William G. Davis: "My life is so well known that I can't think of anything secret to disclose."

"My life is so well known that I can't think of anything secret to disclose."

Directors don't exist simply to serve investors. The question with corporate governance is how you define shareholder rights and how far you go protecting them. Boards should also look out for employees and the communities in which the business operates. That may not be the popular view. But it is right.

I'm a lawyer, my father was a lawyer and one of my sons is a lawyer. I respect the profession. The bulk of the lawyer's practice does not usually relate to issues of public policy. I never had a boring day in 25 years as a politician.

My life is so well known that I can't think of anything secret to disclose.

Who: William Davis
Lives In: Toronto
Born: July 30, 1929, in Brampton, Ont.
Occupation: Lawyer, statesman, corporate director
Career Highlights:
1955: Called to the Ontario Bar as a graduate of U of T and Osgoode Hall. Practises for four years at his father's Brampton firm.
1959: Elected to the Ontario legislature after winning the Progressive Conservative nomination for Peel in December 1958.
1962: Named education minister. Creates the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, TVO and community college system.
1971: Elected fifth consecutive PC premier of Ontario; holds office for 14 years. Key role in 1982 Constitution Act.
1985: Retires from politics and serves as special envoy on acid rain. Currently, counsel for Torys LLP and director on six boards.

The majority of people in public life are first-class, so I take exception to growing cynicism with politics. I can also tell you not all the honest politicians I know are Progressive Conservatives, so you can be decent and philosophically misguided at the same time.

Belinda Stronach didn't ask for my advice. If she had, I'd have told her to sit as an independent.

Butter taught me my first lesson in economics. I spent a summer working for the son of our family doctor. He owned a dairy company in Brampton, and I helped make and wrap the butter. I could do 50 pounds in three minutes. One day, after wrapping several boxes in our regular wrapper, I was told to wrap more of the same butter in wrap with another brand name. That butter sold for 5¢ more per pound, which taught me you can make a little more in this world if you have the right label.

I don't know what Red Tory means. I'm Progressive Conservative. I believe government should take real responsibility for economic affairs while also accepting a real role when it comes to helping people in need and creating jobs.

New Democrats provide a conscience that is helpful to the political process. But they often have strong views about greater government participation in the economic process that can lead to a furtherance of social policy beyond economic means.

Liberals are historically perceived to have a greater social conscience than Conservatives. Looking back at my political years, I think my governments were as socially responsible as any Liberal you care to name.

As a kid, I aspired to do well in school. But I also wanted to play a lot of sports, particularly football. That led me to take what I called a graduate year at Brampton High. That fall, Brampton defeated Runnymede Collegiate, which was the highlight of my football career. And, when I later became Ontario's minister of education, nobody knew I'd taken two years to complete Grade 13.

John George Diefenbaker nearly terminated my political career before it really began. I got the provincial PC riding nomination for Peel in December of '58. I was following Thomas Laird Kennedy, a former premier and agriculture minister who had been a member since 1919. He died in February, and I soon discovered the great Tory machine was a friend of Tom Kennedy, not his replacement. Then, on Black Friday, Diefenbaker's government cancelled the Avro Arrow, which helped fire everyone at Avro in my riding. The vote, which should have been fairly comfortable, was only won by about 700 votes. Nevertheless, during Diefenbaker's last campaign as a leader, I was the only Ontario minister willing to stand on a platform with him. It was fun.

Tom Kennedy gave me the most memorable advice. “Billy,” he said, “always be humble, even if you don't feel like it. And remember, you never get into trouble for the speeches you don't make.”

I've never experienced withdrawal after politics. I spend time with my grandchildren that I wasn't able to spend with my children. And my five kids and their spouses have delivered me 12 grandchildren, so there is no time for withdrawal.

My wife and I had a very pleasant dinner to celebrate our 42nd anniversary. There was no football game on that night, but I briefly watched the Miami Heat defeat the Toronto Raptors, which is not what one should do on their anniversary.