Opinion Column

Edward Dunlop - a true son of Pembroke

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer

The Dunlop family home, built in 1880 by businessman and MPP Arunah Dunlop, stands today overlooking the intersection of Mackay and Albert streets. His son, Edward, entered politics in 1902. His remarkable career peaked with his appointment as Ontario's finance minister.

SEAN CHASE/DAILY OBSERVER The Dunlop family home, built in 1880 by businessman and MPP Arunah Dunlop, stands today overlooking the intersection of Mackay and Albert streets. His son, Edward, entered politics in 1902. His remarkable career peaked with his appointment as Ontario's finance minister.

From behind the counter of his father's hardware store to the front bench at Queen's Park.

Edward Arunah Dunlop could well have become the first Ontario premier to hail from Pembroke. When he was sworn in as the province's treasurer in 1930, he was already one of the most remarkable citizens we ever produced. As a political force, the Conservative lost only one election during his long-serving tenure as MPP for North Renfrew. One time, when the writ was dropped, the Liberals declined to field an opponent against him ensuring acclamation.

He followed his father into provincial politics. Like his father, he died while still holding office. More coincidentally, father and son passed away on the same day 42 years apart. However, Edward Arunah Dunlop left a definite legacy as an industrialist and politician. Few people from the Upper Ottawa Valley could write such a biography.

He was born the son of Arunah Dunlop and Mary Ellen Deacon on Oct. 26, 1876. The family's roots in the area went back to when Pembroke was still a village. A prominent merchant in the town, his father established a hardware and lumber warehouse. His mother was the daughter of John Deacon, the first senior judge in Renfrew County. Young Edward was educated in both Pembroke and Toronto. After his schooling, he worked as a clerk for his father's business.

He became more involved in running the warehouse when Arunah Dunlop was elected a Conservative member of the provincial legislature in 1890. Edward took over the business when his father died on New Year's Day, 1892. His interest in commerce, however, went well beyond hardware.

In a time when Pembroke's industrial potential was being realized, Edward seized the moment. His father was one of the original shareholders in the Pembroke Electric Company, the first commercial enterprise to produce power for a municipality and which gave us Canada's first electric street lights. The younger Dunlop eventually worked his way into the company becoming its president. He also headed up Pembroke Lumber and Steel Equipment Company and sat on the board of directors for such local financial giants as the Eddy Match Company, Canadian Splint and Lumber Corporation, Superior Electronics and the Canadian Warren-Pink company.

If that wasn't enough, he also secured a position on the board of the Victory Foundry Company of Ottawa. Later, he would sit as president of the Board of Trade. Dunlop played a prominent role in society as well sitting as a member of several important clubs and organizations. He was the president of the Pembroke Golf Club, an honorary president of the Pembroke Hockey Club, a member of the Rideau Club of Ottawa and the Toronto Albany Club.

A newspaper editorial once summed up Edward Dunlop with these words: "E.A. Dunlop was a true son of Pembroke and he loved his home town with a devotion that is almost without local parallel working continuously for the progress and improvement of the community and the welfare of its people. He was always ready to help any individual or any cause. Athletic organizations and charitable projects were always sure of his ready and generous support, while his benefactions of his church and the hospitals were numerous and substantial."

It was no surprise that Dunlop's boundless ambition led him to politics.

He was first elected to Pembroke council serving a ward in the town's east end for five years. However, his sights were soon set on Queen's Park where he once worked as a young page. As fate would have it, an opportunity in the form of a sudden vacancy presented itself. On the night of the May 1902 provincial election, James W. Munro, the victorious Liberal candidate for North Renfrew died hours after winning the riding.

The death of Munro left Liberal premier Sir George William Ross with a slim two-seat majority. Going into his second term, Ross faced several controversies including allegations of vote-buying and a growing rabble within his own party that called for the passage of prohibition. A byelection was called to fill the empty North Renfrew seat.

Edward secured the Liberal-Conservative nomination and faced a close family friend in Lorne Hale, who represented the Liberals (Back then, the provincial wing of the Conservative party maintained the original party name "Liberal-Conservative" until they became the Progressive Conservatives in 1942). It was a long, drawn out campaign that grew bitter over the course of the year-long contest. When the voters finally went to the polls in December 1903, Edward Arunah Dunlop became, at just age 27, the youngest member ever elected to the provincial legislature. Despite the outcome, Hale and Dunlop remained friends the remainder of their lives.

