Canada A Yearly Journey – 1883

Play episode
Hosted by

You can donate to Canadian History Ehx at

On Jan. 29, William Smithe would become the premier of British Columbia, succeeding over Robert Beaven. Smithe had come to British Columbia in 1862 to work as a farmer and would win a seat in the provincial legislature in the first provincial election. In 1875, he became the informal leader of the opposition before becoming the premier of the province. As premier, he would work with the federal government to get the railway and initiated several grants of public resources and land to entrepreneurs. He would serve as premier until 1887 when he died in office.

Oliver Mowat and William Meredith would once again go head-to-head in the Ontario election.

Mowat had conducted some gerrymandering in 1882 to improve the chances for the Liberals to win the election the following year.

The Conservatives also condemned the government for denying Catholics their share of patronage appointments. Mowat was also be hurt by the fact that his government did not neutralize the Crooks Act. This Act, passed in 1876, limited the granting of licences to municipal councils for the sale of alcohol.

The Montreal Gazette reported quote:

“The friends of Mr. Mowat are busy endeavouring to excite the alarm of the temperance people by pretending that such legislation will relax the restrictions imposed by the Crooks Act upon the liquor traffic. Nothing could be further from the actual position of the question.”

At the same time, Meredith attempted to win over the Catholics to the Conservatives, hence attacking the Liberals over the patronage appointments. Unfortunately, the Catholics decided to stay with the Liberals for the time being.

When the writ was dropped, it would bring about one of the briefest elections in Ontario history. The writ was dropped on Feb. 3, 1883, nomination day was the 20th and the election was a week after that. The Montreal Gazette reported quote:

“The Ontario Legislature has been dissolved and the writs for the new elections issued, nomination day being fixed for 20th instant and polling a week later. The campaign is thus made as brief as the law will permit. The suddenness of the appeal to the country will, however, occasion no surprise. Both parties have been preparing for the event for some time past.”

Mowat launched his campaign in January of 1883 with a huge convention in Toronto. He would present the case that it was a moment of crisis for Ontario and that the work the Liberals and Reformers had fought for over the course of 50 years was in danger of being destroyed by the federal government. He would tell the 6,000 delegates quote:

“The great evil we supposed had been corrected by the Confederate Act is rife and no we are no more free than before, as much under the heel of others as when this complaint was first made. Are the men of Ontario no less faithful in devotion to liberty than their fathers were? Or may Sir John A. Macdonald succeed where Sir Charles Metcalfe failed?”

In the Feb 27, 1883 election, the only one ever to be held in February, would see support for Mowat take a dip for the first time. Mowat and the Liberals lost nine seats in the Legislature, falling to 48 seats, while the Conservatives increased by eight to 37.

With a smaller majority, many saw this as the beginning of the end for Mowat. The Toronto Mail would report quote:

“Ontario has not decided as definitely as we had hoped that Mr. Mowat must go, but his going or staying is still a matter of reasonable doubt and may remain so till the meeting of the Legislature. Ontario has not overturned Mr. Mowat with decisive indignation but she has given him a most terrible warning.”

On Feb. 28, Fernand Rinfret was born in Montreal. He would go on to be elected the Parliament in 1920, serving until 1939. During that time, he served as the Secretary of State for Canada, and as the mayor of Montreal from 1932 to 1934.

On March 4, Sam Langford would be born in Nova Scotia. He would go on to become one of the greatest boxers to ever come from Canada, and is called the Greatest Fighter Nobody Knows by ESPN, and is considered by some to be the greatest fighter to ever live. Known as the Boston Bonecrusher, the Boston Terror and the Boston Tar Baby, he fought from lightweight to heavyweight, defeating many champions in each weight class. The Ring would rank him as the second greatest punchers of all time. BoxRec would rank him the third greatest heavyweight boxer of all-time, the ninth greatest pound-for-pound boxer and the greatest Canadian boxer. In 311 fights, he had 211 wins, 126 knockouts, 52 draws, seven no contests and 43 losses. By the 1940s, he was living in poverty and completely blind. His fans would raise $10,000 for him in 1944 and he would pass away in 1956.

On June 18, Francois Blanchet would pass away in Portland, Oregon. He had been born in Lower Canada in 1795 and would become a missionary priest for the Roman Catholic Church, helping to bring the Catholic Church presence to the Pacific Northwest after spending time at a seminary in Quebec before traveling to Oregon Country with Hudson’s Bay Company employees.

On June 22, John Bracken would be born in Ellisville, Ontario. The Bracken family had come from New York State following the War of 1812, and Bracken was named for the paternal great-grandfather who made that trip. After a move to Manitoba to serve as the president of the Manitoba Agricultural College, Bracken began a major survey of the farm conditions of Manitoba, which greatly raised his profile. During this time, he also wrote two books, Crop Production in Western Canada in 1920 and Dry Farming in Western Canada in 1921.

Bracken was an expert on agriculture in the province.

In 1922, the United Farmers of Manitoba were hoping to make progress after becoming a party in 1920. Expectations were low for the party, and they did not select a leader going into the election that year. For decades, the Conservatives and Liberals had alternated leadership of the province, and no one expected much from the United Farmers.

