Opinion Column

"A man of fine presence and dignified manner"

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer

The year 1928 was perhaps the greatest in the life of Edward Arunah Dunlop.

That spring, the businessman completed a triumphant return to politics winning a byelection against Liberal Paul Martin. The summer was an equally special time for Dunlop who had the honour of chairing the Pembroke Centenary Committee. The monumental centennial, held in the first week of August, was a golden opportunity for him to give back to the hometown he loved so much. That overwhelming passion for Pembroke was clearly apparent in his opening ceremony's speech:

"You are a thousand times welcome and Pembroke is yours, officially and informally," the chairman pronounced. "Old and true friends; old and friendly neighbours; near and dear relatives; a sweetheart or two, perchance, will extend to you something more than a perfunctory hand clasp; something more than a fleeting, casual salute. That yours will be a busy, a pleasant, a wonderful, never-to-be-forgotten week we know. You will have old and dear scenes to revisit; old but intimate associations to renew; old but vivid recollections to recall; old but fond memories to revive; old but golden times to relive."

But the crowning achievement of his illustrious career came on Sept. 16, 1930 when Dunlop was called to Queen's Park by the popular premier, Howard Ferguson, who was about to shuffle his cabinet. For years, the Conservative party had tried to lure Dunlop into cabinet, however, his business interests back home kept him too busy to devote his time to being a member of the executive level of government.

Ferguson was undeterred. When Dunlop was re-elected, he quickly elevated him to council as a minister-without-portfolio. On this day, he made Dunlop one of the most influential men in Ontario appointing him as the province's 13th treasurer.

"Premier Ferguson is to be complimented again upon making so excellent an appointment, and the Province of Ontario is to be congratulated upon having so capable a provincial treasurer," declared the Pembroke Standard-Observer. "In Eastern Ontario, where Mr. Dunlop is well known, his appointment will be very popular, and the universal opinion will be that it would be difficult to find a man better qualified for the office."

The people of Pembroke were thrilled to see one of their most distinguished citizens elevated to such an important ministerial position in the provincial government. To mark the milestone, a celebratory banquet was held in Dunlop's honour at the Armoury. The guests were a whose who of Pembroke high society including Dr. Ira Delbert Cotnam, T.A. Low, Senator Gerald Verner White, Maynard Fellowes, W.R. Beatty, D.A. Jones. Dr. J.B. Galligan and Mayor J.P. Duff.

One of the special guests at the head table was Charles McCrea, the minister of mines, who led the tributes to his cabinet colleague. McCrea, an old friend of Dunlop's, opened his remarks saying Edward had grown in wisdom and stature since their first acquaintance.

"He still has the poise, balance and graciousness which characterized him in his youth and stamp him now as a citizen of ability and standing, of whom any community can be proud," exclaimed McCrea.

Members of the opposition party were also there to fete Dunlop. D.A. Jones had once campaigned against the treasurer. He told the audience that Dunlop has been so closely identified with the life of Pembroke that he typifies the town praising him for establishing most of the town's leading industries and working directly or indirectly to attract other companies to the Upper Ottawa Valley.

After a presentation of a bouquet of flowers to Mabel Dunlop (who had been praised for her staunch support of the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire) by sisters Mary and Jean Kilpatrick, the man of the honour took to the podium.

He opened by saying that he hopes his duties in Queen's Park will not keep him from his home too much, but if it did then he would have the "keys of the cash box to someone else." Dunlop explained how life is largely made up of hopes and fears, most of which are never realized. We build castles in the sky but never live in them, he went on to say. While he had hopes and dreams, he himself, never had the ambition for public life.

"Words are not at my command to adequately express my feelings of gratitude at this moment for the many kind words which have been my due tonight," he said. "Since my appointment I have received many kind expressions from friends here and elsewhere, which were very much too generous, and I can only say 'thank you' from the bottom of my heart on behalf of myself and Mrs. Dunlop."

As an accomplished industrialist, Dunlop was a perfect fit for the finance minister's portfolio. Three months later, Ferguson left Queen's Park to accept an appointment as Canada's High Commissioner to London. He was replaced by George Henry, the minister of highways.

With Dunlop budgeting the funds, Henry continued an ambitious infrastructure program that saw the province's highway system extend from 670 kilometres to 3,888 kilometres. One of these projects included the construction of the nation's first four-lane superhighway, the Queen Elizabeth Way. Dunlop and Henry were opposed to government intervention to deal with the economy, which suffered terribly after the Stock Market Crash of 1929. He also offered no relief after the price of farm produce abruptly fell creating more hardship. More critically, Henry's government, like the federal government of Prime Minister Richard Bennett, established work camps for jobless men. Dunlop grasped the seriousness of the Depression as a worldwide crisis but believed Canada would prevail.

