilful electoral politician, he built a pragmatic and moderate Liberal Party, representative of all Ontario - Protestant and Catholic, rural and urban. Under Mowat's leadership, Ontario came of age economically, socially and politically. Agriculture was modernized, the importance of industry recognized, educational and scientific areas cultivated, urban problems addressed and trade unions accepted as part of the society. Substantial government regulation became part of Ontario life and numerous social programs were introduced. Mowat and his government also contributed to the definition of Canadian FEDERALISM. He was Canada's first important provincial-rights advocate and, through a series of successful legal and political battles with John A. Macdonald and the federal Conservative government, altered Macdonald's concept of Canada as a highly centralized state with the provinces weak and dependent. Moreover, Mowat and his colleagues established Ontario as the dominant province within Confederation. Ontario's resources were increased by expansion into northern territories and its boundaries substantially enlarged after a protracted dispute with the federal government. Good management of the key economic sectors of agriculture, industry and resources made it the richest province, and it is fair to describe Mowat's tenure of office as the era of the emergence of modern Ontario.