Monday, September 16, 2013

Being Brewster

Harlan Carey Brewster was busy with provincial activities but he couldn't ignore what was going on in the country around him. He demanded conscription of both manpower and wealth and endorsed the resolution of the Western Liberal Convention at Winnipeg in August of 1917. He believed that meant 'conscription - if necessary'. He gave the impression of not truly supporting the "Win the War Campaign". Brewster appeared to vacillate and anxious to avoid precipitating trouble. This gave him an image of poor leadership.

Brewster admired Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier, except for the man's views on conscription. However, Harlan was interested in entering the Union cabinet of Sir Robert Laird Borden. The Western Conservatives objected to his inclusion. Brewster did little in the Union government's election campaign and this led some to believe he was bitter about this rejection. He was ill though and that probably led to his lack of effort.

Brewster visited Ottawa during the formation of the Union government. He travelled there twice more to discuss the war effort and post war plans with Borden and other premiers. On all three occasions, Brewster pushed provincial interests. When he was returning from his third visit, Harlan developed lobar pneumonia. He was taken from the train to a hospital in Calgary where, on March 1, 1918, he died.

Harlan kept his private life private. He married Annie Lucinda Downie of Harvey Bank, N.B. on December 19, 1892. The couple were active in the First (Calvary) Baptist Church. In 1912, three weeks after giving birth to their fourth child, Annie died. Harlan was reportedly inconsolable. When Brewster died, his only son was serving overseas, one daughter was at college in Toronto and two others were at home. His estate, consisting of the family home and shares in a canning company, was valued at $22,775.00.
Brewster's bald head and portly figure inspired many cartoonists but he remains one of B.C.'s least known premiers. Historian Margaret A. Ormsby remarks that for "his integrity and fair mindedness, [he] commanded universal respect". This attitude reflects the sentiments of the obituaries, which noted that Brewster's premiership was "too short to allow him to develop the policies he had in mind". Contemporaries described him as a "faithful friend" and "a type of quiet-living, easy-going and upright business man". 

However, Brewster's greatest contribution to British Columbia history was in crystallizing opposition to the McBride-Bowser government. He wasn't that successful as premier though. He lacked the will, stamina and skills to assert himself. His term was marked by accusations of weak leadership, persistent unrest in the cabinet, caucus and constituencies - especially Vancouver - and constant rumours that one or another colleague was going to take over.

However, even a paper as unfriendly as the Kamloops Standard-Sentinel, could not find anything to taint his name or his reputation in his private life, business relations and public relations. That was high praise considering the scandals surrounding provincial politics at the time and his fractious colleagues.

Thanks to Patricia E. Roy and The Dictionary of Canadian Biography website for the above information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

, , , , , , ,,


  1. The graffiti wall reminds me of an emal I got about the pipeline. Apparently, people are at odds with the pipeline going from Canada into America. Kudos on another good piece.

    1. That graffiti is all over the place. I would pay more heed to these demonstrators if they weren't destroying public property and causing more work for others. Thanks for reading and commenting.