Craig Oliver (1938-)

Craig Oliver
Craig Oliver

Year Born: 1938

Year of Induction: 1995

Pioneer – Member of CAB Hall of Fame

Oliver, Craig (1938- )

Craig Oliver was born in Vancouver in 1938, and grew up in Prince Rupert, where he attended Booth Memorial High School. His first move into broadcasting came when, instead of graduating, he left school in 1957 to take a job at the local CFPR-AM radio station, a CBC-owned affiliate. In 1959 he moved to Regina, as the legislative reporter for CBC Radio, while taking night classes in history and English at the University of Saskatchewan Regina Campus.

In 1965 he moved to Winnipeg, where he worked for the CBC for three years as well as continuing his studies, before returning to Regina as CBC’s national correspondent for the Prairies. He later became executive producer of regional CBC television news in Ontario.

Craig was hired by CTV in 1972 to produce the network’s new daily morning show, Canada AM. Within a year, he had become Assistant Director of News and Current Affairs, later becoming Director. In 1975 he moved to Ottawa as CTV’s Bureau Manager; while in Ottawa he made valuable political contacts, which included a personal friendship with Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau. In 1981 Craig was moved to the U.S. to become CTV’s Washington Bureau Chief and political correspondent, a position he held until 1988. During his stay there he travelled extensively, including making a trip with President Ronald Reagan for a summit conference with Mikhail Gorbachev.

In 1988, Craig returned to his old job as CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief, and was soon to succeed Pamela Wallin as the host of the network’s long-running Question Period series. There, his provocative, direct questioning style put exciting new life into the series, yet the relationships he had formed over the years with politicians of all stripes meant that the program was never at a loss for guests willing to appear.

Since 1957 Craig has covered every national election in one capacity or another, and in the 21st century he became a regular co-host with Lloyd Robertson of CTV’s national election coverage.

Craig’s outstanding talents as a newsman, journalist, reporter and interviewer gained him many accolades. In 1994, he received two Gemini Awards from the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, one for Best Reportage and the other – the Gordon Sinclair Award – for Best Overall Broadcast Journalism and in the same year was honoured with the Radio and Television News Directors’ Association’s (RTNDA) President’s Award, for bringing distinction to broadcast journalism.

In 1995 he was inducted into the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Hall of Fame. In 2001, the CAB honoured Craig yet again, this time by making him the recipient of the Association’s Gold Ribbon for Broadcast Excellence, describing him as “Dedicated, tireless, hard-working, respected: a consummate professional from small-town Canada.” Then in 2002, the Canadian National Press Gallery gave Craig the Charles Lynch Award, for outstanding coverage of national issues.

A little-known fact about Craig emerged late in his career. At the age of 35, he was diagnosed with glaucoma, and was eventually declared to be legally blind, but he did not let this impairment inhibit his commitment to his career. In 2008, when he marked his 70th birthday, Craig hosted a dinner to raise funds for the University of Ottawa Eye Institute, and created a new ophthalmology fellowship, named after Dr. W. Bruce Jackson, a former director of the Institute.

On June 5th, 2009, Craig Oliver was made an honorary Doctor of Laws by the University of Regina.

On June 24th 2012,  Craig Oliver announced that he was stepping back from his hosting duties on Question Period, which he had been sharing with Kevin Newman, but was looking forward to new and exciting challenges. Craig, who was CTV’s chief political correspondent,said that he would continue to appear on the weekly public affairs program as a panel member. He would also serve as a political analyst and commentator for CTV News.

Oliver cited a desire to “know what it’s like to sleep in on the weekends,” as his reason for stepping down. But viewers continued to see him on Question Period, which was renewed for the 2012-13 season.

In November 2012, Craig Oliver was invested as an Officer of the Order of Canada.  The citation read: “Craig Oliver is one of Canada’s most respected and recognized political journalists. A reporter and television host for more than 55 years, he has covered major political events and news stories, interpreting and explaining key issues of the day with insight, candour and skill. Having lost his sight as a result of glaucoma, he serves as an inspiration to visually impaired persons, and has been a devoted supporter of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and the Ottawa Eye Institute.”

The Toronto Press and Media Club inducted Craig Oliver into their Canadian News Hall of Fame at a gala banquet on October 15th 2014.

Written by Pip Wedge