Cabinet Portraits: Hon. W. D. Euler
As a lad, Honorable W. D. Euler worked as a farm-hand and in a brick kiln. As a youth, he taught school. As a man, he has behind him a business record and a personal reputation which stamps him as being well able to administer competently and fearlessly the Department of Customs and Excise.
WHEN Mr. King, freshly endorsed by the Canadian electorate, set about the business of making a cabinet, there was no doubt in anybody’s mind that of all the portfolios, that of Minister of Customs and Excise presented the toughest problem. The eyes of the nation were focussed on the Department of Customs. From it had shot the rocket which precipitated the general election.
It had supplied the fire-crackers which had either whizzed or fizzed on platforms from Halifax to Victoria. The predominant post-election musing on the parts of press and public was: “Wonder who will be the Minister of Customs?” Seldom had the selection of a right man for a right place presented more difficulties.
Then came the announcement, W. D. Euler, member for North Waterloo, had been offered, and had accepted, the task of putting on its feet a department which a Parliamentary Committee had castigated as having “slowly degenerated” over a period of years.
“What manner of man is Euler?” was the next question. “Has he the strength necessary to a man undertaking such a task? Will he go through with it?”
It is a truism that the best way of ‘sizing up’ a man is to go to the town in which he has lived most of his life, talk with the people he has known and mingled with since childhood, get the opinions of those who do not see eye-to-eye with him, and draw an independent conclusion. And as the Honorable W. D. Euler (it is pronounced lier) is from Kitchener, Ontario, to Kitchener I went.
The first person I interrogated was the taxi driver.
“What do the folks hereabouts think of the Honorable W. D. Euler?” I asked.
He looked puzzled for an instant; then he grinned :
“Oh, you mean Billy Euler? Why, everybody likes Billy Euler.”
And everybody, it seems, calls him Billy in his own home town. The use of the nick-name is not flip. It comes naturally.
“What is the particular thing about him that everybody likes?” I asked.
“Well, he’s a square-shooter,” said the driver.
Five minutes later I was talking to a newspaper man who has worked for Mr. Euler for ten years.
“What’s the thing about your boss that you like more than any other?” I enquired.
“He’s square with you,” came the reply. “He knows what he wants, and he gets it done. Sometimes he doesn’t agree with you, and he’ll tell you.
Oh, yes, he’ll tell you. But he’ll give you a square deal every time.”
The next person I talked with was one of the town’s prominent citizens, Judge Scellen, a man who has been associated in finance with Mr. Euler for ten years. I knew that Euler is president of the Kitchener Finance Corporation: that he is a director of the Economical Five Insurance Company, of Kitchener, and that he has many other business interests, apart from being president of the Daily News-Record, quite an influential newspaper.
“Judge,” I said, “Mr. Euler seems to be a man of various activities, and to have made a success of everything he has gone into. What is his recipe?”
A “Square Shooter”
npHE judge, who was about to light his pipe, put the match down. “He’s square. Billy Euler is the squarest man I ever knew. I’ve known him all his life. I’ve been connected with him in a business way for many years. And I never knew him do anybody a wrong turn. Never. Then, he’s determined. In everything he does. Once he sets his mind on a thing, there’s no stopping him. He’ll go right through with it. Even in sport.
Why I remember way back he used to be a great lawn bowler. He was skip of the same rink for nine years, and he’d made up his mind that that rink would be the best rink in Canada. It was, too.
They went to Niagara on-the-Lake and won the Ontario championship. In the same year they went to Toronto and won the Dominion championship. Never done before, or since. And it was Billy Euler’s determination that did it. Nothing else.
Of course, beside determination, Euler’s got a good business head. And, as I said
before, he’s square. Every man in this district has confidence in his word. That’s Billy Euler.”
Down the street I met a man who was a pupil of Mr. Euler when he taught school.
“He was a darned good schoolmaster,” he admitted. “I used to think he was stern, but he would always listen to you. Yes, he was fair, all right.”
Later in the day I met a man who used to go to school with Bill Euler, used to go swimming with him, used to play marbles with him.
