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Oliver Mowat

Sir Oliver Mowat, GCMG , PC , QC (July 22, 182019 April, 1903) was a Canadian politician, and premier of Ontario from 1872 to 1896, making him the longest serving premier of that province and the 3rd longest in all of Canadian history. He is one of the Fathers of Confederation.

Mowat was born in Kingston, Ontario to John Mowat and Helen Levack.

Before entering politics, Mowat trained as a lawyer, and, on January 27, 1836, Mowat, not yet sixteen years old, articled in the law office of John A. Macdonald. He was called to the bar November 5, 1841. In 1846, he married Jane Ewart, a daughter of John Ewart of Toronto. In 1856 Mowat was appointed Queen's Counsel.

He first entered politics as an alderman of the City of Toronto in 1857. From there, he became a member of the Legislative Assembly for South Ontario.

As a youth, he had taken up arms with the royalists during the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837, which suggested a conservative inclination in politics. However, he did not trust the politics of Macdonald, George-Étienne Cartier, or the other leaders of the Conservative Party and instead joined the Reformers. As a member of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada from 1858 to 1864, he was closely associated with George Brown and served as Provincial Secretary (1858) and Postmaster-General (1863–1864) in pre-Confederation government (the John Sandfield Macdonald administration) and was also an avid supporter of "representation by population." With Brown, he helped create what became the Ontario Liberal Party as well as the Liberal Party of Canada.

Mowat was a member of the Great Coalition government of 1864 and was a representative at that year's Quebec Conference, where he helped work out the division of powers between the federal and provincial governments. Also in 1864, he was appointed to the judiciary as vice-chancellor of Ontario, a position he held until he was appointed premier on October 31, 1872.

As premier in the 1880s a series of disputes with the Dominion arose over Provincial boundaries, jurisdiction over liquor licenses, timber, mineral rights and other matters. These court battles were won by Mowat, resulting a weakening of the power of the federal government in provincial matters. Mowat's battles with the federal government greatly decentralized Canada, giving the provinces far more power than Macdonald had intended. He also served as his own Attorney-General concurrently with his service as Premier, and introduced reforms such as the secret ballot in elections and the extension of suffrage beyond property owners. He also introduced laws regulating liquor and created the municipal level of government.

His government was moderate and attempted to cut across divisions in the province between Catholics and Protestants as well as between country and city. He also oversaw the expansion of Ontario's boundaries and natural resources northward as well as the emergence of the province into the economic powerhouse of Canada.

In 1896 the leader of the opposition, Wilfrid Laurier, convinced Mowat to enter federal politics. It was thought that the combination of a French Canadian (Laurier) and the prestige of Sir Oliver Mowat in Ontario would be a winning ticket for the Liberal party. The slogan was "Laurier, Mowat and Victory". Victory was won, and on July 13, 1896, Mowat became Minister of Justice and a few days later a Senator.

In 1897 he was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Ontario and served until his death in office in 1903.

Mowat was the great great uncle of Canadian author Farley Mowat. Mowat was himself the author of two small books in the field of Christian apologetics: Christianity and Some of its Evidences (1890), and Christianity and Its Influences (1898).

Mowat was knighted in 1892, and is also honoured with a high school named after him in Toronto. He is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto.

Reference links

  • Evans, A. Margaret. Sir Oliver Mowat. Toronto : University of Toronto Press, 1992. ISBN 0-8020-3392-X.
  • Middletown, Jesse Edgar, The Municipality of Toronto - A History, Dominion Publishing, 1923.
  • Mowat, Oliver. Christianity and Some of Its Evidences: An Address. Toronto: Williamson & Co, 1890.
  • Mowat, Oliver. Christianity and Its Influences. Toronto: Hunter Rose, 1898.
  • Vaudry, R. W. "Oliver Mowat," in Dictionary of Christianity in America, edited by Daniel G. Reid, Robert D. Linder, Bruce L. Shelley & Harry S. Stout. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1990. ISBN 0-8308-1776-X

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