Cabinet Portraits

M. GRATTAN O’LEARY December 1 1930

Cabinet Portraits

M. GRATTAN O’LEARY December 1 1930

Cabinet Portraits



Lawyer, journalist, farmer, a typical son of his native Quebec, Hon. Arthur Sauve, (panada’s new PostmasterGeneral is pre-eminently the man of action in politics

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A sworn enemy of the party spoils system, Hon. H. A. Stewart brings to the administration of Public Wor\s a determination to see that the taxpayer gets full ualue for his money

Minister of Public Works

EVERY summer thousands of American tourists stream over the border by motor or train to Montreal. They move about the big stores, dine at great hotels, admire the quaint shops, marvel at the unaccustomed French inflection and tongue. They stare at the great cathedrals, at the habits of monk and friar, drink without let or hindrance of French wines, go home happy in the belief that they have “seen Quebec.”

But Montreal, as every French-Canadian knows but as too many other Canadians do not know, is not Quebec. To see Quebec, to get at its mind and soul, its background and legend and traditions, one must do one of two things. One must see Quebec City, capital of the habitants, city of stone buildings, hillside streets, cloisters, the ceaseless call of cross-tipped belfries, of those other things which speak of an old and romantic past; or one must go into the townships, to rural Quebec, with its long narrow farms enclosed by line fences, its tin-spired churches, its walled convents, its neat and prosperous farms. In these surroundings, in the city of deathless memories, cradle of our history, or in the countryside of the old Norman peasantry, is the real soul of Quebec.

Arthur Sauvé, Postmaster-General, is a perfect product of the latter environment. He is the habitant personified and epitomized; a superpeasant of the oldest and best French stock.

From Law to Journalism

C AUVE is not of the tradition of the old Bleu leaders, like Cartier, Langevin and ^ Chapleau. Yet, without being born to the purple, and lacking the ruling tradition, he knows the mind and soul of French Canada as few men do. He knows all about “le pays” and its quaint white villages. He is familiar with Quebec from the Ottawa River to the edge of Labrador, almost by telegraph poles. He can tell the precise location of any village, water power, mine or timber limit; knows as much as any one man can know about the number of horses and cradles to a township; can talk with enthusiasm about the pioneer arts of his people—the rugs, baskets, furniture, handmade churns, open-air bake ovens. He can give the address of many and many a curé.

Sauvé’s people came from Normandy; have been in Canada for generations. His father was a breeder of good thoroughbred horses, owned a large farm in the rich pastoral district of the Lake of Two Mountains, about thirty-five miles from Montreal. Arthur Sauvé grew up on this farm, went to the little parish school, sometimes took his father’s horses to the country fairs, decided, like so many young French-Canadians, that he would take up law. He went to the College of St. Thérèse, a classical institution, eighteen miles north of Montreal.

But Sauvé had politics in his blood. The superiors of St. Thérèse had placed a ban upon political journals within their institution, but young Sauvé, thirsting more for political news than for knowledge of the classics, defied the order, was suspended for his rashness. And it is told of him that, re-admitted to the college, he secured his favorite journals through the good offices and adroitness of his boarding mistress.

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SOME of the most picturesque figures in our public life have held the portfolio of Public Works. Two decades ago there was Mr. William Pugsley, one of the most adroit politicians of his own or any other time. Later on there was Mr. Robert Rogers. These men, almost the last, of a type of politician rapidly vanishing from our public life, frankly used public works as a weapon in political warfare, as an agency for the maintenance of their particular parties in power. They were believers in the old patronage and spoils system, which found its greatest source of supply in the letting of contracts and the granting of works through this most generous of spending departments.

Controlling the Savers of the Party by Diplomacy

A POLITICIAN and administrator of a different type is H. A. Stewart, who presides in this department today. The old doctrine, “to the victors belong the spoils,” has not entirely departed from our politics, but there is little trace of it in the conduct of the Public Works Department as administered by Mr. Stewart. This, in the light of w-hat takes place in Ottawa when a government quits office and a new' government takes over, is the strongest possible testimony to Mr. Stewart's character. It Is evidence, indeed, of a capacity for resistance which, to those who know what has to be repelled, must be all but superhuman.