“That Bill Euler,” he said, “why he used to get mad as a hornet if anybody didn’t play fair in a game of marbles. He’d get awful riled. Used to say: ‘Where’s the fun in winning a game if you don’t win it fair?’ ”
The next three persons I approached had worked against Mr. Euler during the last election campaign. “Well,” said the first, “I don’t hold altogether with
“I will proceed slowly and systematically with the Customs Department. 1 want to be thoroughly sure of my ground. I want to see that the Department is placed on an absolutely sound and efficient basis, without regard for politics. 1 want a customs administration that is free from partisanship. I can’t go into it in any haphazard sort of way. Whatever reorganization may be necessary cannot be done in a day. I cannot go further than the law allows. Further legislation may be necessary. 1 can’t tell until the reports of the judges now investigating the customs charges are in, although I hope to do something in the interval. I am more concerned with seeing that the future is made secure than with anything ELSE.”-HON. W. D. EULER.
Euler’s political views, and I fought against him last September, but he’s a good friend of mine. He’s a good politician, of course, and he isn’t a©ing to let the grass grow under his feet in a campaign, but he’s a square shooter and a blamed good business man. Yes, sir, he’s that.”
And that was precisely what the other two said.
I called on Dave Gross, Mr. Euler’s Conservative opponent in the last campaign. Said he: “I don’t agree with Euler on the political platform, and I fought him as hard as I could in the last election. But he’s a good friend of mine. Why, we played cards together the night after the election.”
And, by the way, here was a campaign wherein the president and vice-president of the same corporation, close personal friends, were opposing candidates in a general election. For Mr. Euler is president of the Kitchener Finance Corporation, of which Mr. Gross is vice-president!
Working at Ten
ÏT WAS in the little village of Conestogo, nine A miles from Kitchener, that I met Mr. Euler’s father, Henry Euler. As an infant of two-and-ahalf years, Henry Euler arrived in Conestogo from Germany, a country he cannot remember and in which he has never been since. It was here, in a humble frame house, long since abandoned as a residence, that William Euler was born, 51 years ago. And it was from his father that I heard of his early life.
“Oh, Billy was a smart lad,” he chuckled. “Always reading. Why, he used to sit down at the table with a book in front of him and stick his fingers in his ears so’s he wouldn’t hear the noise the other youngsters were making. And there were nine of them at that time! He got along fast at school, too. When he was nine years old they tried to stump him in a spelling bee, and they couldn’t. And at ten, he had passed his entrance for high school “He always was fond of games, but it wasn’t all games with him. I used to be a cooper, you know, and Billy, as a small boy, used to carry the barrel staves across the road from the shed to my workshop. The other fellows might try to skimp on a load, but not Billy. He’d carry the most he could.
“Then he used to help the farmers about the district. Worked in the fields for nine dollars a month. And farm work was farm work in those days. They didn’t have all these new fangled machines.
“He used to work around the brick kiln, too. Sort of assistant. Mostly wheelbarrow work, I guess. Fifty cents a day was pretty good pay in those days. When we moved out of that frame house on the corner, up to the brick house further up the road, why Billy had an interest in the house. Because, you see, he’d handled those bricks in the kiln.
“Well, when he’s about fiiteen years old, the boy goes off to High School in Kitchener, having worked for wages for five years after passing the Entrance examination. He used to set off from home on a Sunday night and walk the nine miles into the town. He’d board there during the week, and walk back on the Friday night.
“Yes, sir, I advanced him the money to go through High School. About $500 I guess it was, and in seven years he’d paid it back.”
So, at the age of fifteen, we have young Euler attending High School at Kitchener, and it is interesting to note that one of his school mates was William Lyon Mackenzie King, who, thirty odd years later, was to call him into the Dominion Cabinet.
Following graduation, Mr. Euler attended Kitchener’s Model School, where he secured his third-class certificate, teaching under the late J. Suddaby, whose name the school now bears. Subsequently he attended the Normal School in Toronto, where he obtained his first-class certificate.
[N CHATTING with the new Minister of Customs, I asked him if he had planned a scholastic career. Frankly he admitted that he had not. Back in his mind since childhood there had been the vision of a place in public affairs. But in
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Cabinet Portraits: Hon. W. D. Euler
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those days he needed a job, and schoolteaching came readily.
But he was not to teach long. After six years he chalked his last figure on a blackboard and went to New Hampshire, where he became connected with a business college. Then he went to Connecticut, in the same line, and after two years in the United States, returned to Canada. In Ottawa he bought an interest in a business college. Disposing of his interests there, he went back to Kitchener and conducted the Euler Business College, which, today, is still a thriving institution, owned by Mr. Euler, - though operated by a manager. Up to a few years ago he was also the owner of a business college in Hamilton.
It was while he was engaged in teaching business methods that Mr. Euler entered public life. He was elected to the City Council of Kitchener (then Berlin), became reeve, and then mayor. He served as president of the Board of Trade, and in numerous other ways worked for the interests of what is a strong manufacturing district. In 1911, he was a candidate for the Ontario legislature, but was defeated.
