Sterling Lyon, Manitoba’s premier from 1977 to 1981, died in Winnipeg Dec. 16 following a brief illness. He was 83.
A career public figure for over 40 years, Lyon was variously a lawyer, Crown attorney, MLA, attorney general, premier and opposition leader before becoming an Appeal Court judge.
His four-year term as premier was tumul tuous and controversial. But Lyon’s views and actions were driven by a strong sense of principle from which he never wavered, regardless of political fallout.
Born in Windsor, Ontario Jan. 30, 1927, Lyon grew up in Portage la Prairie. Briefly a newspaper reporter, he received a University of Manitoba law degree in 1953. He was first elected to the Manitoba legislature as a Progressive Conservative in 1958, becoming attorney general at 31 in the Duff Roblin government.
After running unsuccessfully for the federal Conservatives in 1974, Lyon was elected Manitoba PC leader in 1975. Two years later, his party defeated the NDP government of Ed Schreyer in a provincial election.
Lyon’s four years in office were marked by controversy over his antipathy to government deficits and his “acute, protracted restraint” approach to public spending. His sometimes confrontational style was cited as a reason for his party’s defeat in the 1981 election, giving Lyon the dubious distinction of being one of Manitoba’s few one-term premiers.
But while in office, Lyon made his mark on the national scene as a vigorous defender of legislative democracy. His insistence on parliamentary supremacy was a main factor for the inclusion of the notwithstanding clause in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
After retiring from politics, Lyon was appointed to the Manitoba Court of Appeal in 1986, retiring from the bench in 2002. He was appointed an officer of the Order of Canada in 2009.
In a statement, Premier Greg Selinger said that, with Lyon’s passing, “Manitoba has lost a true champion.”
Lyon is the second former premier Manitoba lost in 2010. Duff Roblin, under whom Lyon served early in his political career, passed away May 30 at the age of 92. [email protected]
– PREMIER GREG SELINGER