W-MCP7-1.264 Open Letter to Ontario Liberal Convention members
Apr 17 1943
From: T.B. McQuesten.
An Open Letter
The Members and Delegates attending the Ontario Liberal Convention in Toronto1
During this convention you will be called upon to exercise a serious duty of utmost importance in appointing a new Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party.
You will name a man who will be entrusted with the general welfare of the people of the Province, and the future of our Party.
When you cast your ballot it is your duty as a citizen, and a Party member, to name the man who is best qualified to keep the Liberal Party united, lead it to new victories; he must be qualified in ability and experience to get things done that will be of general benefit; only such qualifications can retain and increase the prestige that the Liberal Party has won since 1934.
The man you choose as leader will immediately face many important tasks that affect the welfare of everyone within the Province in the successful prosecution of our military and economic war effort.
In due time the leader of your choice must present the case of our Party to the Electors. This presentation will be as weak or as strong as the man we choose NOW; as weak or as strong as the record of achievement of him and his colleagues in the Legislature. YOU as delegates, MUST, in fairness to the future of your Party, choose your leader on these qualities.
As President of the Ontario Liberal Association, the reins of the Party were placed in my hands at a time when as a Party we were at our lowest ebb in strength. Together we defined new, constructive, and popular Liberal policies. We won the faith of the people and in 1934 a sweeping victory after a long series of defeats.
I have every confidence that this faith in my leadership and ability to keep the Party united for new victories will be renewed by you.
Your new Leader must avert unemployment and retain our present prosperity which has brought Ontario to such a high plane of living.
He must make accessible to industry the great store of raw material wealth above and below the ground in our great untouched treasure chest of natural resources in the north; to insure continuance of those now great industries and induce settlement and development of the north.
He must prepare NOW to secure for Ontario a full share of the boom travel business that will result in the post-war era by improving and extending our highways quickly so that this income will be distributed equally in the north, east, west and along the border.
His most immediate task is to provide help for out farmers in addition to that secured under Federal Government plans, so that they can plant and harvest the crops so vital in winning this war. This is OUR job now and it must be done quickly if we are to avert a food shortage. Pools of farm workers must be organized in every community from women, young men and non essential workers who will be glad to volunteer when they know the facts and are intelligently organized into working units.
As Minister of Highways, I am completing plans for highway extensions and improvements that will bring the widely scattered people of Ontario closer together--the farmer nearer in travel time to his markets--our great store of raw materials closer to the industrial centres where their conversion into useful, saleable and exportable products will provide employment and increase prosperity--and over which tourists may travel quickly to ALL of the attractive places of Ontario.
I can start these extensive projects immediately the war ends [sic] to provide quick employment for many thousands of workers. Through gasoline taxes that will result from a boom travel business, the cost of these projects will be directly and indirectly self-liquidating.
As Minister of Municipal Affairs and Public Works and Minister of Highways, I have planned many local improvements with municipal authorities. These have been recorded, completely planned and I can also start these immediately to create employment and keep our thousands of war workers busy while our greatly expanded industries convert to production of peacetime products.
With the Dominion Government administering the affairs of war in such an able manner, there is little left for the Provincial Governments to do but lend full and wholehearted co-operation to these efforts until victory is ours and in the meantime plan carefully to prevent, as far as possible, any post-war depression and to insure a continuance of the prosperity we now enjoy. In my posts of Minister of Highways, Municipal Affairs, Public Works and, in collaboration with the municipal authorities, I have planned to accomplish these desirable results.
There will be no fanfare in my campaign; the times are too serious, the work ahead too important to the welfare of our people and our Party.
In conclusion, I offer you, ladies and gentlemen, my successful record in the posts of Minister of Highways, Municipal Affairs, Public Works; Chairman of the Niagara Parks Commission and Member of the Hydro Electric Commission of Ontario as concrete evidence that I have done these jobs well. From border to border of the Province there are visible improvements to further demonstrate my ability.
