George Hara Williams

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Hon. George Hara Williams
MLA
George Hara Williams in 1944.jpg
Williams' official Cabinet picture, September 1944.
Minister of Agriculture
In office
1944 – 1945
Leader of the Opposition
In office
1934 – 1940
Preceded by James T.M. Anderson
Succeeded by John Hewgill Brockelbank
Personal details
Born November 17, 1894
Binscarth, Manitoba
Died September 12, 1945
Vancouver, BC
Political party Farmer-Labour Group/ Saskatchewan CCF

George Hara Williams (November 17, 1894 – September 12, 1945) was a farmer activist and politician.[1] Born in Binscarth, Manitoba, Williams attended Manitoba Agricultural College after serving in World War I. Upon graduating, he moved to Saskatchewan to become director of livestock and equipment in the province for the Soldier Settlement Board.[1]

He began farming himself and joined and became an organizer for the Farmers Union of Canada in 1923. He served as president of its successor – the United Farmers of Canada – from 1929 to 1931, and steered it towards political action. Williams brought a militant class struggle perspective to the organization.[2] He was also involved with the Marxist Farmers’ Educational League and was founder and secretary of the short-lived Farmers’ Political Association formed in 1924.[1]

In 1932, he and M.J. Coldwell co-chaired a convention that brought together the United Farmers of Canada (Saskatchewan Section) and the Independent Labour Party to form the new Farmer-Labour Group (FLG) with Coldwell as party leader. The party was recognized as the unofficial provincial branch of the new Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) shortly after the CCF was formed. The FLG contested the 1934 provincial election. Williams tried to deal with claims by the Liberals and Conservatives that the FLP/CCF in power would expropriate farmers' land in order to collectivize agriculture by stating repeatedly that "the basis of CCF land policy was a recognition of the family farm as the fundamental unit".[3]

The FLP elected five MLAs to the Saskatchewan legislature – including Williams in the constituency of Wadena – and formed the official opposition to the Liberal government. Coldwell did not win a seat in the legislature and Williams became Leader of the Opposition. The FLG officially affiliated with the national CCF and became the Saskatchewan CCF. In 1935, with Coldwell's election to the Canadian House of Commons, Williams became acting party leader and officially became party leader and president in 1936.[1]

In 1931 Williams had served as a Canadian delegate to the World Wheat Conference and subsequently, under the auspices of the United Farmers of Canada, he visited the Soviet Union. Unfortunately the Soviet tour resulted in false accusations that he was a "Red", and some CCFers came to believe he would be unable to take the party to power,[4] even after it doubled its share of seats in the 1938 general election under his leadership. The party moderated several of its policies and limited its policy on nationalization of industry to transportation, communications and hydroelectric power.[4]

Williams' style and militancy alienated some party activists who called on Tommy Douglas, a popular CCF MP in the House of Commons, to take over the provincial party leadership. In 1941 Williams resigned his seat in the legislature in order to serve in the Canadian Army during World War II[5] with the rank of Major in the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps.[6] John Brockelbank, a Williams loyalist, became the CCF's house leader while Williams retained the party presidency and leadership. Douglas challenged Williams for the position of Saskatchewan CCF president at the 1941 party convention and was elected. In 1942, Douglas was elected party leader.[7] Williams returned to Canada prior to the 1944 Saskatchewan election and helped rally rural support for the party in its successful election campaign. Williams was appointed Minister of Agriculture in the new CCF government but resigned in February 1945 due to ill health. He died later that year in Vancouver.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Dale-Burnett, Lisa, Williams, George (1894–1945), Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan, accessed February 12, 2008
  2. ^ Conway, John Frederick, The West: The History of a Region in Confederation, James Lorimer & Company, 1994, ISBN 1-55028-409-6 page 127
  3. ^ Conway, John Frederick, The West: The History of a Region in Confederation, James Lorimer & Company, 1994, ISBN 1-55028-409-6 page 135
  4. ^ a b Saskatchewan Council for Archives and Archivists, "Social Democracy in the Depression", Saskatchewan's 1944 CCF election, accessed February 12, 2008
  5. ^ Saskatchewan Council for Archives and Archivists, "Tommy Douglas and the Election of 1944", Saskatchewan's 1944 CCF election, accessed February 12, 2008
  6. ^ Search Details - Veterans Affairs Canada
  7. ^ Quiring, Brett, "Douglas, Thomas Clement (1904–86)", Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan, accessed February 12, 2008