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24 2011

The Chairman of the Board: John Robarts @ 50

Syndicated from: Steve Paikin

Fifty years ago today, on October 25, 1961, John P. Robarts won a thrilling six-ballot leadership convention at Varsity Arena, enabling him to become the 17th premier of Ontario. He succeeded Leslie Frost and was eventually sworn in November 8th.   Ten years ago, I produced a documentary on Robarts' very productive public life, and quite tragic private life. (see below).   The Ontario of today owes the Robarts government so much.  That government built the province as none before or none since.   * the entire community college system (led by Robarts' education minister, William Davis, his eventual successor as premier). * five new universities * opening new schools literally every day * the Ontario Science Centre * Ontario Place * the Niagara Escarpment Commission * new human rights legislation * the Confederation of Tomorrow conference (the first conference looking at national unity since the country's founding). * our first nuclear power plants * GO Transit * balanced budgets every year   It was a great time to be in Ontario, led by the man they nicknamed "The Chairman of the Board."   However, at the same time, Robarts' personal life moved from difficult to tragic.  His 21-year-old son killed himself. His first wife drank herself to death. He had a second marriage to a woman 28 years his junior which also ended badly after he suffered several strokes. And eventually, Robarts committed suicide as well, when his health failed to improve after the strokes.  He died on October 18, 1982, a little over a decade after leaving the premier's office.   Here's the documentary: The Chairman of the Board: The Life and Death of John Robarts    

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