The Right Honourable
Richard Bedford Bennett
"I propose that any government of which I am the head will at the first session of
parliament initiate whatever action is necessary to that end, or perish in the
attempt." R.B. Bennett, June 9, 1930, on the elimination of unemployment.
- Born: July 3, 1870, Hopewell Hill, New Brunswick
- Education: New Brunswick Provincial Normal School (teaching certificate), Fredericton, 1886; Dalhousie University, LL.B., 1893.
- Marriage: Bachelor.
- Teacher in Irishtown (near Moncton) at age 16, New Brunswick, 1886-1888.
- School principal in Douglastown, New Brunswick, 1888-1890.
- Called to the New Brunswick bar in 1893.
- Alderman in Chatham, New Brunswick, 1896.
- Moved to Calgary, Alberta, to become law partner of Conservative Senator James A. Lougheed.
- President of the Calgary Power Company, Calgary Alberta, 1910-1920.
- Died: June 26, 1947, in Mickleham, Surrey, England, of heart failure. Buried in St. Michael's Churchyard, Mickleham, Surrey, England. (Only Prime Minister not buried in Canada.)
|Did You Know?
When car owners during the depression could no-longer afford to buy gasoline, they harnassed a team of horses or oxen to their cars in order to pull them around. They became jokingly and sarcastically known as "Bennett Buggies"
- Member of Alberta's Provincial Assembly for the Northwest Territories, 1898-1905.
- Member of the Legislature, Alberta, 1909-1911.
- Constituencies: Calgary, Alberta, 1911-1917; Calgary West, Alberta, 1925-1939.
- Director-General of National Service, 1914-1917.
- Appointed Minister of Justice (by PM Arthur Meighen), 1921.
- Attorney General, 1921.
- Conservative Party Leader, 1927-1938.
- Minister Without Portfolio, 1926.
- Minister of Finance and Receiver General, 1926, 1930-1932.
- Acting Minister of Mines and acting Minister of the Interior, 1926.
- Acting Superintendent General of Indian Affairs, 1926.
- Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council, 1930-1935.
- Elected Prime Minister, 1930.
- Based campaign on aggressive measures to fight the encroaching Depression.
- Immediately allocated $20 million to aid the unemployed.
- Initiated preferential tariffs in attempts to strengthen Canadian trade, but exports continued to decline.
- Created the Relief Act in 1932 to help the growing numbers of unemployed. Camps were established to provide single, unemployed men with a subsistence living.
- Unemployed families received relief at the municipal level. (All attempts to co-ordinate welfare on a federal and provincial level failed.)
- Created the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission, later to become the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), 1932.
- Depression at its peak, 1933. Bennett's government was seen to be indecisive and ineffectual, and Bennett became the butt of many jokes.
- Dissension was wide-spread throughout the Conservative party.
- Bennett appeared to be unable (or unwilling) to delegate authority. (At the time, he held portfolios for Finance and External Affairs, but failed to consult with his Cabinet, which angered his ministers.)
- One minister in particular (Henry Stevens) rebelled openly, insisting that the Conservatives adopt a radical plan of political and social reform which caused the party to divide. (Stevens resigned to form a new and short-lived 'Reconstruction Party'.)
- Bennett was inspired by American President Roosevelt's 'New Deal' and gave a series of radio broadcasts promoting minimum wage, health, unemployment insurance, government regulation of banks and trade, and other reforms, but it was 'too little too late'. The Depression became forever associated with the Conservatives and the Liberals, under Mackenzie King, won the election in 1935. (see Mackenzie King)
- Created the Bank of Canada, 1935.
- Created the Canadian Wheat Board, 1935.
- Leader of the Opposition, 1935-1938.
- Emigrated to Britain, 1938.
- Made Viscount, 1941.
- Member of the House of Lords as Viscount Bennett (in the United Kingdom), 1941-1947.
- Bennett is buried in a small, local churchyard not far from his residence in Mickleham, Surrey. He remains the only Canadian Prime Minister not to be buried on Canadian soil.
- Bennett may have failed in politics, but he excelled as a generous man. He gave $25,000 per year to numerous charities, and, throughout the Depression, many of the letters he received asking for help were answered personally by Bennett. Included in each envelope was money from Bennett's own pocket.
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