As Premier of Ontario from 1923 to 1930, G. Howard Ferguson was the most successful, the most colourful, and perhaps the ablest of Canadian politicians of his time. Largely as a result of his leadership, the Ontario Tories emerged from the debacle of their 1919 defeat to eliminate virtually all political opposition -- and launch the Conservative dynasty in Ontario. Peter Oliver's study of Ferguson's life and times provides both a revealing picture of a political professional of driving ambition and rare talent and a commentary on a largely rural society dealing with the challengers of industrialization and urbanization.
Ferguson embodied the values and aspirations of Old Ontario. Although he placed himself in the vanguard of what the men of the day regarded as progress, he also loved what was familiar and stable in the community around him. His life offers an intimate view of Orange, imperialist, and Tory Ontario at its height, yet already challenged by the freedoms and complexities of a newer day. The Ontario past was not entirely eclipsed in the confrontation, however, and Ferguson helped to carry some of the strengths of the past, and some of the weaknesses as well, into the future. His life demonstrates the remarkable resilience and skill of a politician who responded to events he was able to understand only partially yet who survived and finally triumphed.