Someone once said that government, like life, is hard to sum up in a few words. Today we are honouring an individual whose life and exemplary career in the public service is exceedingly difficult to sum up in a few words. Throughout his long, varied and distinguished career in government, Bernard Ostry has contributed his ideas and energies to the shaping and implementation of public policy in many fields to the benefit of all Canadians.
He is probably best known as a passionate and persuasive advocate of the importance of government support to the arts. Such support is needed to promote and to maintain creative Canadian artistic expression. It is also crucial to ensure more widespread access for all segments of Canadian society to the enrichment opportunities represented by arts and cultural activities - a theme which Mr. Ostry explored with great lucidity and conviction in his seminar book The Cultural Connection published in 1978.
For more than four decades, Mr. Ostry has contributed to the shaping of Canada's and Ontario's broadcasting, cultural and industrial policies. Before 1968 he was an award winning producer and host for various programmes on CBC television. His commitment to a well informed public was reflected in his subsequent service with the Canadian Radio-Television Commission and then as a Commissioner of the Prime Minister's Task Force on Government Information.
From 1970 to 1980 he held a series of increasingly responsible public service position within the Government of Canada. From 1970-1973 he was Under Secretary in the Department of the Secretary of State, the lead department for the emerging role of the federal government in the broad field of cultural policy. He then became Deputy Minister and Chief Executive Officer of the National Museums Corporation, which managed six national museums. Beginning in 1978 he was Deputy Minister of Communication responsible for policy advice on emerging technologies like satellites, videotex and Telidon.
After a two year assignment in Europe, he returned to Canada in 1982 as Ontario's Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade responsible for the expansion of international trade offices, assistance to small business and the creation of six technological centres. Following a two year assignment as Deputy Minister of Citizenship and Culture, he became in 1985 the Chair and Chief Executive Officer of the Ontario Educational Communications Authority, more popularly known as TV Ontario. Under his leadership TV Ontario expanded its scope and gained an international reputation for quality programming. The network was extended to 96 percent of the population and a French language service reached 85 percent of the French speaking minority. On the programming side, six hundred international awards for programming were received during his seven years as C.E.O.
The foundation for this brilliant public service career began in western Canada. Bom in Wadena, Saskatchewan in 1927, Mr. Ostry received his early education in Winnipeg and received a B.A.(Honours) degree in History from the University of Manitoba in 1948. From 1948-1952 he did postgraduate work in history in England and with the late H.S. Ferns, he was the co-author of the provocative book The Age of Mackenzie King (1955). Throughout his career he has shared his informed opinions with a wider audience through hundreds of articles and speeches. He has also made an immense contribution as a member of numerous boards of directors. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1988.
It is appropriate at a time when Canada's public services are being widely critized and when govemments are reducing their support to the arts, that the University of Manitoba should honour Bernard Ostry. He is revising his important book The Cultural Connection and we look forward to an updated passionate defence of Canadian cultural sovereignty. We are pleased to honour Mr. Ostry for his past and future contributions to Canadian public life.