Not To Be Trusted With Knives











Wow, I’ve been a total slacker in writing entries on my BC Premiers series lately.  I haven’t actually written one in more than a month.  I blame the economy. And the prorogation of Parliament.

Anyway, I’m back.  And I’m back with the eleventh Premier of the province of British Columbia – Charles Augustus Semlin.

Charles Semlin.png Name Charles Augustus Semlin
Born: 4 December 1836 near Barrie, Upper Canada
Died: 2 November 1927 in Cache Creek, British Columbia
Party: none
Held Office: 15 August 1898  – 27 February 1900.
  • had a lot of different types of jobs:
    • quit his job as a school teacher in Barrie, Upper Canada to try his hand a prospecting in the gold rush, but, not being very good at it, he became a packer (like, he carried other people’s stuff for them), followed by managing a roadhouse and ranch
    • I guess he liked running a roadhouse, ‘cuz then he bought one (1865)
    • But I guess he liked being a rancher more, ‘cuz then he traded the roadhouse for a ranch (1870)
    • in addition to ranching, he was the first postmaster in Cache Creek, became a school board member, became an MLA and got Cache Creek a school, which turned out to be controversial and closed in 1890; but then he became a school trustee for the school district created in the region after the school he got started was shut
  • he doesnt’ seem to have been a very good politician:
    • his entry to provincial politics in 1871 was kind of messed up: he was tied for third in a three-member riding, so the returning officer put their names in a hat, drew Semlin’s name and declared him the third MLA for the riding. Awesome.
    • he ran unsuccessfully in the next two elections (1875 and 1878), but then won his seat back in 1882 and retained it for the next four elections (1886, 1890, 1894, and 1898)
    • 1894: became leader of the opposition after the election of 1894, although he was widely recognized as being rather meh as a leader. Yes, meh is a word.
    • 1898: Premier Turner failed to win a clear majority, so Lieutenant Governor Thomas Robert McInnes kicked out Turner and asked Beaven to form a government. Sure Beaven didn’t even win his own friggin’ seat, but this didnt’ appear to matter to McInnes.  Not-so-surprisingly, Beaven couldn’t get enough support to form a government (did I mention that he didn’t even win a seat?), so McInnes asked Semlin, being the ineffectual leader of the opposition from the last government, if he could form a government.  And Semlin did, so then he was the Premier. Some other dudes were trying to put together a provincial Liberal party (remember, they still didn’t have political parties at this point), but they didn’t have it together yet and so weren’t asked to form the government.
    • Semlin was, did I mention, a pretty meh leader and that, combined with infighting within his Cabinet and Semlin’s attempts to initiate a bunch of reforms (people hate that) meant for a short lived (18 month) premiership for Semlin.
    • A speech given by his Attorney General, Joseph Martin, ended in a brawl that had to be broken up by the cops and Semlin demanded Martin’s resignation. So Martin was pissed at Semlin and joined the opposition.  This resulted in Semlin receiving a vote of non-confidence, but asked Lieutenant Governor McInnes for a some time to prove he could regain the confidence of the house, which he did by getting some opposition ministers to to join him. But the McInnes, who apparently liked doing weird things, ignored Semlin’s newfound confidence and asked Martin to form a government.  Which pissed off the MLAs, so they voted Martin out in no-confidence.  So, basically, it was a really big shit show. So they had an election in 1900 (in which Semlin didn’t run) and, when the dust cleared, Dunsmuir became the next Premier.
    • Semlin won a by-election in 1903, but then didn’t run in the 1903 general election. Then ran and lost in 1907.
  • And now a tidbit about his personal life:
    • Although he didn’t marry, he raised a daughter, ironically named Mary.  Her mother, according to the 1881 census, was a First Nations woman named Caroline Williams, who lived with Semlin and used the last name Semlin, but was not married to him.

In summary, he had a lot of jobs, he was a meh politician and his daughter was a bastard.

Image credits: Accessed from Wikipedia. In the public domain. w00t!

Wikipedia, the reference that has a grand total of seven sentences about Charles August Semlin.
Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online

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After a break from the series last week due to my attendance at the pig party, this week’s installment of my BC Premierial series brings us the 10th Premier of the Province of British Columbia: John Herbert Turner.