What happened instead was arguably one of the biggest upsets in Canadian electoral history. The UFM was opposed to partisanship and the party also endorsed candidates with the Progressive Association. Fielding candidates in only two-thirds of ridings, the United Farmers won 28 out of 55 seats, suddenly becoming the ruling party in the province with a majority government. This created a problem since the party didn’t have a leader, and as a result, there was no premier for the province. Several Members of Parliament turned down the offer to lead the party and the province, so the party looked to the man who was making a name for himself in the province, John Bracken.

On July 21, Bracken received a phone call at midnight asking him if he wanted to become premier. The caller was W.R. Clubb, a stranger to Bracken, and an MLA in the Legislature now.

Bracken at first refused, as he had no interest in politics, but after talking with his wife he decided that he should at least consider it. The next day Bracken was in a church basement being interviewed by the new United Farmers caucus. Bracken had gone from being a relative nobody, to the premier of the province in one day.

The choice of Bracken was well received in the province, as he was considered an outsider to the political establishment.

On Aug. 8, 1922, he became the 11th premier of Manitoba, a full two months before he was even elected to the Legislature. The United Farmers of Manitoba, which would govern as the Progressive Party of Manitoba, along with Bracken, would control provincial politics for the next two decades.

As premier, Bracken was conservative and cautious. Rural interests dominated the party and labour interests did not get a lot of sympathy from his government. He had little in the way of sympathy for the Winnipeg General Strike members from 1919, and he would fire several government workers to show that he was independent from organized labour. He would also make the repayment of the provincial debt a priority, which at the time he came to power was costing the province $3,500 a day in interest payments.

Throughout the 1920s, as leader, he would increase taxation, create the provincial income tax and he would lower spending in health, education and welfare. His government also created a censorship board to regulate movies, ended the prohibition on alcohol but mandated that alcohol had to be sold in provincially controlled outlets, and he created a pension plan for all citizens over the age of 70.

Bracken put special emphasis on industries such as mining, timber and fishing, while also putting a heavy focus on hydroelectric power. As part of his focus on industry, he would have the Hudson’s Bay Railway create a branch to Flin Flon in order to access the new copper and zinc mine located there. He would also influence the decision by his future political rival, William Lyon Mackenzie King, to give the Prairie Provinces control over Crown lands. As part of that, on July 15, 1930, Prime Minister King delivered a settlement cheque worth $4.7 million to the province, which would be worth $72 million today.

In 1931, as part of his focus on non-partisan, his party formed an alliance with the Liberal Party, and the two parties became one. In 1940, a wartime coalition government would be formed that included all the parties.

The new Liberal-Progressive Party increased their total seats under Bracken to 38, with the Opposition members shrinking to only 15.

In 1935, angry with the Conservative government of Prime Minister R.B. Bennett, he actively campaigned for the Liberals, calling for lower tariffs and an expansion of export markets.

By the time that Bracken left provincial politics, the Legislature had only five opposition members because of this focus on non-partisan politics. One of the most amazing facts about this coalition was that it outlasted the Second World War, continuing until 1950.

By 1942, Bracken was enough of a major political figure in Canada that the federal level was coming to him. Arthur Meighen, former prime minister of Canada, would ask him to take over leadership of the Conservative Party in 1942. He stated that he would seek leadership of the party, but only if it changed its name to the Progressive Conservative Party.

For the next three years, Bracken would serve as the leader of the Progressive Conservatives but despite the custom of running in a by-election in a safe riding after another MP stepped down, Bracken chose not to run in the House of Commons until after the 1945 election. In his diary, King would refer to Bracken as “The Absentee Leader”

Bracken would create the People’s Charter for the party, which would outline the principles of the party. Some of these included that every man had a right to a job, that farmers had a right to a fair share of the nation’s income, the right of every child and youth to equal opportunity for health, the right of every citizen to security against loss of income, and the right of future generations to a world of plenty and of peace.

In the 1945 election, the Progressive Conservatives finished with 67 seats, an increase of 29, but not near enough to topple Mackenzie King in his last election, when his party finished with 118 seats. In that election, Bracken ran in the Neepawa Riding, defeating his Liberal opponent who had represented the riding for the past 10 years.

The party was likely hurt by the promise that Bracken made to have conscription for the invasion of Japan. King had instead promised one division of volunteers to take part in the invasion, which was expected to be a years-long bloody campaign. The public was not keen on this idea. As it would turn out, Japan would be defeated only two months after the federal election thanks to the atomic bombs dropped by the United States, something Bracken would not have known was being planned, but King would have. Another major issue was the fact that Bracken did not go into the House of Commons for three years, greatly limiting his appeal. He also had a halting form of speaking, which many did not like, especially when hearing it on the radio.

On July 17, 1948, Bracken was pushed out of the party leadership and forced to resign, opening up the door for George Drew, the man who would lead the party for nearly a decade.

Following the end of his political career, Bracken would serve as the Chair for a Royal Commission on the liquor laws in Manitoba. In 1959, he was the chairman of the Box Car Commission, which would investigate the distribution of railway cars.