I offer also my record as President of the Ontario Liberal Association and the way in which the Party was returned and retained in power and the manner in which we have held together and developed new strength and public prestige.
When you cast your ballot consider these things as more important than personalities. It is your duty to your Party and to the people of Ontario to choose a Leader who will retain the confidence of the public in our Party; who will not show any weakness in administration of Government policies.[sup/2
With best wishes for a most successful Convention
1 This particular document, originally undated, was assigned the date April 17, 1943, for classification purposes. Tom made his very late entrance into the Liberal Convention in Ontario that would determine who would be the next leader of the provincial party. The Liberals had not yet dissociated their federal and provincial organizations as the Tories had already done, so federal politicians could directly influence the structure of the provincial party, and Tom had made an enemy of the prime minister. On April 30th the delegates (many with ties to the federal Liberal party) elected Harry Nixon, who received 418 out of the nearly 600 votes. Tom received only 49 votes [Best, 170]. It is very likely that Tom's support of the previous Ontario premier, Mitchell Hepburn, cost him the support he needed to become premier himself.
Hepburn had rejuvenated the provincial party's image after becoming party leader in 1930 even though he was a backbencher in the federal party at the time and had no seat in the provincial legislature. In the 1934 election, the Liberals defeated the Tories to become the governing party in the province. Hepburn won his riding and promptly invited Tom to become a member of his cabinet.
Prime Minister King initially thought Hepburn possessed great potential, but believed his relatively young age made him prone to the temptations of women and alcohol and, hence, someone to be watched. King's opinion of Hepburn vacillated, and in his diary sometimes describes him as "promising," at other times as lacking judgement and a potential troublemaker. He was not alone in this opinion however as even Hepburn's friends were concerned that his drinking and furious outbursts would create difficulties [Saywell, 64].
On the other hand, King was rather impressed with Tom, but this would change. In 1940, Hepburn put forth a resolution condemning King's perceived lack of action with regards to the war, a position on which both he and then Tory Leader George Drew, agreed. On January 18th, the matter came to a head when Hepburn spoke in the provincial parliament, saying "I stand firm in my statements that Mackenzie King has not done his duty to his country--never has a never will." He then proceeded to read out the following resolution:
That this House has heard with interest the reports made by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition of the result of their visit to Ottawa to discuss war measures with the National Government and this House hereby endorses the statements made by the two members in question and joins with them in regretting that the Federal Government at Ottawa has made so little effort to prosecute Canada's duty in the war in the vigorous manner the people of Canada desire to see. [Saywell, 437]
When Harry Nixon refused to second the resolution, Hepburn handed it to Tom and reportedly said "Here, you are the President of the Liberal Association, second this" [Saywell, 438]. Tom obliged, infuriating King. Tom's continued support of Hepburn likely fanned the flames until the convention was held and the vote went to Nixon, who lasted only three months as Premier before the provincial election on August 4th, 1943. The Liberals retained only 15 seats in the legislature and Tom's was not one of them.
While Tom retained his non-political positions, his political difficulties were not yet over. George Drew, who was now the Conservative Premier, had Tom's construction efforts at Niagara Falls audited, but found no blame. In May 1944, Drew forced Tom out of his position as Chairman of the Niagara Parks Commission, informing him that because of the committee's interaction with government departments, the position would now to go to a member of the government (Conservative) [W-MCP7-1.148].
A few years later, Tom found himself at loggerheads with King. Starting in 1941 Tom oversaw the construction of the carillon tower at Niagara Falls, and had requested that the largest bell be inscribed with a statement praising the wartime efforts of "our Nations' Leaders" Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt (Box 14-122). King's name had been completely omitted, a fact King did not discover until May 1947 when the Niagara Bridge Commission applied for a refund on the tariff paid to have the bells imported from Britain. Tom refused to remove Churchill's name from the inscription, and the bells were kept locked up and out of sight until 1975. Tom died of cancer in 1948; consequently, he never heard the bells ring.
