Reg Alcock

Reg Alcock

Infobox CanadianMP
name=The Honourable
Reginald B. Alcock

term_start=1993 election
term_end=2006 election
predecessor= Dorothy Dobbie
successor= Rod Bruinooge
birth_date=birth date and age | 1948|04|16
profession= Businessman, consultant, politician
party colour=Liberal
riding=Winnipeg South
spouse=Karen Arras|

Reginald B. Alcock, PC (born April 16, 1948) is a Canadian politician. He represented the riding of Winnipeg South in the Canadian House of Commons from 1993 to 2006, and was a cabinet minister in the government of Prime Minister Paul Martin. Alcock is a member of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Early life and career

Alcock was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Simon Fraser University and a Master's Degree in Public Administration from Harvard University. He was the director of Manitoba Child and Family Services from 1983 to 1985, and in this capacity spearheaded an effort to rewrite the province's child protection legislation. As a result of his efforts, Manitoba became the first province in Canada to introduce official protocols to deal with instances of child sex abuse. [Reg Alcock, official biographical sketch, 2006 campaign material.] Alcock has also been active with the Harvard Policy Group, which studies the effects of Information Technology on the public sector. He began his political career at the provincial level, working as an organizer for the Manitoba Liberal Party in the early 1980s. [Paul Samyn, "Doer, Alcock crusaders again", "Winnipeg Free Press", 11 April 2005, A7.]

Alcock was elected for the Winnipeg constituency of Osborne in the 1988 provincial election, in which the Manitoba Liberal Party rose from one seat to twenty under the leadership of Sharon Carstairs. He subsequently worked as campaign manager for high-profile Liberal incumbent Lloyd Axworthy in the 1988 federal election. [Derek Ferguson, "Liberal gains no fluke", "Toronto Star", 23 November 1988, A21.] Alcock served in the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba as Official Opposition house leader and finance critic, and was re-elected in the 1990 provincial election despite a vote shift against his party. He endorsed Jean Chrétien's bid to lead the federal Liberal Party in 1990, [Paul Samyn, "Alcock wants PM to retire early", "Winnipeg Free Press", 18 December 2002.] and declared his own intention to enter federal politics in 1992. [John Dafoe, "Post-referendum populism turns into lassitude in the West", "Globe and Mail", 21 November 1992, D2.]

Alcock won the Liberal nomination for Winnipeg South in early 1993, defeating rival candidate Linda Asper by only five votes on the third ballot. [Jim Carr, "Ready for a fight", "Winnipeg Free Press", 25 March 1993, Editorial. Asper later attempted to challenge the results, and subsequently left the Liberal Party.] He won a convincing victory over incumbent Progressive Conservative MP Dorothy Dobbie in the 1993 federal election, and entered parliament as a government backbencher.

Government backbencher

Alcock soon developed a reputation as one of the most technologically savvy members of parliament. In 1994, he became the first MP to electronically coordinate his parliamentary office from his riding instead of relying on permanent staff in Ottawa. [John Douglas, "MP is wired for politics", "Winnipeg Free Press", 2 May 1994, City Page. Reform Party MP Stephen Harper said that many in his party were trying to adapt similar systems.] The following year, he became the first Canadian MP to launch an official website. ["Manitoba lawmaker enters cyberspace", "Associated Press Political Service", 19 April 1995.] He was appointed to the standing committee on foreign affairs and international trade in 1995, ["Alcock named to powerful panel Staff", "Winnipeg Free Press", 9 February 1995, Canadian Wire Stories.] and was named chair of the standing committee on transport in 1997. [Dan Lett, "Two Winnipeg Liberal MPs move up power structure", "Winnipeg Free Press", 5 March 1996, A5.]

The Chrétien government called a new federal election in the summer of 1997, only three-and-a-half years into a five-year mandate. The election timing was controversial in Manitoba, as it coincided with significant flooding from the Red River into Winnipeg. Alcock, along with other Manitoba Liberal MPs, requested a delay until the flooding was under control. [Dan Lett, "MPs want vote delayed", "Winnipeg Free Press", 15 April 1997.] When Chrétien called the election anyway, Alcock transformed his campaign office into a volunteer relief centre. [Bud Robertson, "Politicians unite against flood", "Winnipeg Free Press", 29 April 1997, A7.] He was personally involved in sandbagging and evacuation efforts, and did not actively campaign for the first period of the election. He was nonetheless returned by a significant margin. [Tim Harper, "McDonough says election call 'insensitive'", "Toronto Star", 29 April 1997, A11.] From 1998 to 2000, he served as parliamentary secretary to the President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. In 1998, Alcock brought forward a private member's bill to overturn Louis Riel's conviction for high treason and recognize him as a Father of Confederation. [Paul Samyn, "MPs eye clean slate for Riel", "Winnipeg Free Press", 17 March 1998, A1.]

