Wednesday, September 25, 2013

From Farmer to Premier

Cincinnati street cars in 1913.
1928 taxicab strike in New York.

Harris and Ewing took this photo of an old general store in 1917 or 1918.

This photo, taken between 1910 and 1915, shows Jack Barnett on the right, a performer with the Barnum and Bailey circus.

Liberals were once again running the province and the new premier assigned two cabinet positions to John Oliver. One was railway and the other was agriculture. 

Agriculture was a logical choice for Oliver. He understood the challenges faced by farmers and knew the importance of agriculture to the province. He was also concerned with the plight of returning soldiers. He wanted to ensure that they would have the opportunity to own and develop farms in rural areas.

One night, while lying bed, John had an idea. He got out of bed and, in his nightshirt, wrote the "Land Settlement and [Development] Act". This was landmark legislation when it was passed in 1917. (It was also nicknamed the 'nightshirt" act.) Oliver went on to urge, successfully, the federal government to establish a national policy for the settlement of returning soldiers.
 This recruitment poster from World War I was sent to me by a friend of mine, John Hardin, a talented writer.
The railway portfolio enabled Oliver to explore another of his political interests, railway subsidies. The Pacific Great Eastern Railway was a pressing concern of his. This privately promoted scheme was closely associated with the Conservatives and the PGER had never fulfilled its objective of establishing a north-south line to serve the province.

At one point, Oliver said, "he was not going to become the foster-father of this illegitimate offspring of two unnatural parents. It was a waif left on my doorstep. It was conceived in the sin of political necessity; it was begotten in the iniquity of a half-million dollar campaign fund. I refuse to be the godfather of any such foundling."

Oliver did initiate an investigation into the railway's finances and negotiated its purchase. He did receive criticism from the press for these actions, which made him quite indignant. Oliver wasn't fond of the PGER and he claimed to have "sweat blood" to organize a deal that was in the best interest of the province.
Oliver had established himself as one of Premier Brewster's chief lieutenants when the premier died on March 1, 1918. Four days later, Oliver was elected leader of the Liberal party and on March 6, John Oliver became B.C.'s 19th premier.

For almost a decade, Oliver held the reins of power. He stuck to his distinctively rustic style, which many British Columbians seem to find comforting. He was plain spoken and seemingly unaffected by the trappings of office. In fact, he continued to wear the same old-fashioned tweed suits and heavy boots that had become his trademarks.

Soon after he assumed office, Oliver was meeting with a delegation from the province's municipalities "Doff your broadclothes and don your overalls" he instructed them. In other words, get to work and take responsibility for your overspending.  Oliver was a man of the people, distrusted experts and was totally lacking in pretence. He was just what the province needed in a time when citizens were apprehensive about their future.
Thanks to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography for the information on John Oliver and to my mommy's friend for the old photos.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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