Sir James Pliny Whitney

Sir James Pliny Whitney, lawyer, politician, premier of Ontario 1905-14 (b in Williamsburg Twp, Canada W 2 Oct 1843; d at Toronto 25 Sept 1914). After breaking a 33-year Liberal hold upon the province, he headed an administration

Whitney, Sir James Pliny
The Honourable Sir James Pliny Whitney, premier of Ontario 1905 - 1914 (courtesy Archives of Ontario).

Whitney, Sir James Pliny

 Sir James Pliny Whitney, lawyer, politician, premier of Ontario 1905-14 (b in Williamsburg Twp, Canada W 2 Oct 1843; d at Toronto 25 Sept 1914). After breaking a 33-year Liberal hold upon the province, he headed an administration noteworthy for its reforms and its creation of an enduring political machine. Son of a blacksmith, Whitney was a staunch Conservative long before being called to the bar in 1876. He won the provincial riding of Dundas in an 1888 by-election, and never yielded it. Chosen leader of the Ontario party in 1896, he inherited a dispirited body weakened by religious controversy, a shortage of promising men and a poor organization. As Opposition leader, he rebuilt the Tories and healed most of the wounds, while constantly berating the governing Liberals and slowly shaping a party platform. In office, his administration began Ontario's publicly owned hydroelectric power system, set U of T on a firm financial foundation, passed ground-breaking workmen's compensation legislation, created new bureaucratic forms such as the Ontario Ry and Municipal Board, and enacted tough but fair liquor legislation. On the negative side, his government produced Regulation 17 governing the use of French as a language of instruction in some Ontario schools; this sparked a bitter controversy with Franco-Ontarians that did nothing for national unity as WWI approached (see ONTARIO SCHOOLS QUESTION).