October 21, 2018

Winnipeg
1° C, A few clouds

Full Forecast

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Editorial

A rare Canadian politician

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/12/2010 (2865 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Sterling Lyon, who died Thursday at the age of 83, was a rare Canadian politician in that he was a conservative in the truest sense of that word. Many Canadians use the word to describe themselves politically and socially and some of them even support the Conservative parties on federal and provincial levels, but most of them are that only in the Canadian mould of being liberals (or Liberals) "with reservations." The massive movement of voters back and forth between the two parties that frequently occurs in Canada is evidence of that.

Mr. Lyon's conservatism, however, was of a more classic kind. He welcomed change when that change was truly progressive but opposed it when it appeared to be only change for the sake of movement. He was not opposed to -- in fact he enthusiastically endorsed -- new ideas, but he did not believe in tearing something down until he was certain that he understood why it had been put there in the first place.

In this context, the description "right-wing" that is often used to describe him and his one-term government -- he was premier of Manitoba from 1977 to 1981 -- is a sadly inadequate misnomer. He might be more accurately described as a man who was ahead of his time, a politician offering ideas and suggestions that people were not yet ready to accept. In his own way, in his small, provincial fiefdom, he carved out a path that former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and former U.S. president Ronald Reagan would follow and change the world forever.

His term as premier may have been brief and storm-tossed, but his career was long and distinguished. He served as attorney general for a total of nine years as well as in numerous other cabinet positions and was elected leader of the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives in a bitterly contested battle with Sidney Spivak in 1975.

Get the full story.
No credit card required. Cancel anytime.

Join free for 60 days

After that, pay as little as $0.99 per month for the best local news coverage in Manitoba.

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Join free for 60 days

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Subscribers Log in below to continue reading,
not a subscriber? Create an account to start a 60 day free trial.

Log in Create your account

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Mon to Sat Delivery

Pay

$34.36

per month

  • Includes all benefits of All Access Digital
  • 6-day delivery of our award-winning newspaper
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/12/2010 (2865 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Sterling Lyon, who died Thursday at the age of 83, was a rare Canadian politician in that he was a conservative in the truest sense of that word. Many Canadians use the word to describe themselves politically and socially and some of them even support the Conservative parties on federal and provincial levels, but most of them are that only in the Canadian mould of being liberals (or Liberals) "with reservations." The massive movement of voters back and forth between the two parties that frequently occurs in Canada is evidence of that.

Mr. Lyon's conservatism, however, was of a more classic kind. He welcomed change when that change was truly progressive but opposed it when it appeared to be only change for the sake of movement. He was not opposed to — in fact he enthusiastically endorsed — new ideas, but he did not believe in tearing something down until he was certain that he understood why it had been put there in the first place.

{w;

DALE CUMMINGS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

{w;

In this context, the description "right-wing" that is often used to describe him and his one-term government — he was premier of Manitoba from 1977 to 1981 — is a sadly inadequate misnomer. He might be more accurately described as a man who was ahead of his time, a politician offering ideas and suggestions that people were not yet ready to accept. In his own way, in his small, provincial fiefdom, he carved out a path that former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and former U.S. president Ronald Reagan would follow and change the world forever.

His term as premier may have been brief and storm-tossed, but his career was long and distinguished. He served as attorney general for a total of nine years as well as in numerous other cabinet positions and was elected leader of the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives in a bitterly contested battle with Sidney Spivak in 1975.

After his defeat as premier, he was appointed to the provincial Court of Appeal in 1986, where he served as a consistent and welcome voice of reason until his retirement in 2002.

He will be best remembered for his premiership. He shocked the province by implementing a program of "acute, protracted restraint," cutting both the size of government and the cost of it, as he had promised to do. Voters unaccustomed to politicians keeping their election promises found it unnerving; Mr. Lyon's critics called it harsh. It may, in fact, have been both, but it set a precedent that future governments can follow if they have Mr. Lyon's courage when times call for restraint. He showed that governments can exercise tough restraint without collapsing completely.

The other major pillar of Mr. Lyon's legacy — the inclusion of the notwithstanding clause in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a defence of the supremacy of elected parliaments over unelected courts — was controversial when he first supported it and remains so today. He feared that provincial and federal parliaments would themselves cede their power to the courts to avoid controversial issues, a fear that has proved well founded.

These marking points of Mr. Lyon's legacy were in their time radical ideas that could have come from either a truly liberal or a purely conservative mind. In the event, they exploded from his mind and Manitoba and Canada are better, more interesting places because of him.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective January 2015.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us