Ernest Charles Drury

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Ernest C. Drury)
Jump to: navigation, search
Ernest Charles Drury
EC Drury Photo B (HS85-10-36997).jpg
The Hon. Ernest Charles Drury in 1920
8th Premier of Ontario
In office
November 14, 1919 – July 16, 1923
Monarch George V
Lieutenant Governor John Strathearn Hendrie
Lionel Herbert Clarke
Henry Cockshutt
Preceded by William Hearst
Succeeded by George Howard Ferguson
Ontario MPP
In office
Preceded by John Featherstone Ford
Succeeded by George Hillmer
Constituency Halton
Personal details
Born (1878-01-22)January 22, 1878
Crown Hill, Ontario
Died February 17, 1968( 1968-02-17) (aged 90)
Barrie, Ontario
Resting place Saint James Cemetery, Barrie
Political party United Farmers of Ontario
Spouse(s) Ella Partridge
Religion United Church

Ernest Charles Drury (January 22, 1878 – February 17, 1968) was a farmer, politician and writer who served as the eighth Premier of Ontario, Canada, from 1919 to 1923 as the head of a United Farmers of Ontario - Labour coalition government.


Drury was the grandson of Richard Drury, who arrived in Crown Hill, Ontario from Kenilworth, Warwickshire, England in 1819. His father, Charles Drury, continued the family farm and was a forward-looking farmer who utilized new techniques and technologies. In 1882, he was president of the Agricultural and Arts Association of Ontario. He also served reeve of Oro Township in Simcoe County for 13 years and was elected to the Ontario legislature as an Ontario Liberal Party member where he served from 1882 to 1890, the last two years as the province's first Minister of Agriculture.[1]

Entry into politics[edit]

Drury was an "Opposition" candidate in Simcoe North in the 1917 wartime election held as a result of the Conscription Crisis of 1917. He was defeated by the Government candidate.

E. C. Drury was a co-founder of the UFO in 1913, but did not run in the 1919 election that returned farmer candidates as the largest bloc in the provincial legislature. Not having a leader, the UFO Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) asked Drury to lead them. The UFOs 49 MLAs joined with 11 Labour members to form a coalition government. It was the first of a wave of United Farmers governments that took power in several provinces and that founded the Progressive Party of Canada.

Premier of Ontario[edit]

A group of mostly black Canadians poses with Premier Drury and Sir Henry Pellatt on the steps of the Ontario Legislative Building in 1920

Drury's progressive government created the first Department of Welfare for the province and brought in allowances for widows and children, a minimum wage for women and standarized adoption procedures.[2] His government also expanded Ontario Hydro, created the Province of Ontario Savings Office - a provincially owned bank that was designed to lend money to farmers at a lower rate - began the first major reforestation program in North America, and initiated construction of the modern highway system. Drury also arranged for a grant for unknown researchers Frederick Banting and Charles Best who would go on to discover insulin.[2]

Identified with Temperance enforcement[edit]

The government was also a strict enforcer of temperance measures, amidst mixed publicity. In 1920 a Provincial Temperance enforcer, The Reverend J O L Spracklin, shot and killed an illicit liquor trader.

Manslaughter trial brings unwelcome publicity[edit]

The pastor — a strongly zealous and articulate personality — was acquitted of manslaughter, but the resultant publicity — generally linked with a major professed aim of Premier Drury's administration — served to call the aim of rigorous Temperance enforcement into question in the minds of many Ontarians.

Opposition of J. J. Morrison and other controversies[edit]

Erratic relations with the United Farmers' Organization[edit]

The government under Drury tried to be a "people's government" rather than a "class government", but in so doing, alienated the base of its support, particularly farmers. In a series of erratic events, the UFO government clashed with the uncooperative UFO organization (led by James J. Morrison throughout Drury's term) which ultimately withdrew its support from the government.

Additional difficulties[edit]

Drury also alienated industrialists and many workers by battling with Sir Adam Beck and his plans for expansion of the province's hydro-electric system. Many labour leaders distrusted a government dominated by farmers, feeling that they could not understand the problems of urban workers. Drury's failure to establish fair wage provisions in government contracts and his commitment to free trade that threatened the livelihood of industrial workers alienated urban workers further.

The government was also much harmed by the Ontario Bond Scandal that resulted in provincial treasurer Peter Smith being jailed.

The government was opposed by all the major newspapers in the province, with the exception of the Toronto Star, and, despite its attempt to broaden its base, was opposed by business.

Fall from power[edit]

Drury in 1923

The Drury government collapsed after it introduced a bill in the legislature that would have brought in proportional representation and a preferential ballot and Drury called an early election.[2] The government was defeated when it ran for re-election in the 1923 provincial election, in part, due to false claims that Drury had used $100 to purchase a new coal scuttle for his personal use. In fact, the device was an old scuttle which had been retrieved from storage and polished up. Drury never responded to the false claim, however, and it contributed to opposition claims of the government's extravagance.[2]

Later political activity[edit]

Drury retired from politics, but ran later as a federal candidate. Unlike many UFOers, he never joined either the Liberal Party of Canada or the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation.

Drury was active with the Progressive Party of Canada following the demise of his provincial government. He ran as a Progressive candidate in Simcoe North in the Canadian federal election, 1925, 1926 and 1930 federal elections but was defeated by Conservative candidates by margins of 600, 200 and 800 votes respectively.[3]

Later life[edit]

Last surviving members of the UFO-Labour coalition government (1919-1923) in 1955. From left to right: Harry Mills, E.C. Drury, Harry Nixon and Walter Rollo

Local government activities[edit]

In 1934, he was appointed sheriff and registrar of Simcoe County. He held this position until 1959 (a portrait of Drury is still displayed prominently at the local courthouse in Barrie).

Writings; anti-nuclear campaigning[edit]

He wrote for magazines such as Maclean's.

Drury also wrote two local histories, The story of Simcoe County (1955) and All for a beaver hat: a history of early Simcoe County (1959).[4]

In 1966, — over 40 years after his Premiership had ended — he published his memoirs, Farmer Premier: Memoirs of the Honourable E. C. Drury.

Drury remained interested in political matters. During the debate on whethar or not Canada should install American-operated nuclear-tipped Bomarc missiles in the 1960s, Drury wrote "the next government of Canada... should refuse to accept nuclear arms. The whole nuclear program of the United States is dangerous."[5]


There is a secondary school, E.C. Drury High School and also the provincial E. C. Drury School for the Deaf, both in Milton, Ontario.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "E.C. Drury was his father's son", Barrie Advance, June 30, 2008
  2. ^ a b c d "Free-trader, writer and farmer, former Premier E.C. Drury dies" Globe and Mail, February 19, 1968
  3. ^ Library of Parliament, SIMCOE NORTH, Ontario (1867 - ) election results, History of Federal Ridings since 1867, accessed February 14, 2008
  4. ^
  5. ^ Canadian Peace Congress leaflet, March 1963

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Leader of the United Farmers of Ontario
Succeeded by
Manning Doherty