Enters Federal Arena
THEN came the war, the conscription issue and the 1917 election. At that time there were two daily newspapers in Kitchener, the Telegraph (Liberal) and the Record (Conservative). Both papers united in support of the unionist candidate, W. G. Weichel, who previously had defeated the present premier of Canada. About three years before conscription became an issue, a reform convention had been held in the riding of North Waterloo, and had nominated a candidate. In 1917, that candidate adopted a conscription platform. That started something in a constituency containing large numbers of Mennonites and others opposed to military service. Mr. Euler demanded a new convention. A majority of the Reform executive refused to call another convention. Therefore Euler called an independent Liberal convention, one of the largest ever held in North Waterloo, and emerged as an Independent Liberal and anti-conscriptionist candidate. The old time Liberals and Conservatives united, with the two newspapers (the entire press) behind them. And it was at this time that Euler broke into journalism, for, feeling the need of printed artillery, he started a tri-weekly paper, The Voice.
There is no need to dwell on the campaign, the stormiest in the history of that constituency. But, when the smoke had cleared, Euler was elected to Parliament by a majority of 1,900, and he has been there ever since.
After the election, realizing the necessity of having a press to represent a majjority of the electorate, Mr. Euler, together with W. J. Motz, purchased a controlling interest in the News-Record. Later he bought the Telegraph and united the two.
That is the background of W. D. Euler, a man who has at times defied friend and opponent alike in defence of principles he believes in, a man who, to-day, is undoubtedly the most personally popular man in a riding whose people, because of descent and interests, are as hard-headed and business-like as any to be found in the Dominion.
FROM time to time I have watched and listened to Mr. Euler on the floor of the House of Commons. His speeches always have stamped him as a man of
independent views. Now, here he is in a Cabinet. And Cabinets, whatever may be the extent of internal dissentions, are noted for their solidarity of front. And so, when I called on Mr. Euler at his home in Kitchener, the first question I put to him was this, “How do you reconcile your independent status on the floor of the House with your entry into the Cabinet and your views on Cabinet solidarity?”
This was his reply: “I grant you that that is a reasonable question to ask of a man who has expressed the sentiments I have expressed from time to time. But, in the last campaign, I decided that Canada needed stable government, and that, if elected, I was prepared to co-operate with men of all parties for that purpose. My entry into the Cabinet is consistent with that declaration. Moreover, in accepting a cabinet post, I submit myself again to the verdict of the people who elected me as to whether they approve of the action I took or not. If they do not, they are quite at liberty to vote me out and send to Ottawa a man who better represents them. If they do, I cannot be reproved. Speaking generally, I am not in favor of newly appointed cabinet ministers being compelled to seek re-election. But in my own case I am distinctly in favor of it. It allows my constituents to approve or disapprove of my action.”
If there is any disapproval of Mr. Euler’s action in accepting a cabinet post in a Liberal Administration, it is not evident in North Waterloo.
Naturally, I asked him about his new post, about the Customs Department, about his plans. When he answered he spoke slowly and deliberately, weighing every word. He said:
“I will proceed slowly and systematically with the department. I want to be thoroughly sure of my ground. I want to see that the department is placed on an absolutely sound and efficient basis without regard for politics. I want a customs administration that is free from partisanship. I can’t go into it in any haphazard sort of way. Whatever reorganization may be necessary cannot be done in a day. I cannot go any further than the law allows. Further legislation may be necessary. I can’t tell until the reports of the judges now investigating the customs charges are in, although I hope to do something in the interval. I am more concerned with seeing that the future is made secure than with anything else.”
And when Mr. Euler said that, he meant it.
“Mr. Euler,” I said, “I have heard it said that in enforcing the customs laws regarding liquor your hands will be tied because certain distillery or brewing interests hold stock in your newspaper. Is that true?”
He answered quickly and emphatically. “Not one penny of brewery or distillery money is invested in my newspaper or in any concern with which I am connected in private life. Not one penny of my money is invested in any distillery or brewery. It never has been, and I do not expect that it ever will be. You can make that as emphatic as you like.”
What does Ottawa think of the new Minister? His subordinates are impressed by the business-like way in which he has taken hold of things. In Parliament he has always been popular with those on both sides of the Speaker’s chair. And in his elevation to what many have regarded as a pretty thankless task, his reputation as an able man and square, would seem to assure him no little Opposition support in the work he has before him.