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Edward Schreyer was born on December 21, 1935 in Beausejour, Manitoba to John and Elizabeth (Gottfried) Schreyer. He was educated at Cromwell Public School and Beausejour Collegiate, where he subsequently taught in 1956-1967. He went on to study at United College and St. John’s College at the University of Manitoba, obtaining a Bachelor of Pedagogy in 1959, Bachelor of Arts in 1960, Bachelor of Education in 1962, followed by a Master of Arts in International Relations and a Master of Arts in Economics in 1963. In 1960, Schreyer married Lily Schulz with whom he has four children.
Schreyer was first elected to the Manitoba Legislative Assembly in 1958 at the age of twenty-two and was re-elected in the general elections of 1959 and 1962. From 1962 to 1965, he was concurrently on the staff of the Department of Political Science and International Relations at St. Paul's College, University of Manitoba. In June 1969, he was elected Leader of Manitoba NDP and the youngest Premier of Manitoba (1969-1977) at the age of 33. Schreyer's premiership oversaw the amalgamation of the city of Winnipeg with its suburbs, introduced public automobile insurance, and significantly reduced Medicare premiums, while implementing home care and pharmacare programs. During his terms as Premier, he served as Minister of Manitoba Hydro (1971-1977), where he was involved in numerous crucial decisions regarding environment assessment and analysis, energy management, and emissions control. He also served concurrently as Minister of Finance and Minister of Dominion-Provincial Relations (1972-1975). In 1975, he received a Governor-General Vanier Outstanding Young Canadian Award.
In 1979, Schreyer became the first Manitoban to be appointed Governor General of Canada (1979-1984). As Governor General, Schreyer was a champion for equal women’s rights, official bilingualism and environmental issues. Following his term as Governor General, Schreyer was appointed High Commissioner to Australia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands (1984-1988). In 1989 upon his return to Canada, Schreyer acted as a guest professor at universities across Canada and Europe, teaching classes on energy economics, environmental impact and resource geography.
Schreyer holds Honorary Degrees from the University of Manitoba, McGill University, Simon Fraser University, and Universite d’Ottawa. In 2002, Schreyer was appointed Chancellor of Brandon University (2002-2008). Schreyer is a recipient of numerous awards, medals and honours, such as: the Canadian Public Service Award, Ottawa (2001); the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012); and is Extraordinary Companion of the Order of Canada (2013). In addition, Schreyer has served as a chairman or director of several charities and institutions such as: the Canadian Shield Foundation; Habitat for Humanity Canada; the International Institute of Sustainable Development; the Winnipeg Library Foundation; and St. Boniface General Hospital.