Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Oliver is Over

Premier Oliver managed to keep his party under control through turmoil.  Even though he shrugged off attacks from the opposition, Oliver's government's future looked bleak. He had hoped that the return of the Liberal government to Ottawa in October of 1921 would help but Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, although sympathetic, offered little help.

Understandably, Oliver was upset. The federal Conservatives had given B.C.'s government little consideration when Oliver plead for revision to the railway freight rates and a change in government was not helping. Oliver was facing another provincial election campaign and he reported to King "I am optimistic and if I have to go down, I will go down fighting and with the flag flying."

However, the lack of support from the feds did affect Oliver and he had a new battle cry, "Fight Ottawa". Since they weren't helping - not only with the railroad but other concerns as well - John started venting strong words on provincial rights. (Also known a separation from the Dominion.) In moments of extreme frustration, Oliver was known to doubt his citizenship as well."I have never advocated separation, but if the grossly unjust treatment Western Canada is subjected to in favour of Eastern Interests is to be continued indefinitely, then I do not want to call myself a Canadian."
Perhaps spurred on by this new affront to his dignity, Oliver took an aggressive position in the June 20, 1924 election. So did the other parties and once the dust had settled - all the recounts were done - none of the leaders of the parties had been elected. However, the Liberals manage to retain 23 seats.

In a by-election in Nelson on August 23, Oliver managed to get a seat in the government. He believed that his leadership had provided the key to the Liberal's narrow survival. But this was not the time for reform. He tried to invigorate his party by launching another campaign for lower freight rates. He managed to get a reduction for the rate for grain in 1925.

The last part of the 1920s was a bit easier for Premier Oliver. The economy was improving and the Premier continued his efforts to move construction of the PGER forward. He faced opposition charges of incompetence and corruption and he survived the royal commission regarding campaign funds (an investigation in 1927 into allegations that liquor interests had funnelled contributions to the Liberals) Oliver firmly held the reins of leadership even when his own party challenged him.

In 1926, he celebrated his 70th birthday, making him the oldest government leader in Canada. During the last session of the legislature in which he served as premier, Oliver saw the most important piece of legislation -he felt - he had sponsored, pass. It was the Old-Age Pension act.

In May of 1927, Oliver fell ill and his doctors sent him to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. He was diagnosed with incurable cancer. He returned to B.C., called a caucus meeting and tearfully offered his resignation as party leader. The party, some of whom had called for him to step down, refused to take the resignation.

At the age of 71, he died. His body lay in state in the legislative chamber where he had served for so many years.  Oliver strengthened the Liberal party and established a folksy, yet combative style that political leaders for generations have tried to emulate.
I admire John Oliver. He was man that was shut out and defeated in his political career but he always came back. He stayed true to himself and played an important part in our history.

Thanks to the Dictionary of Canadian Biogrpahy Online website for the above information.

Friday, I want to do something a little different. I will be telling you a story of missing immigrants in 1832 in Pennsylvania and the search for answers. It was a story I found interesting. I hope you will join me for that one.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

, , , , , , ,,


  1. Great post Karen. I admire his determination.

    1. I admire it too. It is difficult to keep going when you keep getting knocked down. Thanks for reading Lee.