“Bland Works”

Phrase used by Ontario Premier Bill Davis (1971-85) – originally in response to a question from a journalist – to describe his political success and longevity, which he attributed to a stable, predictable (if unexciting) public image. Backed by the legendary Big Blue Machine, “bland works” helped lead the Progressive Conservatives to four straight victories under Davis. Yet his long tenure was hardly bland – Davis established Ontario’s college system, Canada’s first environment ministry & TV Ontario and played a pivotal role in patriating the constitution and passing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Though a PC, Davis was a pragmatist and highly attuned to public opinion, positioning himself as a centrist. He worked closely with union leaders, implemented rent control and stopped the Spadina Expressway. Many suggest that the “bland works” style gave Davis political cover to pursue an ambitious (but not ideological agenda) while remaining palatable to most Ontarians.

A quintessentially Canadian approach to politics; the mantra that “bland works” has rang true time and again. It helped lead Ontario’s longest serving premier since Davis, Dalton McGuinty, to three straight victories in 2003, 2007 and 2011. At the federal level “bland” has worked well for many of Canada’s longest tenured Prime Ministers, namely William Lyon Mackenzie King, Louis St-Laurent, Jean Chrétien and Stephen Harper.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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