Dunlop was returned to Queen's Park in January 1905 when the Conservatives under James P. Whitney swept to power with a 40-seat majority. The Liberals could not deal with the question of temperance or dampen down the various corruption scandals that had dogged them.

As an MPP, Dunlop sat on several standing committees including railways, game and fish, municipal law, private bills and standing orders. In 1908 Dunlop declined to run again returning home to Pembroke. However, it didn't take him long to venture back into provincial politics. He let his name stand in the December 1911 election - one where no other challengers came forward.

Four days before the general election, nomination proceedings were held at the Renfrew County courthouse in Pembroke. Dunlop's nomination as candidate for MPP was formally submitted by Herman Priebe, of Petawawa, and Henry Kutschke, of Golden Lake. When the time for other candidates to file expired, Dunlop was the only name standing. In a move you would never see now, provincially or federally, Edward A. Dunlop was acclaimed MPP for North Renfrew. He would be sitting in the government as Whitney was re-elected with a reduced majority.

When it was time to go to the polls less than three years later, Dunlop was, once more, reluctant to run again. However, the party faithful unanimously backed his acclamation. During the June 1914 campaign, Dunlop vigorously defended the passage of the Ontario Workmen's Compensation Act calling it the greatest legislative measure of its kind in North America. He also praised the Whitney administration for raising revenues without increases in taxation. The election centred around temperance, the government banning of the retail sale of alcoholic beverages. Whitney had introduced alcohol controls in 1905. They tightened the sale of alcohol through licences to taverns and shops. But he also empowered the municipalities to impose local prohibition if 25 per cent of the electors called for such measures.

Dunlop denounced the "Abolish the Bar" policy - intended to minimize the "evil effects of the drink habit by wise restrictions upon the traffic in intoxicated liquors" - as proposed by Liberal leader Newton Rowell - a leading lay figure in the Methodist Church who advocated temperance.

"Abolish the bar is a joke - a mere scheme to catch votes, but the record established by the Liberal party in dealing with temperance will not win them any votes," Dunlop insisted. On election day, Dunlop kept his seat with an 800-ballot majority. The Conservative government lost only one seat.

Three months later, James Whitney died and was succeeded by Sir William Howard Hearst. In 1916, the Conservatives introduced the Ontario Temperance Act as a temporary wartime measure. Although one could retain a cellar supply for personal consumption, it was illegal to sell a drink. Across Ontario bars, taverns, clubs and liquor stores closed their doors. Hearst's government passed legislation to permit women to vote in provincial elections and provide loans to settlers.

As a MPP, Dunlop remained very active in government. He introduced a bill enabling two-thirds of all shopkeepers to call upon town councils to close up businesses on Saturday afternoons in July and August.

When the writ was dropped in October 1919, the Conservatives were defending 14 years of continuous rule. The incumbent government also faced the emergence of the United Farmers of Ontario (UFO). Formed in 1914 as a conglomerate of several farmers' organizations, the party had a comprehensive farmer's platform that called for the nationalization of railways, progressive taxation, and legislation that would facilitate the operation of co-operatives. Armed with more than 50,000 members, the UFO had one goal in the election - capture enough seats to hold the balance of power. In doing so they developed policies that would attract rural voters such as cheap electric power and the conservation of forests. They also secured an agreement with the Independent Labour Party not to run candidates against each other. In the end, the UFO had a strong field of 65 candidates across Ontario.

In this complicated political maelstrom that Dunlop sought his fifth term. This time, he faced a tough opponent in Wilberforce farmer Ralph Melville Warren, the standard bearer for the United Farmers of Ontario.

Crisscrossing the county, Dunlop promoted an ambitious plan to build roads at a small cost to the taxpayers. He also made clear his position on temperance pledging not to reopen the bars and taverns, but favoured dispensing alcohol from government-run shops without the requirement for a doctor's prescription. He was also getting heavy hitters like Dr. Ira Delbert Cotnam, James L. Morris and Peter White to stump for him.

Was North Renfrew still a Conservative stronghold? That was the question that plagued party strategists. With his government in the fight of its life, Sir William Hearst went on the campaign trail hard. It was decided an appearance in Pembroke would shore up support here. Would it be enough or was Edward Arunah Dunlop's political career scheduled for an abrupt interruption?

Next column: A political comeback nine years in the making

Sean Chase is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist

Reader's comments »

By adding a comment on the site, you accept our terms and conditions

Featured Businesses

Go to the Marketplace »