The History of

The Ontario Liberal Party


This is the history of the Ontario Liberal Party.

The Foundation of the PartyFrom William Lyon Mackenzie to Oliver Mowat

Ontario Liberals have a long tradition of working to improve the lives of all Ontarians, from the party's pre-Confederation roots as a force for equality and democracy, to the Wynne Liberals of today.

The Ontario Liberal Party has its roots in the Reform Party of William Lyon Mackenzie and Robert Baldwin, who fought for real democracy in the 1830s and 1840s against the elitist, conservative rule of the Family Compact.

The party as we know it today was founded by George Brown - owner of the Toronto Globe and a key figure in uniting Upper and Lower Canada.

In 1868, Edward Blake, elected from South Bruce, became the leader of the Ontario Liberal Party and three years later defeated the Conservative government to become Ontario's first Liberal Premier. He left provincial politics in 1872, but was able to establish a Liberal dynasty that served Ontario until 1905.

Kingston-born Oliver Mowat, one of Ontario's most notable premiers, followed Blake as party leader.

Mowat built a pragmatic and moderate Liberal Party. He was one of the few politicians at the time able to bring together Protestants and Catholics and those living in cities and rural communities.

After more than three decades of power, the Ontario Liberal Party was returned to opposition, but continued to hold the government of the day accountable on issues of social and economic importance, bringing forward many positive solutions to the problems facing Ontario's residents.

  Read: Act of Union 1840

The 20th CenturyMitch Hepburn to David Peterson

In 1930, under the leadership of Mitchell Hepburn, a farmer from Elgin County, the Ontario Liberal Party returned to prominence.

Elected Premier in 1934, Hepburn introduced strategies and programs designed to better the lives of all Ontarians under common Liberal values. He brought order to provincial finances and improved labour legislation. He is said to have regarded the compulsory pasteurization of milk as his greatest accomplishment.

Hepburn was followed briefly by two more Liberal premiers, Gordon Conant and Harry Nixon, who served until 1943.

What followed were long years in opposition until 1985 when, under the leadership of David Peterson, the party successfully brought down the Progressive Conservative government with support of the NDP in a coalition.

Premier Peterson was reelected to a second term, and supported improvements to healthcare, education and the environment, backed by responsible fiscal management.

  Read More: David Peterson

The McGuinty YearsThree Consecutive Terms

After a decade in Opposition, Ontario Liberals returned to power in 2003, under the leadership of Dalton McGuinty.

The McGuinty-led Ontario Liberals inherited a province deep in debt, with the public education and health systems struggling from years of neglect and much of the province's infrastructure in decay.

The McGuinty Liberals turned that around by bringing peace and stability to classrooms, shortening wait times in hospitals and making major investments to support and strengthen the economy.

On October 10 2007, Premier McGuinty and his Ontario Liberals won a consecutive majority government, the first Liberal Premier to achieve such success in 70 years.

Four years later, after providing strong, steady leadership during the worst global recession since the 1930s, continued improvement in health and education, protection of jobs and the creation of new jobs through investment and innovation, the McGuinty-led Liberals were elected to a third-consecutive term.

  Read More: Dalton McGuinty

The Way ForwardKathleen Wynne

After Premier McGuinty stepped down as leader, the Party held a leadership race and elected Kathleen Wynne as the new Ontario Liberal Leader, making her the 25th Premier of Ontario.

Today we continue on in the best tradition of the early party "whether investing in public health care to make wait times in Ontario the shortest in Canada, introducing the first full-day kindergarten to help both parents and students, or helping to make Ontario a North American leader in clean technology, attracting more, higher paying jobs for Ontario families.

The words of Liberal Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier a century ago ring true for Ontario Liberals today: "I am a liberal. I am one of those who think that everywhere in human beings, there are abuses to be reformed, new horizons to be opened up, and new forces to be developed."

Our team is hard at work to build a better, fairer Ontario.

  Read: Kathleen's Bio

Leaders of the Ontario Liberal Party

1857 to 2017.


George Brown 1857-1867

Archibald McKellar 1867-1868

Edward Blake 1868-1872

Sir Oliver Mowat 1872-1896

Arthur S. Hardy 1896-1899

Sir George William Ross 1899-1907

George P. Graham 1907

A.G. MacKay 1907-1911

Newton Wesley Rowell 1911-1917

William Proudfoot 1918-1919

Hartley Dewart 1919-1921

Wellington Hay 1922-1923

W.E.N. Sinclair 1923-1930

Mitchell Hepburn 1930-1942

Gordon Daniel Conant 1942-1943 (interim)

Harry Nixon 1943-1944

Mitchell Hepburn 1944-1945 (second time)

Farquhar Oliver 1945-1950

Walter Thomson 1950-1954

Farquhar Oliver 1954-1957 (second time)

John Wintermeyer 1957-1964

Andrew Thompson 1964-1967

Robert Nixon 1967-1976

Stuart Smith 1976-1982

David Peterson 1982-1990

Robert Nixon 1990-1991 (interim)

Murray Elston 1991 (interim)

Jim Bradley 1991-1992 (interim)

Lyn McLeod 1992-1996

Dalton McGuinty 1996-2013

Kathleen Wynne 2013-present