Bracken would be inducted in the Manitoba Agricultural Hall of Fame as well.

He then retired and spent his time in Ontario raising cows, ponies and horses. By all accounts, the last two decades of his life were happy years as he stayed out of the public eye, spending his days with his wife and his livestock.

Bracken would die on March 18, 1969.

On June 30, Albert James Smith would pass away. He was born in 1822 and would enter politics in 1852. He would be against New Brunswick joining Confederation and would become leader of the Anti-Confederates that won the 1865 election before being forced out. He would eventually come to terms with Confederation and serve in the government of Alexander Mackenzie in 1873 as the Minister of Fisheries, before becoming the Attorney General of Canada on a temporary basis.

On Aug. 7, Gordon Harrington would be born in Halifax. He would go to serve in the First World War. In 1925, he was elected to the Nova Scotia Legislature. He would serve as the 11th Premier of Nova Scotia from 1930 to 1933. He would retire from politics in 1937 and pass away in 1943.

On Aug. 14, James Cockburn would pass away in Ottawa. In 1861, he was elected to the legislative assembly as a reformer and would support Confederation as a Father of Confederation. He would become the first Speaker of the House of Commons, serving in that position from 1867 to 1874.

On Aug. 31, the Calgary Herald would publish its very first issue, publishing as The Calgary Herald, Mining and Ranch Advocate and General Advertiser. The newspaper exists to this day and has a weekday circulation of 107,000.

On Oct. 23, John Campbell resigned as Governor General. At the time, he realized that his life and marriage required him to resign as Governor General, he did so. He had served five of the six years normally required. It was not an easy decision. He would tell Prime Minister Macdonald quote:

“I should still like to stay here all my days.”

The Montreal Gazette reported quote:

“At eleven today, His Excellency the Governor General and Her Royal Highness the Princess Louise took their final departure from Ottawa. Large crowds cheered them on the way to the station where they bade farewell to the members of the Ministry and a large number of prominent citizens.”

For Princess Louise, her time in Canada had not always been happy but she would always express a fondness for Canadians.

Replacing him would be Henry Fitzmaurice. Upon his arrival in Quebec City, Fitzmaurice was greeted by Prime Minister John A. Macdonald and a cheering crowd of people. The Montreal Gazette reported quote:

“Sir John Macdonald also received a hearty salutation from Lord Lansdowne, who assured the veteran statesman of the pleasure it gave him to renew his acquaintance, made some years ago in London.”

Due to his Irish heritage, his appointment was unpopular with Catholic Irish residents of Canada. Sir John A. Macdonald was also concerned but would state upon meeting Fitzmaurice that he was quote:

“relieved that there was not a single sign of dissent to the cheers which rang along the train platform.”

Macdonald and Fitzmaurice would actually become close friends, often dining together at Rideau Hall.

On Nov. 18, Canada would adopt standard time. Standard time had been first adopted by British railways in 1847 but it was Sandford Fleming who would propose worldwide standard Time at a meeting of the Royal Canadian Institute in 1879. On this day, both the United States and Canada adjusted their clocks to reflect the new five-zone system.

On Nov. 30, James Gardiner would be born in Ontario. He would move to Saskatchewan and was first elected to the Legislature in 1914, serving in the Legislature for the next two decades of his life. He would become premier of the Saskatchewan in 1926, serving for three years until 1929. As premier, he would help pass the first legislation to provide free hospitalization and treatment of victims of tuberculosis anywhere in North America. He would serve as premier again from 1934 to 1935. In 1936, he would be elected to Parliament, serving until 1958.

He would pass away in 1962.

On Dec. 1, Regina officially becomes a town. It had been established as the territorial seat of government the previous year when the Lt. Governor of the North-West Territories, Edgar Dewdney, insisted on Regina over Battleford. Dewdney had land near the future CPR line at Pile-of-Bones, as Regina was called previously, and there was a conflict of interest in his decision to choose Regina as the site of the future seat of the government and it would become a scandal at the time.

Also this year, Augusta Stowe, the daughter of Emily Stowe, the first woman to practise medicine in Canada, would become the first woman to graduate from the Toronto Medical School. The Toronto Women’s Suffrage Association would from from the Literary Club, which was established in 1876. Nickel-copper ore was also discovered at Murray Mine in Sudbury during construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The discovery would transform the community and kick start its growth as a major municipality in Ontario.

Timothy Eaton would move his store to 190 Yonge Street this year. The store was innovative for several reasons. First, it had the largest plate-glass windows in Toronto, and the first electric lights ever installed in a Canadian store. In the three floors of retail space, there were 35 departments. Two years after the store opened, it would receive its first telephone with the number 370. In 1886, the store had the first elevator in a retail establishment in Toronto installed. The elevator actually helped with sales because only shoppers going up could use the elevator, and they needed to walk past several store displays before getting to the elevator.

Lastly, this year was the when Fort Walsh, the headquarters of the North West Mounted Police from 1878 to 1882, was officially closed and dismantled.

Liked it? Take a second to support CraigBaird on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!

Leave a Reply

More from this show

Canadian History Ehx

Recent posts

%d bloggers like this: