Cabinet Portraits

Herewith, the "New Men" of the King Government—Included, says Mr. Dexter, are "both firebrands and fire extinguishers"

GRANT DEXTER December 15 1935

Cabinet Portraits

Herewith, the "New Men" of the King Government—Included, says Mr. Dexter, are "both firebrands and fire extinguishers"

GRANT DEXTER December 15 1935

Cabinet Portraits

Herewith, the "New Men" of the King Government—Included, says Mr. Dexter, are "both firebrands and fire extinguishers"


WHEN THE King administration took office on the night of October 23, six of the Ministers looked about the Privy Council chamber for the first time; left it with their first red Morocco leather Bible in hand—the memento most coveted by all Politicians. A few days later a seventh arrived at the Capital, and completed the contingent of young men who may be expected to provide much of whatever there may be of vigor and aggressiveness in governmental policy during the next few years.


Some of them are complete novices in the great game of politics as well as in the business of government; others have had a long and varied experience in public life without ever attaining the rank of Privy Councillor. Collectively they are, in large measure, the hope of future Liberalism.

Every Cabinet automatically divides into two groups. There are the “go slows” and the “hurry ups;” those who say “be sure,” and those who counter with “take a chance.” Normally speaking these “youngsters” should be the dynamos of the new administration, supplying driving power, daring, possibly an element of recklessness.

Who are they? They are: James G. Gardiner, Minister of Agriculture; Clarence Howe, Minister of Railways and Canals and Marine; J. L. Ilsley, Minister of National Revenue; Ian Mackenzie, Minister of National Defense; Norman Rogers, Minister of Labor and Health; C. G. Power, Minister of Pensions; J. E. Michaud, Minister of Fisheries.

Two things are at once apparent. These men are not cast in the rôle of juniors. They hold major portfolios; are responsible for departments whose activities are storm centres of political controversy. Too, with a few exceptions, they are men of long and successful record either in politics or business. A less promising group of radicals and reformers, in the accepted sense of these words, could scarcely be assembled. If there are one or two firebrands among them, there are, as well, fire extinguishers of proved effectiveness.

Gardiner of Saskatchewan

TAMES GARFIELD GARDINER has been in public life, J without a break, since 1913. He was a member of the Saskatchewan government for many years, serving in various portfolios, and was Prime Minister of his province for more than a year prior to coming to Ottawa. Tested by the Laurier recipe, he would qualify for a place in a Cabinet of “all the talents.” He is of Scottish descent; was bom in 1883 at Farquhar, near Exeter, Ont.; went to the Western States with his parents; came back to Ontario, and went to the Canadian West in 1904 as a harvester. He worked on a farm in Southern Manitoba, completed his education at Manitoba University in 1911, taught school for a few years and entered Saskatchewan politics the year before the war. He still owns and operates a farm in the Abemethy district of Melville and is a neighbor of Hon. W. R. Motherwell, who has been his mentor in politics.

Mr. Gardiner is all Liberal and a yard wide. There have never been any hyphens in his politics. He opposed the Progressive movement in 1921; helped drive the provincial Progressives out of Saskatchewan in later years. He has been and will continue to be an able and active foe of the C.C.F., and, unlike his Liberal colleagues in Alberta, he fought Social Credit from the drop of the hat. He believes the old rules are still the right ones—thrift, economy, efficiency. He believes emphatically in balanced budgets, debt reduction, lower taxation. He is opposed to State paternal-

ism, State regulation, State responsibility for the welfare of individual farmers and artisans. He is a revenue tariff man.

His term as Minister of Agriculture promises to be interesting. He did not want this portfolio; nobody did. In no department are there so many schemes, so many policies hanging fire. It is, along with finance, the toughest portfolio in the ministry.

Short, thick-set, a man of few words but strong convictions, Mr. Gardiner’s personality will make a deep impress not only on the department but upon the Government.

The Engineer in Politics

HT HE SELECTION of Clarence D. Howe as Minister of Railways and Canals and Marine was generally regarded as the most surprising in the whole list of Cabinet appointees. True, Mr. Howe has had no experience whatever in Parliament or in public life. It would, however, be untrue to say that he is unfamiliar with our system of government or the business of departmental administration. Bom in Massachusetts, he completed his education at Boston, came to Canada to become a professor, civil servant and contractor. He is forty-nine years of age.

He taught civil engineering at Dalhousie University. Two of the students of that day are now his Cabinet colleagues— Mr. Ilsley and Mr. Michaud. He was a civil servant in the Trade and Commerce Department, later serving as an engineer with the Board of Grain Commissioners. He started out as a contractor in the war years and has specialized in building grain elevators. He is undoubtedly the world’s foremost engineer in his particular line, and this and other countries are dotted with monuments to his skill.

Mr. Howe knows next to nothing about politics, but he knows plenty about business. He is a typical business executive, alert, quick to grasp the fundamentals of a problem quick to reach a decision, ruthless in applying it. Goodnatured, affable, with a ready sense of humor, one realizes very quickly after making his acquaintance that behind those sparkling dark eyes lies a mind that is razor-edged and a character not deficient in determination. Mr. King gave him a free hand with Canada’s seven harbor commissions, and he swept them out of existence within twenty-four hours.

It may be taken for granted that Mr. Howe is not a radical. Undoubtedly he subscribes to the fourteen points of the Liberal election programme, but his position on the broad issues of the day will have to wait definition by himself in the Commons.

Ilsley is Cautious

IN THE press gallery, at Ottawa, the earliest recollection of J. L. Ilsley dates from 1926. It is a recollection of an aubum-haired young man, standing in the more remote ranks of “back benchers,” flailing the air with his arms, passion and conviction ringing in his voice, the Commons strangely hushed and tense. That speech—subject matter

long ago forgotten—was the turning point in his political career; marked him as a coming man. It was followed by more speeches, equally good, and by much hard work. By 1935 the front rank of the party was making a place for him. He became the leading Liberal member of the Price Spreads Commission and wrote most of the dissenting report.

Such being the case, it was a certainty that the Cabinet call for Nova Scotia would go to him, despite the fact that he possessed no previous administrative experience and at forty-one years of age was junior to many of the old guard.

Mr. Ilsley was bom at Somerset in King’s County, Nova Scotia, and graduated from the Dalhousie Law School, the cradle of Mr. Bennett and many another outstanding lawyer. His model both in politics and law is another Bluenose lawyer—Hon. J. L. Ralston. Mr. Ilsley thinks that if he can manage to measure up to the Ralston tradition at Ottawa all will be well.

As tax collector-in-chief for Canada, he has shouldered one of the most difficult and responsible jobs in the Government. The job, in a word, is to pluck feathers out of the goose that lays the golden egg and, while doing so, to keep the old bird happy and preserve its plumage, at least to outward appearance.

Mr. Ilsley is an unusual type to have succeeded so quickly in politics. He is shy, backward, an able debater but deficient in the arts of the platform spellbinder. In his own way, not aggressively or blatantly, he will contribute his share to the progressive forces within the Cabinet. But it will be a cautious sort of progressivism. He is by conviction and by geographical location a tariff-for-revenue man, and he is in a position to make his opinions count for much. The apple orchards and the fisheries of his native province are the best guarantees of his continuous and unflagging search for foreign markets. Mr. Ilsley has seen some things clearly in the past five years, among them this—that the tariff must either yield to the demand of primary producers for wider markets or the country must bonus these industries. You cannot continue to bonus manufacturers with Protection and expect the primary producers to hold the bag.

He is one of four Baptists in the new Government—a denominational triumph hitherto not publicized—and has about him much of the atmosphere of the dissenters—the shunning of worldly pleasures, strict abstemiousness, profound ignorance of the lighter side of social life at the Capital.

