William John Patterson
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William John Patterson (May 13, 1886 – June 10, 1976) was a Liberal politician and Premier of Saskatchewan, Canada. He was first elected to the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan in the 1921 election. He succeeded James G. Gardiner to become the province's first Saskatchewan-born premier in 1935.
Patterson's leadership was considered to be uninspired.[according to whom?] He was unable to resist the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation's rise to power in the 1944 election under Tommy Douglas. Patterson's Liberals were reduced to five seats in the Legislature. He resigned as Liberal leader in 1946.
Paterson was born on May 13, 1886, in Grenfell in what was then the District of Assiniboia of the North-West Territories. His father, John Patterson, had moved to Grenfell in 1882 to work as a railway section foreman during the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. His mother, Catherine Fraser, was an immigrant from Scotland.
Patterson left school at 15 and found work first at a bank and then in the Saskatchewan Department of Telephones. Following the outbreak of World War I, Patterson in 1916 enlisted in the Canadian Army, serving as a cavalry officer. He was wounded in September 1918.
Patterson ran in the Saskatchewan general election of 1921, as the Saskatchewan Liberal Party's candidate for the constituency of Pipestone. Patterson won the district and took his seat in the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan. Patterson held several cabinet positions in governments headed by Premier James Garfield Gardiner. He was reelected in the 1925 election and the 1929 election, but in the latter case, the Liberals lost the election and so Patterson moved to the Opposition. In the 1934 election, the Liberals returned to power, and Patterson returned to cabinet.
In 1935, Premier Gardiner left provincial politics to become Canadian Minister of Agriculture under Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King. Patterson was elected as Gardiner's successor as leader of the Liberal Party of Saskatchewan and Premier of Saskatchewan. Taking office in the midst of the Great Depression, Patterson sought to extend social programs to assist those in need. His government increased funding for education, enacted pension and debt relief legislation, and expanded public funding for treatment of tuberculosis, cancer, and polio.
However, Patterson subscribed to the conventional wisdom of the day that deficit spending would ruin the province's credit and he thus therefore refused to run a budget deficit, instead funding the increased government spending through a new sales tax. His government also passed legislation making it easier to form credit unions, permitting the formation of unions, and increasing labour standards.
Patterson won re-election in the 1938 election and continued to serve as premier. In the 1944 election, however, the Liberals were easily defeated by the Saskatchewan Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, under the leadership of Tommy Douglas. Patterson served as Leader of the Opposition until 1946, when he resigned as Liberal leader. He remained a Member of the Legislative Assembly and was a candidate in the 1948 election, and was re-elected as the member from Cannington.
Following his resignation, Patterson took up a position with the federal Board of Transport Commissioners.
In 1951, Patterson was appointed as the first Saskatchewan-born Lieutenant Governor. He served in this post until 1958. Upon Patterson's retirement, Douglas introduced special legislation to provide Patterson with a pension to thank for his many years of service to the province.
Patterson then lived quietly in retirement until his death in Regina, on June 10, 1976.
- "Saskatchewan Election Results By Electoral Division" (PDF). Saskatchewan Archives Board. Retrieved April 18, 2017.
- William John Patterson, Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan