R.B. Bennett Day
The third annual “R. B. Bennett Day” celebration at the
Albert County Museum
will be held on Saturday,
July 6, 2013
Richard Bedford Bennett (1870-1947) was Canada’s
eleventh Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative government from August 7th,
1930 to October 23rd, 1935, a period of tribulation that encompassed
the worst years of the Great Depression.
Born on July 3ed, 1870, to Henrietta Stiles
and Henry Bennett, a ship-building family, R. B. Bennett grew up in Hopewell Cape.
His early education was rudimentary, but his mother instructed him in
the classics. After teaching school for
a few years, Bennett graduated from Dalhousie
University in 1893 and practiced law
in Chatham, New Brunswick
for four years before moving to Calgary in what
was then the Northwest Territories. He served as Member of the Assembly of the
Territories for six years before being elected MLA and Leader of the Opposition
(1909-1911) in the new Alberta Legislature.
He was president of the Calgary Power Company (1910-1920) and legal
counsel for the Canadian Pacific Railway for many years. Bennett entered national politics and
represented the constituency of Calgary East from 1911 to 1917; then Calgary
West from 1925 to 1939.
R. B. Bennett held many portfolios during
his years in government including: Director-General of National Service
(1914-1917); Minister of Justice and Attorney General (1921); Minister Without
Portfolio (1926); Minister of Finance (1926); Receiver General (1926,
1930-1932); Minister of Mines and Interior and Superintendent of Indian Affairs
(1926); Secretary of State for External Affairs and President of the Privy
Council (1930-1935). In 1927 he was
elected leader of the Conservative Party.
Bennett was an excellent parliamentarian and debater who strengthened
his party leading up to the election of 1930.
Elected Prime Minister of Canada in 1930
with a strong majority, Bennett campaigned on a platform to provide progressive
action to deal with the serious economic situation that would become known as
The Great Depression. As the global
economic depression continued to worsen, voters turned to governments for
security that the economy could not provide.
Traditional government measures which Bennett advocated, such as
supporting the dollar and maintaining tariffs for dealing with deflation and
unemployment, proved to be ineffective.
Later, the new federal social welfare measures he introduced, such as
early unemployment insurance and public work programs, called the “Bennett New
Deal”, showed some early results during the last six months of his term,
although they shocked many of his Conservative colleagues at the time. As the Depression continued amid declining
provincial revenues that approached bankruptcy, especially in the West, the
federal government had to contribute more to relief costs, further limiting
Bennett’s programs through loss of government credit and revenues. As a result, Bennett faced isolation and
major dissent across the country and within his own party. The blame and responsibility for The Great
Depression was attributed to Bennett personally with the Conservatives losing
the election of 1935.
While Prime Minister of Canada R. B. Bennett created many
progressive programs. He passed the
Relief Act (1932); created the Canadian Broadcasting Commission (forerunner of
the CBC); the central Bank of Canada
(1935); and the Canadian Wheat Board (1935).
In addition, Bennett signed the Statute of Westminster making the
Canadian Parliament fully independent in its decisions.
After suffering political and personal
family losses and feeling no longer wanted as their Prime Minister by the
people of Canada and betrayed
by his own Party, Bennett reconsidered a suggestion made to him in earlier
years by his old friend Max Aitken (Lord Beaverbrook) and moved to England
to live and continue his law practice.
In 1941 R. B. Bennett was made Viscount (of Mickleham, Calgary
and joined the House of Lords. His
health gradually deteriorated until his death at home in Mickelham in
1947. He was buried there, in the
ancient churchyard, the only Prime Minister not interred in Canada. Noted for his strong personality,
decisiveness and dedication to Canada,
Bennett was personally generous with his acquired wealth during his lifetime
and, by the direction of his estate, remains a benefactor to Canadians.
The Albert County Historical Society Inc. is a Registered Canadian
Charity. Please contact us if
you would like to make a financial contribution or to learn more about
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