"Periods of good times and of bad, progress in cycles. Even as far back as we have record of in Biblical times there were the lean years and the years of plenty, and cycles of prosperity and depression to the present day follow one another with almost unfailing regularity," he stated in his 1932 budget speech. "I am firmly convinced that it is not the most serious depression that Canada has experienced, no for that matter, is it the most serious depression which either the United States or England has experienced. Because of the closer economic interdependence of the nations of the world today, the prevailing depression is more widespread and general than any which the world has ever before experienced."

To increase revenues, Dunlop proposed increasing taxes on gasoline by one cent and imposing a 10-cent emergency tax on liquor and spirits. He reduced government spending especially in public health, labour and old age pensions, and cut civil service salaries as a temporary measure.

Perhaps because he was in office during the early days of the Depression, his government's lack of support did not harm Dunlop's personal popularity. The state of the province's economy, nevertheless, gravely concerned the treasurer who worked long hours in his office and in the legislature. He also worried about the fate of his companies back home and the impact that the economic collapse had on them.

The stress became too much. On April 10, 1932, Dunlop collapsed suddenly at Queen's Park while defending his budget. Doctors ordered him to rest in bed for six weeks. The strain of the economic crisis was too much on his heart.

Questions over his health persisted well into 1933 as he made few public appearances fuelling speculation over his political future. The Ottawa Journal even went with a rumour that Dunlop was preparing to resign. The paper even named Leopold Macauley, the minister of highways, as his successor.

From his home in Toronto, the ailing Dunlop fired off this telegram to the Standard-Observer: "Reported resignation of provincial treasurer is one hundred per cent news to me."

Escaping the rife gossip of the Queen's Park press corps, Dunlop made his first trip back to Pembroke since falling ill in early May 1933. The weekend visit saw him briefly tour his plants and meet with municipal leaders who were concerned over government relief measures. He tried to reassure nervous business leaders as well predicting that the upcoming London Economic Conference would revive international trade and stabilize currency exchange rates. It was the last time Edward Dunlop would made a public appearance in his hometown.

His health deteriorated over the summer and fall. By December, Premier Henry had assumed the duties of treasurer as Dunlop was, by now, hospitalized with an aggravated heart condition. Doctors prepared his wife and children for the worst. On the morning of Jan. 1, 1934, Edward Arunah Dunlop passed away quietly in a Toronto hospital at the age of 57. The tributes to Dunlop were immediate:

"The late provincial treasurer was a man of fine presence and dignified manner, a genial gentleman, and altogether interesting personality," wrote the Toronto Globe.

"Mr. Dunlop assumed the duties of provincial treasurer at a time when the province was going through the most strenuous period of its history," exclaimed the Toronto Telegram.

"E.A. Dunlop was a great man, perhaps we shall not see his equal for another decade. He has crossed the bar and met his pilot face to face," professed the Pembroke Standard-Observer. "Had his health been good he would easily have become premier in due time. He possessed in a large measure those qualities of ability and integrity which would have commanded the confidence of the province."

Pembroke was shocked to hear news of the death of their most famous son. On the day of Dunlop's funeral, Mayor J.C. Bradley immediately declared a public holiday closing all businesses and schools. Flags were ordered to half-mast. The body of Edward Dunlop made its final trip home on Wednesday, Jan. 3 aboard a special train from Toronto. Aboard the special was Premier Henry and a delegation of cabinet ministers.

Mourners packed into Wesley United Church for what observers called the largest funeral in living memory in Pembroke. In accordance with Dunlop's last wishes, the service rites were simple. There was no music nor a eulogy. Hundreds lined the streets as the funeral cortege made its way to the church's cemetery on the outskirts of town where the late treasurer was laid to rest in the family plot.

It should be noted that six months later Dunlop's daughter, Mabel, married George Hees, who would later serve as a cabinet minister under Prime Ministers Diefenbaker and Mulroney. His son, Edward, would follow his father into politics but not here in Pembroke. He represented Forest Hill in the Ontario legislature from 1963 to 1971 as a Progressive Conservative.

As Pembroke's foremost citizen for so many years, Edward Dunlop's legacy was far reaching. Many of his businesses outlasted the man who founded them. He could very well have been the first Pembroke citizen to reach Ontario's premiership. His friends and colleagues were many and, in life, perhaps that is more important than business.

But Edward Dunlop was not in it for the fame or glory. As one observer put it: "Buried with a manifestation of sorrow, he was mourned because he had been a good citizen, a loyal friend, one who whether in his private life or his public career tried to help his fellow man.

Sean Chase is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist


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