The early weeks after the Bennett Government took office saw Ottawa the Mecca of all who confused politics with patronage. The plague of locusts upon Egypt was little in comparison to the descent upon the capital of countless thousands who must have thought that Mr. Bennett’s policy for unemployment was to deprive all of his opponents of their jobs and to give them to his friends. Every incoming train for w'eeks brought battalions of men who had “saved the party.” It brought lobbyists and propagandists, ward-heelers and ward workers, men who wanted to be judges, men who wanted to be senators; brought the flotsam and jetsam of past political storms, men and sometimes women who thought that the party owed them something and that they should or could be paid out of the treasury of the country. They overran the Château, crowded the galleries and lobbies of the House, filled the anterooms of departmental offices, made the lives of Ministers a nightmare.

Most of them found their w'ay to the Department of Public Works. All day long and far into the night Mr. Stew-art sat in his office, heard men tell howMr. Bennett was in office because of their particular genius, listened to processions of deputations detail how a breakwater here or a post office there, or a party appointment somewhere else, was exactly the thing necessary to consolidate the victory of the party. Most of the $20,000,000 voted by Parliament to help unemployment was to be spent in public works. Mr. Stewart confessed one day that he had been asked for the w-hole of it on a single morning by five deputations, and that a defeated candidate in one riding asked for a quarter of it alone.

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His father determined that he should take up law, sent him to Laval, but long before he had completed his course young Sauvé plunged into journalism, became a reporter and political writer. His first work was for Monde Canadien, directed by Hon. Alphonse Nantel. His contemporaries of that day tell that he possessed a florid, almost lurid style, but with a considerable gift of invective. From Monde Canadien Sauvé drifted to La Presse, editing its agricultural page for several years. It was in this position that he secured his first grasp of the rural and agricultural problems of his province. Sauvé, indeed, determined at this time to devote his career to agricultural development, and, in order to fit himself for this task, spent some time at Oka, that famous farm directed by the Trappist monks. Later on, about 1905, he was the agricultural editor of La Patrie.

His Entry into Politics

BUT the call of politics was too strong.

In 1906 Sauvé assumed charge of La Nation, a militant Conservative journal founded by Alphonse Nantel, who later became the father-in-law of the Hon. Athanase David, the present Provincial Secretary of Quebec. Sauvé made La Nation a force in French Canada’s political journalism; so much so that F. D. Monk, then a political power in Quebec, induced him to take the editorship of Canadien, a brilliant and prosperous weekly journal published in Montreal. Sauvé directed its destinies until 1910, when the paper died subseqent to the appearance in the political field of Henri Bourassa’s Le Devoir.

Sauvé, meanwhile, had entered politics, had become a member of the legislature. In 1908 he was prevailed upon to contest Two Mountains for the Quebec legislature; a seemingly forlorn hope. He had to fight two opponents, the local Government candidate, and J. A. C. Ethier, one of the most formidable stump speakers in the province. Sauvé, after a spectacular campaign, won by a majority of 174. It was the beginning of a political career which took him through seven hardfought elections without the loss of a single battle. His record, in this respect, taken from the Parliamentary Guide, has not often been surpassed:

1908—Elected by a majority of 174 votes over Hector Champagne, Liberal, the sitting member.

1912—Elected by a majority of 278 over Dr. Philippe Elie Pager, Liberal. 1916—Elected by acclamation.

1919—Elected by a majority of 842 over D. Lalande, Liberal.

1923—Elected by a majority of 854 over Anatole Decarie, Liberal.

1927—Elected by a majority of 491 over Antoine Chauvin, Liberal.

1930Elected to Dominion House by a majority of 967 over Ligouri Lacombe, Liberal, sitting member.

1930—Elected by acclamation at byelection, following acceptance of portfolio of Postmaster-General in Bennett Government.

Previous to Sauvé’s victory in July last, Laval-Two Mountains had been staunchly Liberal since 1896. In 1926 Ligouri Lacombe, Liberal, carried the riding by 3,768, and Sauvé changed this into a Conservative majority of 967. It was one of the notable Quebec turnovers on July 28.

