Premier Walter Weir
A Modest Short-Lived Premier
By George Siamandas
© George Siamandas
Walter weir was born in High Bluff Manitoba Jan 7 1929. He was schooled there and in Portage La Prairie. At age 24 he purchased a funeral business in Minnedosa. He had met wife “Tommy” a nurse from Saskatchewan, on a wiener roast blind date. They had four children. Weir became involved in the life of the community and served on the town council, the Hospital Board and the local Kinsmen Club.
In 1959 Weir became the local MLA in Duff Roblin’s Progressive Conservative govt. At age 32, in 1961 he became the youngest ever cabinet minister. Now responsible for Highways and helped connect many rural communities to hard paved roads.
As Roblin retired, Weir contested the Progressive Conservative leadership against Sterling Lyon, held Nov 25 1967, and won. Two days later Weir became Manitoba’s 15th premier.
WEIR THE MAN
Weir loved people was known for his warm friendly personality. Even his political opponents liked him. He never sought the limelight. He was a man of integrity. Weir had built trust with many of the province’s municipalities. Weir was a fiscal conservative who wanted to control govt spending and to hold down taxes. Weir would serve for only 27 months.
In 1969 New Democrats under Ed Schreyer won the first socialist victory in Manitoba. Neither a sore loser nor a hateful person, Weir served as opposition leader for a year and then left Manitoba for Missisuaga where he ran a national funeral firm. Some said that this man who had won four elections, lacked the toughness required to be premier or opposition leader.
MANITOBA PROPERTY ASSESSMENT REVIEW COMMITTEE
In 1979 Weir was asked to chair a review of the way property is assessed and taxed in Manitoba. It work would be one of his most significant achievements. Weir’s committee addressed the problem head on. It proved to be a revolutionary report in that it recommended that assessments be much more closely related to actual property values and not the archaic convoluted method that used outdated values. For a decade the City of Winnipeg ignored the recommendations and had to be literally dragged into this more modern and equitable system. The recommendations also wreaked havoc with farmers whose buildings had been hither-to underpaying taxes. There was a move to demolish any old building for fear of having it taxed.
One evening while Walter Weir was helping his wife Tommy with preserves in the kitchen, he suffered a heart attack and died on the way to hospital. Walter Weir died on April 17, 1985. He was only 56. A life cut short just as Weir was making an increasingly valuable contribution to Manitoba life.