Canada Year-By-Year: 1878

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As Canada entered its 11th year and second decade of existence, many important events, births and deaths would occur. Today, we continue our look at Canada through the years with 1878.

On Jan. 22, Ernest Drury would be born in Crown Hill, Ontario. He would go on to found the Ontario Liberal Party and become its leader. This would lead him to becoming the eighth premier of Ontario, serving from 1919 to 1923. Under his leadership, Ontario would introduce a minimum wage for women, a mandatory weekly day of rest, broaden workers compensation benefits, provide improved support for parents and children born out of wedlock, and he would allow for greater expansion of electrification of the province. He would also start the first major reforestation project in North America and, most importantly, he would arrange for a grant to be given to two unknown men named Frederick Banting and Charles Best, the two men who would go on to discovery insulin.

On Feb. 23, William Worman would pass away. He had served as mayor of Montreal from 1868 to 1871 after becoming one of the leading businessmen in the city through investments in railroads and banking.

On March 7, both the Universite de Montreal and the University of Western Ontario would be incorporated. The Universite de Montreal still exists to this day and counts government officials, academics and business leaders as alumni. Currently, there are 34,335 undergraduate and over 11,900 post-graduate students attending the school. Some of the most notable graduates of the university include former Governor General Michaelle Jean, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and Robert Bourassa, former premier of Quebec. As for the University of Western Ontario, which is in London, Ontario and sits on 455 hectares of land. Currently, it has 24,000 students and 306,000 living alumni worldwide. Notable alumni include Sir Frederick Banting, astronaut Roberta Bondar, and John Robarts, former premier of Ontario.

On March 8, Henri-Gustavo Joly de Lotbineire would become the premier of Quebec, serving as the fourth person in that post. He was appointed after the Lt. Governor of the province dismissed Conservative Charles Boucherville from his position as premier over proposed railway legislation. He then appointed Lotbiniere, a Liberal, as premier. His tenure would be brief though, from March 8, 1878 to Oct. 31, 1879. Later in his life, he would serve as the seventh Lt. Gov. Of British Columbia from 1900 to 1906. He would pass away in Quebec City in 1908. To date, he is the only foreign-born person and Protestant to serve as premier of Quebec.

On April 14, John Walter Jones was born in Prince Edward Island. He was instrumental in introducing potato crops to the island, which are now a staple of the economy there. In 1935, he received a medal from King Georg V for being the best farmer in the province. That same year, he was elected for the first time to the legislature as a Liberal. In 1943, he would become the 20th premier of the province. During his tenure, which lasted a decade, he would repeal the strict prohibition of the province. He would join the Senate of Canada in 1953, passing away one year later.

On May 1, since no party had a clear majority, an election was called and the Conservatives would win a slim minority government but Lotbineire was able to stay in power by forming a coalition with independents. He would be defeated in 1879 by the Conservatives though.

In June, the New Brunswick election was held only one month after John James Fraser had been appointed as premier of the province after George Edwin King resigned. He would lead his government to victory. While there were no party labels, 31 MLAs supported the government, while 10 formed the opposition.

On June 20, Seymour Farmer is born. He will go on to become the 30th mayor of Winnipeg, serving from 1923 to 1924, and eventually lead the Manitoba Co-operative Commonwealth Federation from 1935 to 1947. In all, he will serve in the Winnipeg Legislature from 1922 to 1949, passing away two years later.

On July 20, British Columbia would host its election only one month after George Walkem became premier of the province for the second time. Walkem would win the election and continue to serve as premier of the province until 1882.

On July 23, James Thomas Milton Anderson was born in Ontario. He would go on to become leader of the Conservative Party and find his way out to Saskatchewan. From 1929 to 1934, he was the premier of Saskatchewan despite accusation that he was closely tied with the KKK that operated in the province for a brief time at that point.

On Aug. 15, Thomas Laird Kennedy is born. He will go on to serve briefly as the 15th premier of Ontario. While he will serve in the legislature from 1919 to 1934, and from 1937 to 1959, he was only premier from Oct. 19, 1948 to May 4, 1949.

On Sept. 17, the federal election was held with Sir John A. Macdonald and his Conservatives going up against Alexander Mackenzie’s Liberals. This was a critical election as Macdonald had been forced to resign following the Pacific Scandal, relating to Conservatives taking money from deals related to the railroad. Unfortunately for Mackenzie, Canada had gone through an economic depression and the voters would punish his party for it. The policy of free trade supported by the Liberals was also not something many business owners in Toronto and Montreal agreed with. Macdonald and his party would return to office after being defeated five years before over the scandals. The party would see an increase of 69 seats to 134, while the Liberals would lose 66 seats, falling down to 63.

That same day, the Nova Scotia election was held with Simon Hugh Holmes and his Conservatives winning a majority over Philip Carteret Hill and the Liberals. Holmes would be the fourth premier of the province and would serve until 1882.

On Sept. 18, Billy Sherring was born in Hamilton. He would go on to become the winner of the marathon race at the 1906 Olympic Games, taking the gold medal. Thanks to his win, two townships in Ontario would be named for him. He then quit athletics immediately and spent the rest of his life working as a customs officer, until his death in 1942.

The changes in leaders, something this year had a lot of, would continue, this time in Manitoba. John Norquay would replace Robert Davis in November 1878, becoming the first premier of Manitoba to actually be born in the region that would become the province. He would survive the December election in Manitoba, barely winning his own seat. Nonetheless, he would continue to serve as premier for the next nine years in the province.

On Dec. 30, William Aberhart will be born. He would become the Premier of Alberta in a stunning upset in 1935. His government would be the world’s first Social Credit government, but it would not be without controversy. Nicknamed Bible Bill for his strong religious beliefs, he would enact strict alcohol laws and he would attempt to curtail freedom of the press. He would serve until his sudden death in 1943.

It was also in this year that British Columbia would succumb to Anti-Chinese racism when the provincial government officially banned Chinese workers from public works.

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