Sauvé, indeed, has come to be regarded as almost an institution in the Lake of Two Mountains district. At the height of the fame of Gouin and Taschereau, when provincial Tories seemed as rare in Quebec as red Indians on the Island of Manhattan, he returned to the legislature after each succeeding election. There, for

years, he faced the serried ranks of Liberalism with a handful of devoted followers. Between 1916 and 1919, for example, Sauvé led only five Conservatives against seventy-five Liberals, and there were times, days on end, when he sat hour after hour alone in the legislature, following the proceedings, attacking the Government, discussing a multiplicity of bills and all sorts of problems and legislation. He was the marvel of the House, won the plaudits of the fiercest of his foes. Sir Lomer Gouin admired and liked him, and Mr. Taschereau said of him that his industry, his courage and perseverance did honor to public life. “Mr. Sauvé,” said Taschereau, “always fights valiantly; I could wish nothing better than that I had more like him among my followers.”

He was a prodigious worker. Possessed of the journalist’s facility . for organizing and summarizing a vast amount of material, he was more than a journalist in that he had an extraordinary capacity for detail, an almost passion for debating things through to the truth. Nothing, no matter how minute or seemingly trivial, escaped his vigilance and his attention.

An Agricultural Hobby

T-JIS political creed was the land. A peasant of the peasants, with the roots of his whole being deep in the soil, Sauvé viewed with regret and some misgivings the rapid industrialization of Quebec, so often accompanied by migration from the land. He had a theory, and he preached it with great power and persuasion, that the French-Canadian would acquire his highest moral and spiritual development by remaining close to the soil, that there was something about the crude but basically beautiful passions of rural Quebec which, if lost, would take much from the soul and the traditions of the real Quebec. This creed he preached, not with the mere idyllic language of the visionary, but with the informed experience and hard facts of the trained and practical agriculturist. Than Arthur Sauvé, indeed, few men have done more for the agricultural life of Quebec.

He, himself, immersed for nearly a quarter of a century in journalism and politics, has been a practical tiller of the soil. For years he has had a farm at St. Eustache, one of the most prosperous in the district, and like his father before him has raised fine thoroughbreds, won prizes with them at fairs. His home, in one of the most picturesque parts of the Lake of Two Mountains district, stands upon historic soil. Across the road from it is the old parish church of St. Eustache, the only Catholic church which was once actually under fire by British troops in the rebellion of 1837. It was into this church that Chenier, associate of Papineau, led his habitant rebels, there that the troops under Sir John Colborne raked them with fire. Chenier, emerging from the church, died with his musket in his hand, and the old grey building, in which succeeding generations of French-Canadians have worshipped, still bears upon its stone steps the scars of this celebrated battle. It is upon the foundation of Chenier’s old home that Sauvé’s house now stands.

It is in this atmosphere, the historié atmosphere of old Quebec, that Sauvé loves to dwell. At home in the legislature, and adapting himself quickly to Ottawa, his inclination would be to remain among his own people, working with them, farming with them, sharing their t rials and joys, going to church with them on Sunday. This, and preaching to them the necessity of preserving their traditions and their

\ racial virility by sticking close to the soil.

Different, however, will be his task at Ottawa. Canada’s Post Office has changed tremendously since the far days when it was first organized by Benjamin Franklin. Today, indeed, with modern I methods of communication being revolu| tionized, and wdth Kipling’s dream of the I “Midnight Mail” come true, with airships j winging their way like eagles into the far i Northland and Arctic wastes, the Post j Office has become one of the most imporI tant, and also the most romantic, of all ! our branches of government. Mr. Sauvé I today not merely controls thousands of J employees from Sydney to Vancouver,

I and from the American border to the 1 fringes of the North Pole, he presides j over a department whose receipts and expenditures are enormous, which carries His Majesty’s mails by air across thousands of miles of continent, and which must be vigilant and alert about new' inventions affecting communications on land, and under the sea, and in the skies.

It calls for brains, for imagination, for initiative.

These, in goodly measure, will be supplied by Mr. Sauvé. He is not a brilliant man, not a remarkable man. He is not, as said, of the tradition of men like Cartier and Chapleau and Langevin; lacks the parliamentary gifts of more recent Quebec leaders like Laurier, Lemieux and Lapointe. But what he lacks in these accomplishments he makes up with a certain kind of solidity, wdth a practical common sense and a grasp of economic realities that have never been too much associated with even the ablest of Quebec’s leaders. There is something of Saxon directness, almost of Scotch caution, about this Norman peasant. Such a man, obviously, will be valuable to Mr. Bennett, valuable to Canada. His capacity as an administrator has yet to be tested thoroughly, but he has already said some things and done some things indicating that the Post Office will not suffer in his hands.