“Middle-of-the-Road” Rogers

THOSE WHO were surprised to note in the roster of Cabinet appointments the name of Norman Rogers may have, probably, overlooked one fact of importance—his birthplace. He was born at Amherst, Nova Scotia, and if this hamlet of 7,450 people continues much longer to govern the country, natl nal recognition will be inevitable. Right now Amherst is without peer as the breeding ground of statesmen. It gave the Dominion E. N. Rhodes and J. L. Ralston, and its latest contribution is Mr. Rogers, a young man just turned forty years who has more of promise, more of the solid background of achievement, than any young man who has entered a Federal Cabinet these past twenty years.

Continued on page 28

Continued from page 14

Few will deny that his scholastic record is adequate. He is a graduate of Acadia College and of Oxford (Rhodes scholar). His education was interrupted by war service, but he returned to go through Oxford with honors in history, political science and law. He taught history later on at Acadia; served as private secretary to Mackenzie King; taught political economy at Queen’s until returned to Parliament last October for Kingston.

He is a recognized authority on the British North America Act, on the tariff, on social questions, on pretty nearly everything which might be useful in these times in a career of public service. And with all his attainments, it is plain that he learned enough both as student and teacher to appreciate the truth of tire old saw about an ounce of experience being worth a pound of theory.

His candidature in Kingston came to many as a surprise. His immediate promotion to Cabinet rank was an even greater surprise. Yet he has played a much larger part in the inner councils of the Liberal Party these past two years than is commonly known. He has been Mr. King’s constant adviser, and is closer to the Prime Minister than any other Member of the Party. When Mr. Bennett launched his New Deal broadcasts a year ago, it was Mr. Rogers who was brought to Laurier House to be consulted.

When Mr. King was preparing his own election broadcasts it was, again, Mr. Rogers who gave advice. When an official biography of the Liberal leader was to be published, it was Mr. Rogers who was entrusted with the writing of it. And when Mr. King opened his national tour, it is notable that he did so at Kingston, speaking on behalf of Mr. Rogers. Finally, when Mr. Rogers entered the Cabinet, he did so in the same department which had given Mr. King his first chance.

In point of fact, Mr. Rogers is distinctly of the Mackenzie King school, both in his political views and in his method of dealing with men and problems. He is. not an extremist, although his tariff views swing far in the direction of free trade. As between the laissez faire school of thought and the socialistic concept of the State, he is very much on middle ground. Certainly, he is not immune to the lure of State regulation and planning. He is probably less laissez faire than any other Member of the Government.

There is nothing of the “teacher’s pet” about Mr. Rogers. His rapid promotion in the party was acclaimed by the rank and file of Liberals. One could almost see the field marshal’s baton sticking out of his knapsack were it not for one thing—he lacks the rugged, tough physique which is required to stand up to the ceaseless demands of office these days. Otherwise, if anyone desired to gamble on future leaders of the Liberal party, he would be worth betting on.

Once Parliament’s Bad Boy

CHARLES Gavin (Chubby) Power has no pretensions to statesmanship. He lays no claim to special attainments in any of the many spheres of national affairs. The best way to describe him is to say that he is a politician’s politician. He is the sort of public man that every M.P. would like to be. He is a lawyer, but you would never guess it. He has been in Parliament since 1917, yet retains all the freshness of viewpoint, the zest for politics of a freshman member. He is now the Minister of Pensions—a big shot —and you would never guess that either.

Continued on page 30

Continued from page 28

He is an Irishman and follows the tradition created when Sir John A. Macdonald gave the Irish Catholics a representative in the Cabinet. In this respect he succeeds Hon. R. J. Manion, Peter Heenan, Charles Murphy and a long line of distinguished citizens going back to D’Arcy McGee.

Etiquette will now decree an “Hon.” in front of his name. Actually, however, everyone wall go on calling him “Chubby.” He was born at Sillery, Quebec, was educated at Loyola and Laval Universities, went to the war, was decorated with bullets and medals, returned in 1918 to find himself M.P. for Quebec South. For the next twelve years he insisted upon being Parliament’s bad boy. He would not take politics or politicians seriously. Brilliant, wayward, fun-loving, cynical, without apparent ambition but capable of stealing the show from the best of them— he was the despair of Parliament.

