Hatfield, Richard Bennett

Richard Bennett Hatfield, politician, premier of New Brunswick (b at Woodstock, NB 9 Apr 1931; d at Ottawa 26 Apr 1991). As the longest-serving premier of New Brunswick, he promoted national unity and linguistic equality and worked for the patriation of the Constitution and a CANADIAN CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS as well as a constitutional accord in 1987.

Educated at Acadia and Dalhousie Law School, Hatfield practised law briefly and was sales manager of Hatfield Industries, the family potato chip business 1958-65. In 1961 he was elected Conservative MLA for Carleton County. Unsuccessful in his 1966 bid for the party leadership, he was named House leader in 1968 and elected party leader in 1969. The next year he led his party to victory over L.J. ROBICHAUD. Hatfield's government consolidated the Liberal program of Equal Opportunity and implemented the Official Languages Act. His political reforms included the Political Process Financing Act and single-member electoral districts, both part of plans to reorganize government structure and responsibility. In spite of controversy over the Bricklin car venture, Point Lepreau nuclear power plant, spruce-budworm spraying and party fund-raising activities, Hatfield's Conservatives were re-elected 1974, 1978 and 1982, and he succeeded in expanding Conservative support in the francophone regions. Nevertheless, his reputation was tarnished by persistent questions about his private life; for example, in September 1984, he was charged with possession of marijuana after a routine baggage inspection during a royal visit (he was later acquitted). His leadership was challenged and his party lost every seat in the 1987 election. Hatfield resigned the leadership immediately after.

In 1988 he was named chairman of the board of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton and in September 1990 he was appointed to the Senate. He died from an inoperable brain tumour.