11/16/2011 05:22 EST | Updated 01/16/2012 05:12 EST

Tom Kent Dead: Social Scientist Led The Kent Commission

OTTAWA - Tom Kent, who led a 1980 inquiry into newspaper ownership that was known as the Kent Commission, has died at the age of 89.

He was a journalist, public servant and an expert on public policy who was named a companion of the Order of Canada in 2001.

His son, Oliver Kent, says he died peacefully on Tuesday after a cardiac arrest following surgery.

Kent was born in Stafford, England in 1922, studied at Oxford and worked as a code-breaker at the top-secret Bletchley Park facility during the Second World War.

He worked as a journalist in Britain after the war and moved to Canada in 1954 to become editor of the Winnipeg Free Press.

He later served as a policy adviser to Liberal leader and later prime minister Lester Pearson and became a deputy minister in the Pearson government of the early 1960s.

The royal commission was established in response to growing concerns over concentration of ownership in the newspaper business. It was set up following the almost simultaneous closing of papers in Ottawa and Winnipeg which left newspaper monopolies in both cities.

His son said his father's real legacy was in public policy.

"Tom Kent was the architect of the Pearson-era social policy reforms that shaped modern Canada," he said.

After a catastrophic Liberal defeat in the 1958 federal election, Kent helped Pearson to rebuild the party.

He produced a paper on social policy for a key Liberal conference in 1960, which produced the blueprint for the party's next platform and subsequent political comeback.

The citation for his 2001 promotion in the Order of Canada called Kent "one of Canada's most illustrious political and social scientists."

"He has authored strong and independent-minded works, contributing ideas often neglected in the Canadian social policy debate," the citation went on. "Innovative and creative, he is held in the highest esteem by both academic and professional communities."

After completing his commission work, Kent moved to academia.

He was dean of administrative studies at Dalhousie University and founding editor of Policy Options magazine.

He became an adjunct professor at the School of Policy Studies at Queen’s University.

In retirement he wrote articles and papers on social policy issues.

He is survived by his wife, Phyllida, sons Duncan, Oliver and Andrew, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

A private memorial service is planned.