Izzy Asper

From Academic Kids

Israel "Izzy" Harold Asper, OC (August 11, 1932 - October 7, 2003), Canadian tax lawyer and media magnate, was the founder of CanWest Global Communications Corp.

Asper was born in Minnedosa, Manitoba, the son of musicians who had emigrated from Ukraine. In 1957 he received his Bachelor of law degree from the University of Manitoba, and was called to the bar shortly thereafter. He founded the firm of Asper, Freedman & Co. in 1959. In 1970 he wrote The Benson Iceberg: A critical analysis of the White Paper on Tax Reform in Canada.

Also in 1970, Asper was elected leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party (defeating university professor John Nesbitt). Asper represented a right-libertarian strain within the party. In the Manitoba election of 1973, he promoted a laissez-faire economy, and advocated the elimination of the welfare state. He also advocated the public financing of election campaigns, to ensure that politics would not be dominated entirely by monied interests. His Liberals won only five seats, and Asper was elected in Wolseley by only four votes. He resigned as party leader and MLA in 1975, though he continued to support the Manitoba Liberal Party in later years.

His media empire started with the Winnipeg television station CKND in 1975. CanWest grew to encompass the Global Television Network, the daily newspaper National Post and over 60 other Canadian newspapers.

Asper was noted for his fierce loyalty to Manitoba, refusing enticements to move east to Toronto. The faculty of management at the University of Manitoba renamed itself the Asper School of Business in 2000. He was also a noted philanthropist, making major donations to the arts and education; in 2001 he donated $5 million (Can) to the St. Boniface Hospital & Research Foundation in Winnipeg. Asper became an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1995.

He was a prominent member of Canada's Jewish community, and was well-known for his strong faith and support for Israel. While a Liberal in domestic Canadian politics his views in regards to Zionism coincided with the right wing Likud - he was an admirer of Vladimir Jabotinsky.

Asper would occasionally pen editorials defending the nation in his various papers and was accused by a number of media observers of censoring opinions critical of Zionism or which he deemed sympathetic to the Palestinians. He was also a critic of public broadcasting media, especially the CBC both for competing with the private sector as well as alleging that CBC News had a pro-Palestinian bias. Critics have accused Asper of simply attempting to eliminate competition to his business and political opinions. It is ironic that his last television interview before his death was to CBC journalist Evan Solomon.

Asper was also a close friend of many of Canada's prominent political and business elite, including Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin. He had three children, David, Leonard and Gail, all of whom became lawyers. Leonard is also currently the President and CEO of CanWest Global.

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