Friday, September 27, 2013

Post-War Oliver

When John Oliver became premier, World War I was just ending. Remember the work Oliver had put in to offer veterans farmland in remote communities? Well, the returning soldiers were more interested in settling in the urban and industrial areas, disappointing our new premier.

Oliver's government attempted to deal with the challenges presented in post wartime. They introduced legislation that limited a workday to eight hours in certain industries and provided a minimum wage for women. As well, the Liberals moved to establish a mothers' pension in 1920, provide maintenance for deserted wives, as well as improve both health and educational services. Legislation was also passed to regulate public utilities and control the forestry industry. At this time, the government believed that its direct intervention was the way to help with the problems that beset the province.

These reforms weren't enough. There was still social and economical turmoil. The farmers of the province even went so far as to form their own political party in 1917, the United Farmers of British Columbia, an action that upset Oliver. I guess he must have felt betrayed considering farming was where he got his start and he felt he had remained loyal to the farmers of the province.

More than the farmers were unhappy too. During the first few years of Oliver's term, there was labour unrest everywhere. Some workers went on strike in support of those involved with the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919.

Our premier also gained some notoriety when he sued a lawyer for the company that owned the Dolly Varden mine. It was a libel case; the lawyer had suggested that Oliver was involved in private land speculation. He won but was only awarded a token amount in damages. Apparently, the court had decided that Honest John's reputation had not suffered and he hadn't lost anything because of the accusation.
Oliver's leadership was the subject of criticism, from his own Liberal party as well as outside forces. Some Liberals were upset that Oliver hadn't promptly submitted his selection as party leader for endorsement. In June of 1920, John said fine and called for an election on December 1, 1920.

This was a historic election in B.C. for it was the first time that women would be able to vote in this province. Originally, Oliver had considered having the election in the fall but John was warned this was a bad time for women to get out and vote due to church fairs and canning preserves.

It turned out that Oliver and his Liberals had more to worry about than just the women. Attacking his government were the resurrected Conservatives and an assortment of parties and candidates representing farmers, veterans, and labour.

The Liberals asked voters to allow Liberals to continue with their "safe, sane and progressive administration". The Premier focused his campaign on a theme that would become a constant feature of politics for the next fifty years - the building of roads to open up the rural parts of the province.

So how did Oliver and the provincial Liberals do in the 1920 election? I will tell you that on Monday. 

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

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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  1. My girl knows her history!!!! Awesome photos....always!!!!

    1. Thanks Brenda. Thank for reading and commenting.

  2. I always find something interesting in your blogs. After World War II here women enjoyed being in the work force and were opposed at being unseated to go back to the hum drum of wife and mother. They found that they could do both and were happier when they did. That created a riff between husbands and wives.

    1. Good point Lee. Thanks for reading and commenting.