Monday, June 17, 2013

Robson Becomes Premier

The federal government didn't have many fans or friends in British Columbia in the late 1800s, just after the colony joined the confederation. But John Robson had made a favourable impression on the new government so in April of 1875, the man was appointed paymaster and purveyor for the engineering parties of the Canadian Pacific Railway survey in British Columbia with an annual salary of $3,000.

Robson was grateful to Prime Minister Alexander Mackenzie for freeing him from "the slavery of politics and editorial duties". However, Premier Amor De Cosmos accused Robson of favouring his friends with contracts. (In return for the Prime Minister's patronage, Robson acted as an unofficial informant for Mackenzie.) 

Conservatives considered Robson to be a"Grit" but he did work well with Conservatives such as William Smithe and John Andrew Mara. However, when Macdonald returned to power in 1878, Robson felt the change. Early the next year, the government abolished his position.
In October of 1880, Robson bought the New Westminster newspaper, Dominion Pacific Herald. This time, Robson didn't lay out a detailed plan on what he was going to do with the paper. Instead, he promised a "thoroughly independent journal" which would place "country before party" and promote "unity of action" in the province.

He renamed the paper the British Columbian in January of 1882 and later that year, Robson returned to the legislature as a member for the New Westminster District. In February a year later, John was appointed provincial secretary (a portfolio that included education), minister of finance and agriculture and minister of mines. When Premier William Smithe died in 1887, Alexander Edmund Batson Davie became leader of the province and he kept Robson in the cabinet though Simeon Duck took over finance and agriculture.

Robson acted as premier during Davie's long illness and when Davie passed away on August 1, 1889, the lieutenant governor asked Robson to form a new government, which the new premier did on August 3.

Premiers Smithe, Davie and Robson all shared the desire to work with the federal government. In the Herald, Robson had repeatedly attacked Premier George Anthony Walkem for fighting Ottawa. In May of 1883, he told the assembly that the province had "fought Canada for years and years" and had gotten "poorer and poorer"

As a cabinet minister and premier, Robson made many trips to Ottawa. He publicly referred to his trips as successful but by 1892, the delays in federal payments for the Esquimalt graving dock and other difficulties led him to question whether he might have to "adopt the Walkem 'fight Ottawa' policy".

 John Robson is now B.C.'s ninth premier. Wednesday, I will look at his career as premier. I hope you join me then.

Thanks goes again to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography website for the above information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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  1. Thank you. I am glad you are enjoying this look at what I consider to be a very interesting man.