Bill Davis was born William Grenville Davis on July 30, 1929, and died on August 8, 2021. He was a Canadian politician who served as the 18th Premier of Ontario from 1971 to 1985. Davis was first elected as the MPP for Peel in the 1959 provincial election as a backbencher in Leslie Frost’s government. Under John Robarts, he was minister of education. He succeeded Robarts as Premier of Ontario and held the position until resigning in 1985.
In a 2012 edition, the Institute for Research on Public Policy’s magazine, Policy Options, named Davis the second-best Canadian Premier of the last forty years, beaten only by Peter Lougheed.
Statement by the Prime Minister on the death of the Honourable Bill Davis:
The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today issued the following statement on the death of the Honourable Bill Davis, former Premier of Ontario:
“It is with great sadness that I learned today of the passing of the Honourable William Grenville ‘Bill’ Davis, former Premier of Ontario.
“Mr. Davis spent more than 25 years serving his province and was the second longest-serving Premier of Ontario. He led the province for 14 years during a transformative time in its history. As Premier and a long-serving Minister of Education, he established TVOntario and oversaw creating several new universities and the province’s community college system.
Canadians who knew him can remember the late William Davis for putting Canada’s first-ever environmental land‑use plan and his role in the patriation of the Constitution, which resulted in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“He was a skilled statesman who set aside partisanship and worked with my father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, to bring forward substantial change and uphold our shared values, like diversity and human rights, through the creation of the Charter.
“In recognition of his many accomplishments, Mr. Davis was sworn in as a member of the Queen’s Privy Council of Canada in 1982. He was invested as a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1986 and as a Companion of the Order of Ontario in 1987 and inducted as a Knight in France’s Legion of Honor in 2001.
“On behalf of the Government of Canada, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to Mr. Davis’ family and friends and all the people of Ontario on the passing of a remarkable leader.”
Bill Davis Toronto Argonauts Fan
He was an unstinting booster of his Brampton hometown, a peerless fan of the Toronto Argonauts, father of Ontario’s community college system, a key figure in Canada’s constitutional repatriation, unrivaled master of oratorical circumlocution, and — most of all — a devoted family man.
“What made Mr. Davis special was his inbred decency,” his former press secretary Joan Walters told the Star. “He was an immensely modest man tied to the tenets of small-town Ontario, the love of God, country, and the Queen.”
Davis died Sunday morning at home, his family said in a statement. “After spending much family time in his favorite of all places, his cottage in Georgian Bay, he died of natural causes at home in Brampton, surrounded by members of his family,” they wrote.
“A private family funeral will be held, followed at a later date by a subsequent public celebration of his life and many contributions to Ontario and Canada.”
On Sunday, there was an outpouring of tributes from politicians and dignitaries across the country as Canadians learned of Davis’s death.
In a statement, former prime minister Brian Mulroney called him “an entirely admirable human being” and one of Canada’s greatest statesmen.
Premier Doug Ford wrote in a statement that Davis served Ontarians with “honor and distinction” and will be “remembered most for the kindness and decency with which he carried himself every day.”
For Toronto Mayor John Tory, Davis was a “man I loved,” both as a mentor and friend. “Beyond my dad, there’s nobody who had more influence on me in my life and politics.”
He noted Davis’ knack for being ahead of the curve, creating North America’s first Ministry of the Environment 50 years ago and taking the “first of many important steps to strengthen protection of human rights as Ontario became more diverse.”
Ontario needs “more Premier Davis,” Tory said in a world of increasingly divisive and often toxic politics. “He just radiated decency.”
For Davis, a good day was when his name wasn’t on the front pages.