Memorable Manitobans: Mitchell William Sharp (1911-2004)
Economist, Member of Parliament.
Born in the Rural Municipality of Rosser on 11 May 1911, son of Thomas Sharp (1886-1969) and Elizabeth Little (1888-?), his initial years were spent at 1674 Elgin Avenue West in Brooklands (1911-?) and 466 Toronto Street (1915-1916) and 583 Furby Street (1921) in Winnipeg. He was educated at Linwood School and in the Winnipeg School Division. He received an Isbister Scholarship (1933) and completed post-graduate studies at the University of Manitoba (BA 1934) and the London School of Economics. During this time, he supported himself by writing on the grain trade as an staff employee of the statistics firm of W. Sanford Evans (Sanford Evans Statistical Service) and as an economist (1938-1942) with James Ritchardson and Sons Limited. While attending university, he met Margaret Anna Anderson “Daisy” Boyd (c1906-1975, daughter of John Boyd) around 1933 and married her at the St. James United Church on 23 April 1938. They had one natural son, as well as a British Home Child temporary ward, Lawrence Holden, who lived with them in Canada amid The Blitz on his London (England) home in Second World War. He would remarry twice more, in 1976 to Jeannette Dugal (c1921-1998), and in 2001 to Jeanne d’Arc Labrecque.
His lengthy career in public service began in January 1942 with the Department of Finance. He was promoted to Assistant to the Deputy Minister (1946-1947) before accepting the job as the director of the Department of Finance’s Economic Policy Division. From 1951 to 1957, he was the Associate Deputy Minister of Trade and Commerce, responsible for international trade relations. He then served a short term as the Deputy Minister of Trade and Commerce.
In 1963, he was elected as a Member of Parliament representing Eglinton (Ontario). He was given the portfolio of Minister of Trade and Commerce. From 1965 through 1968, he was the Minister of Finance. He started the practice of Finance Ministers presenting budgets wearing new shoes, in 1966. Other ministerial positions included Secretary of State for External Affairs (1968-1974), President of the Privy Council (1974-1978), Leader of the Government in the House of Commons (1974-1978), and was Acting Prime Minister of Canada on several occasions during the 1960s and 1970s. He resigned as a parliamentarian in 1978.
He re-entered the private sector as the commissioner of the Northern Pipeline Agency from 1978 until 1988. He served as a co-chairman of a task force on conflict of interest and published a report on ethical conduct in the public service in 1984. Other posts included head of the Canadian group and deputy chairman of the Trilateral Commission (1976 to 1986). From 1988 through 1993, he served as a policy associate with Strategion. He was a personal adviser to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien from 1993 to 2003, a job for which he was paid $1 a year.
For his contributions, he was invested to the Order of Canada as an Officer (1984) and Companion (1999), a recipient of the Canadian Centennial Medal (1967), Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal (1977), 125th Anniversary of Canadian Confederation Medal (1992), and Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal (2002), and was given Honourary Doctor of Law degrees by the University of Manitoba (1965), University of Western Ontario (1977), Carleton University (1994), and McMaster University (1995).
On 22 February 2004, he fell and broke his collarbone in his home. He was taken to an Ottawa hospital where he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer, which claimed his life on 19 March 2004. He was buried at Ottawa.
Birth and marriage registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
1916 Canada census, Library and Archives Canada.
1901 & 1911 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.
1921 Canada census, Ancestry.
Attestation papers [Thomas Sharp], Canadian Expeditionary Force, Library and Archives Canada.
“Results of Toronto Conservatory examinations are announced,” Manitoba Free Press, 26 July 1924, page 19.
“Isbister scholarship winners,” Winnipeg Evening Tribune, 19 May 1933, page 7.
“Sharp-Boyd,” Winnipeg Free Press, 3 May 1938, page 9.
“Wed in church manse,” Winnipeg Tribune, 30 April 1938, page 13.
“To Ottawa,” Winnipeg Tribune, 5 January 1942, page 14.
“Changes made in Finance Department,” Winnipeg Tribune, 6 June 1946, page 11.
“Grain pact,” Winnipeg Free Press, 19 June 1946, page 4.
“Mourners pay last respects,” Winnipeg Free Press, 4 January 1968, page 8.
“Sharp's father dies,” Winnipeg Free Press, 25 March 1969, page 41.
Obituary [Thomas Sharp, MM], Winnipeg Free Press, 29 March 1969, page 35.
“No Crisis: Sharp,” Winnipeg Free Press, 16 April 1970, page 8.
“Wage Probe launched,” Winnipeg Free Press, 16 June 1970, page 5.
“Trudeau off for holiday,” Winnipeg Free Press, 24 August 1970, page 6.
“Powers swap queried,” Winnipeg Free Press, 12 January 1971, page 56.
“Mrs. Mitchell Sharp buried in Ottawa,” Winnipeg Free Press, 7 July 1975, page 4.
Obituary [Jeannette Dugal Sharp], Globe and Mail, 2 March 1998.
““Mitchell Sharp dies at 92,” Globe and Mail, 20 March 2004.
Biographical profile of M. W. Sharp, PARLINFO.
Mitchell Sharp, Which Reminds Me ... A Memoir, University of Toronto Press, 1994.
Honours - Recipients, The Honourable Mitchell Sharp, P.C., C.C., B.A., The Governor General of Canada.
Honorary Degree Recipients, University of Manitoba.
Honorary Degrees Awarded - 1881-present, The University of Western Ontario.
Honorary Degrees Awarded since 1954, Carleton University.
Honorary Degree Recipients, McMaster University.
Page revised: 9 October 2020