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It required tact and skill, good humor and infinite patience to hear and talk to these seekers after jobs and patronage; required sterner qualities to send them away mostly empty handed yet feeling that their objectives had been achieved. Mr. Stewart was successful in this. Hardly a deputation left his office without a firm but not well substantiated belief that the Minister was going to devote the rest of his career to looking after their particular wants—all of which is the best possible proof of a politician’s capacity in those particularly trying days when a government is on its honeymoon of office.

In Parliament Since 1921

i TT IS not that H. A. Stewart is a novice j * in politics^ one from whom little might have been expected. In Parliament since 1921, he has been regarded for years as one of his party’s best light skirmishers, the sort of competent parliamentarian that party leaders can use when a salient is to be taken or a position of difficulty defended. Even before he came to the House, Stewart was active in politics, and was frequently summoned by the Conservatives when in office to act in various legal and official capacities.

His riding, Leeds, has long been a cockpit of militant politics, and from it or its surroundings Parliament has derived some of its most colorful personalities. In prew’ar years it used to be represented by the late George Taylor, one of the quaintest and mast lovable characters that ever sat in the House. Taylor was a violent and orthodox Tory partisan and for years was the chief whip of his party, but on one day each session he would forget his prejudices long enough to place a rosy red apple on the desk of every member of the House. It was one occasion when the noise of the munching of apples triumphed over the Speaker’s desire for order; and the House and galleries would hugely enjoy Sir Wilfrid playing Adam to the old Tory Eve who was his bitter antagonist upon all other occasions.

After 1911, when Taylor had gone to the Senate, Leeds was represented by Sir Thomas White, who won it against A. C. Hardy, bearer of a name famous in Ontario’s politics and presently a senator and one of Mr. Mackenzie King’s most confidential advisers. It was when Sir Thom as White retired and Arthur Meighen had succeeded Sir Robert Borden as Conservative chieftain that Stewart took over the constituency.

He had the advantage of being a : native and a favorite son. Born at

Elizabethtown, near Brockville, in 1871, he was reared, brought up and worked on a farm; did the ordinary chores; went to school; showed no particular proficiency, and little promise that some day he would sit in the seats of the mighty. Flis parents were of good Scottish stock, hailing from Perthshire, and, with the Scottish reverence for education, they made every possible sacrifice to give their son the advantages of practical scholarship. After attending the Elizabethtown public school, the Brockville high school, and Osgoode Hall, young Stewart was graduated in law in 1893. Two years later he was married, settled down to a legal partnership with the late George R. Webster, developed an extensive practice.

Trained in the Public Service

"DUT H. A. Stewart’s horizon included ■Dmore than the practice of law. He had within him that all too rare thing among professional men in Canada; the desire to serve his municipality or province or country in some public capacity. Thus, while still in his thirties, Stewart was a member of the Brockville public school board, serving in this post for ten years; and in 1905 and 1906 he was Brockville’s mayor, his public worth attested to on both occasions by an acclamation. It was said of him that he had what amounted almost to a passion for efficiency and economy, that he was utterly intolerant of the haphazard, easygoing practices which are all too much a part of so many municipal administrations. At all events, he was an admirable mayor; so admirable that his fellow citizens persisted in conscripting him for a number of other public posts of scarcely lesser importance.

From 1906 to 1912 Mr. Stewart served on the Public Utilities Commission, and for a time acted as its chairman. He was also a member of the Council of the Brockville Board of Trade for a number of years, has been for some years and is still a member of the Brockville Industrial Commission, and is the former president of the Brockville Canadian Club.

Mr. Stewart, judging from the Parliamentary Guide, would hardly win the acclaim of H. L. Mencken. For one finds there that he is a member of the Brockville Country Club and of the Brockville Rowing and Lawn Bowling Club; that he is a Past Master of Salem Lodge, A.F. & A.M.; a past president of the Leeds Grenville Law Association; a member of the Brock Lodge of the Order of Odd-

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fellows, and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Brock and St. Lawrence Lodges.

