We have now moved on to our fourth premier of Nova Scotia. Over the course of the first decade of Nova Scotia, the province went through three premiers, which tends to be a lot in a decade.
Our fourth premier, Simon Holmes, took the province into the 1880s, tried to make major changes but was typically prevented from doing so.
So, let’s talk about Simon Holmes, the fourth premier of Nova Scotia!
Simon Hugh Holmes was born on July 30, 1831 in Springville, Nova Scotia. Holmes’ grandparents emigrated to Nova Scotia from Scotland in 1803 with their son John.
His father was John Holmes, who served in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly from 1836 to 1847, and from 1851 to 1855. He then served in the Legislative Council of Nova Scotia from 1858 to 1867. After Confederation, John Holmes was appointed to the Senate, serving until his death in 1876.
Needless to say, Holmes had a lot to live up to.
As a child, Holmes attended school in Springville and in 1849, moved on to attend Pictou Academy.
In 1858, Holmes founded the Colonial Standard, a paper he said was dedicated to the principles of true Conservatism. With his paper, Holmes advocated for Nova Scotia to join Confederation. Despite his ardent support of Confederation, his newspaper actually maintained a fairly balanced approach when it came to the Confederation question.
Once Nova Scotia joined Confederation in 1867, Holmes attempted to win a seat in the House of Assembly but the Anti-Confederation Party was too popular at the time.
Around this time, he also began studying law, and became an attorney on Aug. 9, 1864 and a barrister on April 10, 1865.
Holmes succeeded in winning a seat in the Legislature in 1871 and quickly became the de-facto leader of the Conservative opposition.
On Dec. 23, 1874, Holmes married Isabella Jane Little, with whom he had four daughters. One of his granddaughters actually married Robert Stanfield, another premier of Nova Scotia and Leader of the Opposition in Parliament during the 1960s and 1970s.
In the 1878 Nova Scotia general election, Holmes took his party to a resounding victory over the Liberals, gaining 19 seats to finish with 30, while the Liberals fell by 12 to finish with eight. Holmes was elected by acclamation in his riding, and there was an attempt to get an opposition to run against him but this failed.
Holmes was now premier of Nova Scotia, and he soon found that his work was cut out for him as the treasury was depleted from the years the Liberals were in power. The 1878 budget had been spent, as well as the $156,000 subsidy, and another $59,000 received from the federal government for railway stores.
As premier, Holmes passed legislation to create county governments, lengthened the training period for teachers, provided subsidized education for blind children and improved mine safety in the province.
The creation of a county system in 1879 was especially important as it lessened the financial burden for the government by making roads and bridges the responsibility of the municipal government.
Holmes stated in March 1879 that the revenue of the province, almost chiefly composed of the subsidy from the federal government, was insufficient to meet the requirements of the public service. At the time, he estimated the needful expenditure of the province to be at $600,000, but revenue from the current arrangement was only $450,000.
Through various measures, Holmes was able to decrease spending per capita from $10.03 to $5.65.
Unfortunately, the Upper House, which was dominated by Liberals, often frustrated Holmes with their efforts to block him. To deal with the Upper House, Holmes tried three times to abolish the Legislative Council, but failed each time.
As premier, Holmes was described as authoritarian, and that caused some in his own party to turn against him.
In 1882, a caucus revolt started against Holmes and on May 23 of that year, he resigned as premier and as an MLA. He cited ill health as his reason to resign.
He then took a position as a crown clerk in Halifax that paid quite well. He was making $3,000 per year, while also serving as the president of the Stewiacke Valley and Lansdowne Railway. He was later a promoter for the Midland Review.
By the turn of the 20th century, he was quite wealthy and he often entertained lavish dinners at his home.
On Oct. 14, 1919, at the age of 88, Holmes died in Halifax.
The next premier is John Sparrow David Thompson. I won’t be covering Thompson in the next episode though, as I covered him in the first season as prime minister. So I will be covering William Thomas Pipes, the sixth premier of Nova Scotia, instead.
Information from Canadian Encyclopedia, Biographi, Wikipedia, Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Daily Citizen,