William Hawrelak

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William Hawrelak
WHawrelak.jpg
24th Mayor of Edmonton
In office
November 7, 1951 – September 9, 1959
Preceded by Sidney Parsons
Succeeded by Frederick John Mitchell
In office
October 16, 1963 – March 11, 1965
Preceded by Elmer Ernest Roper
Succeeded by Vincent M. Dantzer
In office
October 16, 1974 – November 7, 1975
Preceded by Ivor Dent
Succeeded by Terry Cavanagh
Alderman on the Edmonton City Council
In office
November 2, 1949 – November 7, 1951
Personal details
Born (1915-10-03)October 3, 1915
Shandro, Alberta
Died November 7, 1975(1975-11-07) (aged 60)
Edmonton, Alberta
Nationality Canadian
Political party Citizens Committee, Independent
Other political
affiliations
Liberal Party of Canada
Spouse(s) Pearl Shandro
Children Three daughters
Occupation Businessman
Signature

William Hawrelak (October 3, 1915 – November 7, 1975) was a politician in Alberta, Canada, the longest-serving mayor in Edmonton's history, and a candidate for election to the Canadian House of Commons.

Early life[edit]

Hawrelak was born in Shandro, Alberta to Ukrainian immigrants William and Anastasia Hawrelak (the family's ancestral name was Гавриляк (Havryliak)). He married Pearl Shandro (daughter of Alberta MLA Andrew Shandro, after whom Hawrelak's hometown was named) the pair would have three daughters.

In 1945, Hawrelak moved to Edmonton and purchased the Prairie Rose Manufacturing Co., which made soft drinks. He served as president of the Alberta Farmer's Union and of the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues before entering politics.

Early career in municipal politics[edit]

Hawrelak's first attempt at political office took place in the 1948 municipal election, in which he ran for Edmonton City Council and was defeated, finishing seventh of twelve candidates for alderman. He was more successful in the next election, winning the last available aldermanic position by finishing sixth of nine candidates after being backed by the Citizens' Committee, a municipal political party dominated by Anglo-Saxon businessmen.

In 1951, he took over as mayor on an interim basis when Sidney Parsons had to leave the position for health reasons. In that year's election, he won the position more permanently by winning more than sixty-five percent of the vote and defeating the returned Parsons and one other candidate.

First stint as mayor[edit]

Hawrelak initially saw considerable political success: his re-election bids in the 1953 and 1955 elections were unopposed, and in the 1957 election he easily dispatched his two challengers, both former aldermen, winning more than sixty-five percent of the vote.

Hawrelak presided over a time of prosperity resulting, in part, from the discovery of oil near Edmonton in 1947. The city was able to provide a variety of new facilities, including a main branch for the Edmonton Public Library (which would later be named after Stanley A. Milner, a political rival of Hawrelak's), a new city hall, the Riverside Golf Course, the Valley Zoo, Fort Edmonton Park, the Groat Bridge, the Royal Alexandra Hospital, the Queen Elizabeth Planetarium, Borden Park, Coronation Park, Mayfair Park (later renamed in Hawrelak's honour), and the Edmonton portion of the Yellowhead Trail (Highway 16).

In 1958, Ed Leger - who would later become the longest-serving alderman in Edmonton's history, before his record was surpassed by Ron Hayter - presented a petition to city council that called for an investigation into the city administration. Leger alleged that Hawrelak had used his position to financially benefit himself, his family, and his associates.

An ensuing inquiry by Justice Marshall Porter found Hawrelak guilty of "gross misconduct" - including, in some cases, attempts to influence rezoning of land he owned - in six different land transactions. Hawrelak resigned September 9, 1959, but continued to deny any wrongdoing.

Return to office and second stint[edit]

The city sued Hawrelak, and he ultimately paid $100,000 plus $4,000 in legal fees to settle the lawsuit; this settlement also made him eligible to again seek elected municipal office, which he did in the 1963 election. In an election that has been called the dirtiest in Edmonton's history, he narrowly defeated alderman Stanley A. Milner. His victory was marred by a riot that erupted when a group of students marching to city hall to protest Hawrelak's re-election victory were met by a mob loyal to the mayor, leading the Edmonton Journal - which was regularly critical of Hawrelak - to speculate that the mob was organized by the same people who "toured meetings during the recent election campaign with the sole purpose of preventing anti-Hawrelak candidates from speaking".

Hawrelak was re-elected in the 1964 election, defeating incumbent alderman and former Member of Parliament George Prudham, but his second stint as mayor would also end prematurely: on March 11, 1965, Chief Justice C.C. McLaurin of the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta disqualified Hawrelak from his position after ruling that he had violated the City Act through his involvement with Sun Alta Builder's Ltd., of which he owned forty percent and which had bought land from the city while he was in office. Again Hawrelak denied wrongdoing, and appealed the decision up to the Supreme Court of Canada, which upheld it (he did win a partial victory in March 1975 when the same court reversed a ruling of a lower court that ordered that he return $80,117 in profits from the dealings to the city; the Supreme Court of Canada found that there were no profits to be returned).

Out of office and federal politics[edit]

View of the lake in Hawrelak Park, Edmonton.

Hawrelak ran for mayor in the 1966 election, but was defeated by Vincent Dantzer, the man city council had chosen to replace him as mayor. This would be the only mayoral defeat Hawrelak would suffer in his career. After this defeat, he declared himself done with city politics. He turned his attention instead to the federal scene.

In the 1957 federal election, Hawrelak, still mayor and before his political troubles had started, had run as the Liberal Party of Canada candidate in Edmonton East. He had come within three hundred votes of unseating incumbent Social Credit Party of Canada MP Ambrose A. Holowach, but had not hitherto made any subsequent bids for federal election. This changed with the 1968 federal election. Hawrelak ran in Edmonton Centre. Denied the Liberal nomination, he ran instead as an "Independent Liberal". He finished third, behind Progressive Conservative Steve Paproski and official Liberal Donald Gray. He may have had some impact after all, however: the gap between the Conservative Paproski and the Liberal Gray was fewer than two hundred votes, while the independent Liberal Hawrelak won more than seven thousand.

Third stint and death[edit]

Reversing himself, Hawrelak ran for mayor again in the 1974 election against incumbent Ivor Dent, future mayor Cec Purves, alderman David Ward, and three other candidates. Even in this crowded field, Hawrelak won more than forty-nine percent of the vote in his return to office. His last term was marked by a similar style of governance to his previous terms: he was accused of stacking city boards and commissions with his friends, he appointed a disbarred lawyer as his executive assistant, and allowed property taxes into his holdings to fall in arrears (which he characterized as an oversight). However, he also faced new opposition: the council on which he served included a number of urban reformers as well as his old nemesis Ed Leger. Hawrelak couldn't maintain the tight control to which he was accustomed.

Fifteen months after his election, on November 7, 1975, William Hawrelak died of a heart attack. More than ten thousand people came to pay their respects as his body lay in city council chambers.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Sidney Parsons
Mayor of Edmonton
1951-1959
Succeeded by
Frederick John Mitchell
Preceded by
Elmer Ernest Roper
Mayor of Edmonton
1964-1965
Succeeded by
Vincent M. Dantzer
Preceded by
Ivor Dent
Mayor of Edmonton
1974-1975
Succeeded by
Terry Cavanagh