Best, John C. Thomas Baker McQuesten: Public Works, Politics and Imagination. Hamilton On: Corinth Press (1991)
The Diaries of William Lyon Mackenzie King: http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/databases/king/001059-130-e.html#a
Saywell, John T. Just Call Me Mitch: The Life of Mitchell F. Hepburn. Toronto On: University of Toronto Press (1991)
2 One page of W.L.M. Mackenzie King's Diary dated October 21, 1921, sent to Mary Anderson by e-mail by John Best, Owner & Editor of the Bay Observer newspaper, on August 23, 2013, with a note that it contains a message that W.L.M.King had met McQuestion [sic], likely, Thomas Baker McQuesten. It also contains mention of Thomas McQuesten's father (Isaac McQuesten) as being the best man for W.L.M. King's father's wedding which took place at Niagara-on-the-Lake. Thomas McQuesten did work to preserve W.L. Mackenzie's house and printing press at Niagara-on-the-Lake since it was the house where W.L.M. King's father had proposed to W.L. Mackenzie's daughter. So it creates a greater reason for Tom to try to preserve the history of Mackenzie and the Rebellion on the arch at Niagara. Eventually, the emblems on the arch and the controversey over the Carillon Tower did make W.L.M. King angry.
John Best notes that King senior was a law prof at U of T. He was not very successful in the actual practice of law.
See bolded sentence below for mention of "McQuestion" [McQuesten].
Sunday, October 2, 1921 (Cont'd)
singing these hymns. Back to car at midnight.
Monday, October 3, 1921
I woke about 9 this a.m., slept only moderately well, rested till 10:30, had breakfast at Midleton and lunch at Digby on arrival at 2. Spent part of the morning dictating, Beaudry with the best of intentions is a poor secretary, too slow, too little knowledge of political affairs or people, too ready to give offhand and often inaccurate opinions. It is a great handicap having poor assistance. Nicol does his job splendidly. I greatly enjoyed the scenery of the country through which we passed, it is like northern Italy, the sea which flows in over the fields, the dykes, the valley of the Annapolis with its historic and romantic associations are a delight to the sojourner. I have seen nothing lovelier anywhere than all this southern portion of Nova Scotia. After reaching Digby we were taken for a drive by Dr. Lovett, the local candidate, whom I think will win, then I went to the car & did a little sorting of papers, then walked to the hotel, went to bed for an hour's rest, fell sound asleep, had bath & supper in my room, then to the meeting in the skating rink, with Mr. Fielding & Dr. Beland. The rain came on after we were there & made it necessary to shout a little. Beland spoke first, more genial than usual. Fielding last, very well but praising the Farmers too much, seeing they are our enemies in some ridings. Beland & I spoke of this to him after the meeting--his reply was that it was [what] he had said in the H. of C. I spoke for 1 hr. & a few minutes, to good effect I think, especially as regards tariff revision, re increase of product'n & cost of living had a sandwich & some cider in Mr. Fielding"s room after the meeting. By a curious coincidence, met today Mr. McQuestion [sic] of Hamilton whose father was father's best man when he was married & saw on street Mrs. Douglas--Miss Piper who was--our governess for years. Tonight am sleeping near [blank ?] where I hear the ebb & flow of the sea. It is delightful, to bed 12:45.
Meighan is speaking tonight at Amherst & Springhill & will be here in the morning. Reception not as demonstrative at station, but splendid aty meeting.
Tuesday, October 4, 1921
Did not sleep too well last night, got up about 10 & left Digby at 11:30 Meighen had been due to arrive before we left but missed coming by boat as expected, and was very late by train. Davidson & other of his followers were at the train waiting somewhat disconsolate. He is trying meetings morning noon and night at this stage of the campaign it is too much. We passed his train enroute to Kentville--2 private cars--but [discontinued, end of page]