There were frequent rumours that Alcock would be appointed to the Chrétien cabinet, but he was passed over on more than one occasion. His professional relationship with Chrétien deteriorated after 2000, and in 2002 he became the primary Manitoba organizer for Paul Martin's bid to replace Chrétien as party leader. ["Winnipeg voters love Martin", "Winnipeg Free Press", 18 June 2002, A1.] Later in the same year, he became one of the first Liberal MPs to openly call for Chrétien's resignation. [Anne Dawson, "16 Liberal MPs willing to declare PM should resign", "National Post", 25 July 2002, A01.] Alcock increased his public profile in 2003, after chairing a committee which forced privacy commissioner George Radwanski to resign from office after revelations of extremely lax spending habits. ["Radwanski quits under pressure", "Kitchener-Waterloo Record", 24 June 2003, A1.]

Cabinet minister

When Paul Martin became Prime Minister of Canada on December 12, 2003, Alcock was appointed to cabinet as President of the Treasury Board, Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, and political minister responsible for Manitoba. He was also named to the government's priorities and planning committee (described as the "inner circle" of cabinet) ["New PM names 15 to inner circle", "National Post", 13 December 2003, A4.] and was appointed chair of a cabinet committee which conducted a comprehensive review of government spending. [Darren Yourk, "Ottawa freezes capital spending",, 16 December 2003, Breaking News.]


As president of the Treasury Board, Alcock was responsible for overseeing the Canadian civil service and the spending details of government agencies. He also played a prominent role in coordinating the Martin government's response to the federal sponsorship scandal, in which some public monies were misappropriated by bureaucrats and advertising agents in Quebec with ties to the Liberal Party. ["Tory hopes to slay Grit giant", "Winnipeg Free Press", 12 June 2004, A13.] Alcock announced a new appointment process for crown corporation executives in 2004, ["President of the Treasury Board Announces New Appointment Process", "Canada NewsWire", 15 March 2004, 13:45 report.] and the following year issued a new policy of management control for government agencies. He argued that these reforms would prevent similar scandals from occurring in the future. [Campbell Clark, "Liberals to unveil new bureaucratic controls", "Globe and Mail", 26 October 2005, A4.] One of his more notable initiatives was the establishment of a Chief Audit Executive for each government department and agency. [Peter Larson, "Gomery: The cure may be worse than the disease", "Toronto Star", 14 November 2005, A17.] He brought forward a total of 158 separate reforms for the public service in late 2005, and promised that another eighty would follow. Critics considered this to be excessive, and some suggested that Alcock was micro-managing his department. ["Harper hints at easing up on rules", "Hamilton Spectator", 24 March 2006, A17.]

Alcock also released a comprehensive proposal for reforming Canada's regulatory system in March 2005. He argued that his reforms would reduce delays for patent drug approval, and avoid the duplication of existing foreign research without compromising safety standards. [Paul Vieira, "Alcock aims to put new rules into regulation", "National Post", 26 March 2005, FP3.] Critics of the plan suggested that it could jeopardize Canadian sovereignty, and lead to the adoption of American regulatory standards. ["Loss of sovereignty feared over 'smart regulation'", "Winnipeg Free Press", 28 March 2005, A10.]

In February 2004, a national newspaper identified Alcock as a leading cabinet supporter of private-public partnerships. [Bill Curry, "Liberals building a case for privatizing", "National Post", 9 February 2004, A1.]


In early 2005, Alcock publicly criticized his government's position against the legalization of marijuana. He argued that legalization and government oversight would be an improvement over the current system, and said "If we actually wanted to break the back of organized crime, we would be better off to control it. When you have these things underground, what you end up fuelling is organized crime." ["Alcock at odds with party over pot", "Winnipeg Free Press", 5 March 2005, B4.]