Every quality which is associated with the fighting, irresponsible Irish, he possesses in excess. There were no heights he could not scale if he wanted to. When roused he brought to the Commons a clarity of thought and a precision of language that was almost irresistible. He has the reckless courage that makes the odds of battle unimportant, and his sense of chivalry is instinctive. “Chubby’’ Power always gave quarter, never expected it.

The front benchers and the rank and file on both sides shook their heads sadly at his escapades. Then, in 1931, he reformed. Whether it was the depression or merely that he no longer got a kick out of shocking the bigwigs, he began to take a serious interest in politics, in national affairs. Overnight he became a front-rank man, and his inclusion in the Cabinet was inevitable.

Whether or no he will make a success as a Cabinet Minister will depend entirely on himself. He has ability to bum, plenty of capacity for hard work. He is a realist. He has a contempt for the kind of pompous public men who “view with alarm.” He doesn’t think his own party has a comer on wisdom, and he would be the last to claim immunity from error. He is distinctly the “take a chance” type, and his influence will make for aggressive, daring leadership.

Mackenzie, a Left-Wing Liberal

BACK IN 1930, a new star flashed into the political firmament. Conservatism, under Mr. Bennett, swept the constituencies. Everywhere Liberal banners went down. But out at Vancouver, Hon. Harry Stevens, then a Tory of the Tories, met defeat at the hands of an “unknown.” Thus did Hon. Ian Mackenzie make a dramatic entry on the national stage. He had been a Minister for a few weeks in the old Liberal Government, but as a provincial captain he was really only an interrogation point until he snatched a personal victory out of a party I defeat.

Since 1930 Mr. Mackenzie has been a figure of prominence in the Commons and on the public platform. He is a Highlander, educated at Edinburgh University, a lawyer, an authority on the Celtic languages. He speaks Gaelic as fluently as English and he speaks English very fluently indeed, with a pronounced Scottish burr.

Mr. Mackenzie by long odds is the most inflammable material in the Cabinet. He is, indeed, a radical, an advocate of “controlled inflation,” of “managed currency,” of low tariff, and of much else that might compendiously be termed “reform.” He is the emotional type, is one of the few real orators to be found in public life today.

He is a man of commanding presence, six feet tall, with a splendid military bearing, clear-cut features, candid, fearless blue eyes. Now in the middle forties, a bachelor, there is about him an attractive boyishness.

It might seem unfortunate that this leader of left-wing Liberalism should be immured, of all places, in the Department of National Defense, where, if the worst comes to the worst, he must accept responsibility for the maintenance of law and order, the keeping of things as they are. Mr. Mackenzie will find a minimum of explosive human material among our major-generals and lesser brass hats. But he has a seat at the Council table, and it will be no fault of his if the coming years fail to bring progress with a capital P.

Michaud’s Difficult Job

JOSEPH ENOIL MICHAUD, EdmundsJ ton, New Brunswick, is the youngest of the young men—not in point of age but in political experience and in demonstrated breadth of viewpoint. He has been an M.P. since 1933, being the victor in one of those pre-general election contests which foretold the crushing Conservative defeat of October 14. During his two years in the Commons he was faithful in attendance, a ready speaker but usually upon questions closely related to New Brunswick politics.

As Minister of Fisheries he enters a new field. So far he has been a one-constituency man, little known beyond the confines of Restigouche-Madawaska. And he will have a good deal to do in his own province, in addition to looking to the fortunes of one of our primary industries. There is said to be a Ku Klux Klan revolt in the Englishspeaking areas, and such things are not easily stamped out.

Mr. Michaud was born in Quebec, not New Brunswick, and is therefore a FrenchCanadian and not Acadian French. He has had a considerable experience in municipal affairs and has served in the local legislature. Fie is forty-seven years of age, but looks younger. He is personable and ambitious.

His immediate background would indicate rather advanced views. Fie was the candidate of the National Liberal Federation which, it is understood, accounts for his promotion to the Cabinet in preference to one of the war horses of the party, such as Mr. Veniot.