Visit two exhibits to learn more about Peel’s Legendary Son
As Peel students head back to school this fall, they can thank another Peel resident – former Premier Bill Davis – for helping to put in place much of the first–class education system that they enjoy today.
They can also find some of his memorabilia in two current exhibits at the:
- Mount Pleasant Village Branch of the Brampton Library in Brampton (2nd floor), and
- Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives' (PAMA) exhibit, Peel 150: Stories of Canada.
What did Davis do for Ontario education?
Davis, who still lives in Peel, was one of Ontario’s most renowned politicians. He was Premier for 14 years, making him Ontario’s longest-serving Premier in the 20th century. He also won four consecutive elections, which no one had done since before World War I.
While he was Minister of Education in John Robarts' Conservative government for nine years until 1971, Davis built a lasting legacy as one of Ontario's most influential education ministers. He:
- modernized the school board system, consolidated rural schools, and fostered a co–operative rather than competitive spirit in the public schools,
- expanded the public school system to meet the needs of post war "baby boomers", and
- established five new universities – including Brock in St. Catharines and Trent in Peterborough plus the community college system, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, and TVOntario education television network, which made him the father of these.
As minister, The Canadian Encyclopedia notes, Davis presided over the most extraordinary period of change since Egerton Ryerson founded Ontario's public school system in the 19th century. In 1984, when he was Premier, he also extended full funding to the separate school system.
Where is Davis now?
Davis, now 88, is still active in the Peel community, in politics and on foundations and boards.
His life–long commitment to Peel began when he grew up in Brampton, the son of Vera and Grenville Davis, a successful Brampton lawyer. He became politically active as a young man, and won his first provincial election in 1959, when he was only 29. Three years later, he became Robarts' Minister of Education.
After shaping much of Ontario’s current education system, Davis became the leader of the Provincial Conservative Party and Ontario’s 18th Premier in 1971. Steve Paiken, who published Davis’s biography – Bill Davis, Nation Builder, and Not So Bland After All – last fall, called him "one of the most important premiers in Canadian history". Peel – and all of Ontario – is still benefitting from his contributions today.
While Davis’s records as Premier are in the Archives of Ontario, PAMA has some of his memorabilia, such as campaign buttons and flyers, and pictures, which now are in the exhibits.
Visit pama.peelregion.ca for more information about PAMA.
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