He became involved in a minor controversy in May 2005, after Manitoba Conservative MP Inky Mark alleged that the Liberal government had tried to bribe him a patronage appointment. Alcock categorically denied that any such offer was made, and joked that his party would likely go "a little higher up in the gene pool" if it had such intentions. Mark initially dismissed the insult, but later held a press conference to denounce it as racist, interpreting the "gene pool" comment as referring to the fact that he is Chinese-Canadian. Alcock responded by saying, "I did make the comment and he has chosen to interpret it as a racial or an ethnic slur. I wrote him a letter apologizing for that. There was no implication of that sort". [Allison Dunfield, "Alcock apologizes to Tories", "Globe and Mail", 5 May 2005, Front Page, and Gloria Galloway, "Honourable members hurl racial slurs, gibes and a lawsuit", "Globe and Mail", 6 May 2005, A4.] The "National Post" newspaper ran an editorial stating that Alcock was "clearly casting aspersions on Mr. Mark's intelligence -- not his ethnic background". ["Time to end 'racist' name-calling", "National Post", 7 May 2005, A20.] The controversy soon disappeared.

2006 election

Alcock was unexpectedly defeated in the 2006 federal election, losing a rematch to Conservative Rod Bruinooge by just over 100 votes in Winnipeg South. He took personal responsibility for the loss, and acknowledged that he did not spend enough time campaigning in his own riding, as he had been campaigning for other Liberal candidates in other ridings. Alcock also said that being the government's point man for the sponsorship scandal did not help his electoral prospects, although he defended his government's actions. [ [ "Alcock unseated by Conservative in Winnipeg South", CBC News] , 3:10 Report, 24 January 2006.]

One of Alcock's final acts in office was to approve a payment of up to $40,000 to assist Jean Pelletier with legal fees in a court challenge against the Gomery Commission. Representatives of other parties criticized this payment, saying that the government should only cover legal costs for working civil servants. Pelletier's lawyer argued that it followed a long-standing government policy for high-ranking functionaries in judicial proceedings. [Tu Thanh Ha, "Treasury Board to review legal-fees offer to Pelletier", "Globe and Mail", 26 April 2006, A10.]

Out of parliament

In March 2006, Alcock announced that he would support Belinda Stronach if she entered the campaign to succeed Paul Martin as Liberal leader. ["Stronach gets veteran's support for an undeclared leadership bid", "National Post", 4 March 2006, A6.] Stronach announced in early April that she would not be a candidate. Several of members of Alcock's political organization later worked for Ken Dryden's campaign, and Alcock himself endorsed Dryden at the leadership convention. [Paul Samyn, "Dryden's team trails in score", "Winnipeg Free Press", 8 October 2006, A1.] Dryden dropped off after the second ballot and endorsed Bob Rae and then eventual winner Stéphane Dion.

In January 2007, Alcock was appointed to the faculty of the University of Manitoba as an executive in residence at the I.H. Asper School of Business. ["U of M adds Alcock to faculty", "Winnipeg Free Press", 31 January 2007.] He was also appointed as a Research Affiliate with the Leadership Network at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He decided not to contest the next election, and John Loewen has been nominated to replace him.


*In September 2005, Alcock donated an original painting entitled, "The view from my seat in the House of Commons, May 19, 6:10 p.m.", to a charity auction in Winnipeg. The work, a parody of Edvard Munch's The Scream, depicted Alcock's impression of the opposition Conservative caucus moments after the Liberals won a crucial confidence vote that could have forced early elections. Alcock acknowledged that the painting was mostly traced. It sold for $2,200. [Jane Taber, "Alcock rises to the artistic challenge", "Globe and Mail", 1 October 2005, A4.]

*Alcock has suffered weight-related health problems during his political career, once weighing in at 430 pounds. Facing the prospect of severe diabetes, he was ordered to lose almost half of his body weight. He was down to 295 pounds by the 2006 election. [ [ John Ivison, "Losing the election was 'my own damn fault'"] , "National Post", 26 January 2006, online edition.]

Table of offices held

External links

* [ How'd They Vote?: Reg Alcock's voting history and quotes]
* [ Federal Political Biography from the Library of Parliament]

Electoral record

All electoral information is taken from Elections Canada and Elections Manitoba. Italicized expenditures refer to submitted totals, and are presented when the final reviewed totals are not available.


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