The cynical may suspect that such wide fraternal activity is not disconnected with a practical propensity for that popularity which is so useful an adjunct j in politics. Mr. Stewart, however, is a j gentleman whose geniality requires no j stimulus nor effort in the interest of an I objective. The antithesis of the “cap and j bells” politician, he is a witty man and a companionable man, fond of sport and j good society, loyal in comradeship, and not unacquainted with the best of books. Few men in politics have enjoyed a wider popularity or more of real friendships among all parties.

A Foe of Inefficiency

XTOT a great orator nor even a major debater, Mr. Stewart has the acute reasoning powers of the trained and experienced lawyer, is regarded as a worthy foeman in worthwhile parliamentary controversy. As a private member he was not among those whose chief House of Commons activities are displayed in the smoking and card rooms. Arthur Meighen once complained that the besetting sin of most parliamentarians was their incapacity for hard work. He used to add that what an Opposition required was not great men nor brilliant men but men who would occasionally go to the library and dig up effective facts. It was perhaps the explanation of a sincere affection which Meighen entertained for Stewart. Whoever else might doze in chairs or seek refuge from dullness and boredom in the card rooms, the member for Leeds could be found at his desk, vigilant, alert, challenging; or up in one of the committee rooms, crossexamining witnesses, combing the public accounts, delving into the auditorgeneral’s report, acting as at least one watchdog on behalf of his party or of the treasury.

It is a type of parliamentarian all too rare in Parliament. In pre-war days the Public Accounts Committee was the great battleground of the House. Day after day, critics of the Opposition, with some guerilla warriors as their allies, would discover something or other in the auditor-general’s report to supply ammunition for an assault upon the Ministry. Old Tories like John Haggart, Haughton Lennox, Tom Crothers, and the redoubtable Colonel Jack Currie excelled in this work; while on the Liberal side there were A. K. MacLean, Hugh Guthrie (now a Conservative Minister), “Ned” Macdonald, and, last and most militant of all, “Fighting Frank” Carvell. Often their work was more spectacular than useful, productive of more heat than light; but times without number they unearthed ! things and were responsible for actions that saved vast sums for the country. At

the very worst, they were an effective check upon the extravagance of a Ministry or the possible dishonesty of an official.

This type of politician died out with the war. Even the Progressives, professedly antagonistic to extravagance, contained surprisingly few men with capacity to ferret out administrative wrong-doing or inefficiency; while the older parties seemingly forgot to care how much money was spent by a government, or how it did the spending.

H. A. Stewart was an exception. From the day he entered the House he exhibited an active consciousness of his duty to see to it that monies granted by Parliament to the Government should not be diverted from their proper channels. And in carrying out this duty he displayed an industry, an intelligence and a courage that made it impossible for Mr. Bennett to ignore him when he was casting about for good Cabinet material after July 28.

Responsibility for Expenditures

"COR the characteristics exhibited by

Mr. Stewart -an active hostility to waste of the people’s substance, plus a determination to conduct the public business as he would conduct his own—are qualities that are vital in a department like Public Works. It is one of the great spending departments of the Dominion. Every year, at every session, estimates come down containing page after page of items of expenditure under the heading of wharves, piers, docks, breakwaters, elevators, post offices, armories. All these works are built, all the contracts for them let, all the money put into them spent, by the Minister of Public Works. No member of the Government, not even the Minister of Finance, is subjected to more pressure, open to greater temptation, liable to more expensive error. It is the Minister of Public Works who finally determines whether these public works are to help a party or the country; whether the handling of tenders, involving large sums for considerable undertakings, are dealt with honestly; whether contract prices are just and right; whether public money is not wasted in the rewarding of loyal constituencies. It is, in short, the Minister of Public Works who determines to what extent patronage and party favoritism prevail in much of the country’s politics; who determines whether a large proportion of the public’s taxes are wisely and honestly spent.

Upon the integrity and efficiency of Mr. Stewart, upon his capacity to resist the clamor of a school of politics which afflicts all parties and which is among the penalties of democracy, the public may confidently depend. There have been more brilliant men in charge of Public Works, more able and more colorful men; there has been none with a deeper sense of responsibility or with a higher conception of the office.