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Alan William Pope (born August 2, 1945 in Ayr, Scotland) is a former politician in Ontario, Canada. He was a Progressive Conservative member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1977 to 1990, and served as a cabinet minister in the governments of Bill Davis and Frank Miller.
Pope was raised in northern Ontario, and was educated at Waterloo Lutheran University and Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. He worked as a barrister and solicitor before entering politics. Pope served as an alderman in the northern city of Timmins from 1973 to 1974.
He first ran for the Ontario legislature in the 1975 provincial election, but lost to Bill Ferrier of the NDP by 1,292 votes. He ran again in the 1977 provincial election, and defeated Ferrier by 2,276 votes. He was appointed as a parliamentary assistant in Davis's government in 1978, and was promoted to Minister without portfolio on August 30, 1979.
Easily re-elected in the 1981 provincial election, Pope was promoted again to Minister of Natural Resources on April 10, 1981. He served in this position for the remainder of the Davis administration's time in office. Pope was known for hating departmental bureaucracy, and took the initiative in opening several new provincial parks. He also made the controversial decision that mining, hunting and motorboats would be allowed on park grounds. In 1982, he decided that the MNR would not attempt to enforce jurisdiction over disputed rice cropland claimed by the Ardoch aboriginal group; to date, no subsequent Ontario government has attempted to claim the land.
Pope's position in the Progressive Conservative Party was somewhat unusual. He was on the left-wing of the party, and supported the interventionist policies of the Davis government. He was not a Red Tory, however, in that he was not a member or supporter of the party's Toronto-based establishment (commonly known as the "Big Blue Machine"). Pope was rather a populist, and sought greater power for the party's neglected local branches in northern, eastern, and southwestern Ontario. In this sense, his position in the provincial Progressive Conservatives was similar to John Diefenbaker's role in the federal party, a generation earlier.
In 1985, Pope was a prominent figure behind Frank Miller's campaign to succeed Davis as party leader. Many regarded his presence in Miller's camp as unusual, given that Miller's supporters tended to be older figures from the party's right-wing. Pope nonetheless proved an effective campaigner for Miller, compiling much-needed polling data and devising strategies for Miller's supporters at the party convention. Miller narrowly defeated Larry Grossman to become party leader, and Pope was promoted to Minister of Health on February 8, 1985.
It was under Frank Miller's leadership, however, that the Progressive Conservative Party lost its 42-year grip on power. Miller was reduced to a fragile minority government in the 1985 provincial election, and proved unable to sustain his party in power. Pope was named Attorney General of Ontario in a post-election shuffle on May 17, 1985, but did little of significance before Miller's government was defeated in the house by the Liberals and NDP. He resigned his portfolio on June 26, 1985, and moved into the opposition benches.
Pope ran to succeed Miller as Tory leader in the November 1985 Progressive Conservative leadership convention. His campaign was weaker than expected, however, and he was forced on the defensive when one of his workers was caught polling party members at to whether religion would make a difference in the leadership race. This was seen by some as a reference to Larry Grossman's Jewish background, and Pope made a public apology. He also broke with John Thompson, his first campaign manager, fairly early in the race.
Pope's performance at the November leadership convention was nonetheless dramatic, and looked forward to future leadership speeches by figures such as Jim Flaherty: he delivered a rousing speech surrounded by his "grass roots" delegates on the convention floor, rather from than the podium. Pope also tried to portray himself as a unifying figure in the party, noting that the animosity between frontrunners Grossman and Dennis Timbrell was threatening to tear the party asunder (one of his campaign buttons read, "Don't take sides, take Pope".) In spite of such efforts, he finished a weak third on the first ballot and was dropped from the race. Many believe that Pope could have given Timbrell a second-ballot victory by endorsing him; he remained silent, however, and allowed Grossman to defeat Timbrell by a mere 19 votes.
Pope had a poor relationship with Grossman, and was not given a critic's portfolio after the convention. He resumed his law practice in Timmins while still an MPP, and spent two days a week away from the legislature. He nonetheless ran for re-election in the 1987 provincial election, and retained his seat. The Progressive Conservatives under Grossman were resoundingly defeated in this election, leaving Pope as one of only 16 Tory MPPs (out of 130 seats) in the parliament which followed.
Pope was not given a critic's portfolio in this parliament, and did not play a prominent role in the party's affairs. He decided not to run for the leadership again in 1990, and did not campaign in the 1990 provincial election.
Although Pope's anti-establishment rhetoric and populism foreshadowed Mike Harris's tenure as party leader, the two men were ideological opposites. In 1997, Pope made headlines when he publicly criticized Premier Harris, accusing the government of demonizing teachers and supporting the teachers' strike against Harris's Bill 160 (the "Education Quality Improvement Act") which removed the ability of collective bargaining agreements to regulate working conditions for teachers, introduced teacher testing and allowed the government to increase class sizes and reduce preparation time.
In 1999, Pope was part of a commission examining land claims by the Caldwell First Nation in the Chatham—Kent region of southwestern Ontario. The commission reported serious concerns with the accord that was negotiated in secret been this group and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
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