John Herbert Turner.png Name John Herbert Turner
Born: May 7, 1834 in Claydon, Suffolk, England
Died: December 9, 1923 in Richmond, England
Party: none
Held Office: 4 March 1895 to July 1898
  • was not Canadian Prime Minister John Turner.
  • 1856: came to British North America from England (first to Halifax, NS then to Charlottetown, PEI)
  • 1860: went back to England to marry, Elizabeth Eilbeck, who he then brought to PEI
  • July 1862: reached Victoria, BC, having been attracted to the west by the gold rush, but decided to work as a merchant, which was what he had done out east, rather than as a miner, as was his original intention
  • 1869: was appointed to the tariff commission
  • 1872: was named as a trustee of the Ogden Point Cemetery
  • 1876 to 1879: served as an alderman
  • 1879: acclaimed as mayor of Victoria, a position he served in until 1881
  • 1882: after many years of involvement in the militia, he retired with the rank of lieutenant-colonel
  • June 1882: went to England for an extended stay
  • July 1886: entered BC provincial politics by winning an election as an MLA, representing Victoria City
  • 8 August 1887: became minister of finance and agriculture under Premier A.E.B. Davie, posts he would retain under Premiers Robson and the other Davie
  • 4 March 1895: became Premier when Davie resigned
  • Apparently, he was not so good with money: “Throughout the period that Turner was minister of finance (1887–98), the provincial budget was in deficit each year and by the time he left office the gross public debt had climbed to nearly $7,500,000, a sevenfold increase from 1886.”1
  • He was also criticized for using his political position for personal gain, being involved in a number of business enterprises during his time as Premier; for being at the “beck and call of powerful corporations”1 and for refusing fair representation of the mainland (especially Vancouver)
  • He lost power in July 1898 in a controversial election – the election appeared to be a draw between Turner’s non-party government and the non-party opposition; Lieutenant Governor Thomas Robert McInnes demanded Turner’s resignation, which he didn’t want to give at first, but then gave, making him the leader of the Opposition against Premier Semlin’s government
  • June 1900: was reinstated as the minister of finance and agriculture under the newly elected Premier Dunsmuir
  • 3 September 1901: resigned from provincial politics and became the agent general for BC in England, a post at which he served until he was removed in 1915 to be replaced by recently retired BC Premier Sir Richard McBride, who died in 1917, at which time Turner was re-appointed to this post; Turner then resigned from this post in 1918
  • 9 December 1923: died in Richmond, England

In summary, he was bad with money, seems to have been using his political power for personal financial gain. Otherwise, pretty boring.

Image credits: Accessed from Wikipedia. In the public domain. w00t!

References:
Wikipedia, the reference that has virtually no information about John Herbert Turner either
1Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online



150 years ago today the Colony of British Columbia was born!  Mind you, the Colony of Vancouver Island was born earlier than that (in 1849) and the two would join together in 1866 to become the creatively named United Colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia.  But, no matter.  It’s Happy 150th birthday, British Columbia anyway!

Resident historian, Sarah, passed along the link to this article in the Globe and Mail – well worth the read if you are interested in the origins of BC.  It’s all American miners flooding into BC in droves for the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush, wars with the “Indians” and “headless corpses float[ing] in the Fraser River.”  You know, as opposed to the severed feet we are used to seeing these days.

Me, enjoying the splendour of Joffre Lakes, BC

Me, enjoying the splendour of Joffre Lakes, BC

Fun facts about British Columbia:

  • the province covers 944,735 km2
  • we’ve got quite a variety of climates: from the coast of the mainland and Vancouver Island, which are temperate rainforest, to our desert regions in the Interior
  • our provincial flower is the Pacific dogwood
  • our provincial tree is Western Redcedar
  • our provincial bird is the Steller’s Jay
  • our provincial mammal is the Spirit Bear (a.ka. the Kermode bear)


Today’s installment of my Premiers of the Province of British Columbia series – G.A.W.

George Anthony Walkem.jpg Name George Anthony Walkem
Born: November 15, 1834 in Newry, Ireland
Died: January 13, 1908 in Victoria, British Columbia
Party: none
Held Office: February 11, 1874 – February 1, 1876
June 25, 1878 – June 13, 1882
  • 1847: family emigrated to Canada from the UK
  • went to McGill and studied law under John Rose
  • 1858: called to the bar in Lower Canada
  • 1861: called to the bar in Upper Canada
  • 1862: moved to the then Colony of BC
  • at first they wouldn’t call him to the bar in BC because Judge Matthew Begbie (who apparently was the one who did the calling) only liked lawyers trained in Britain; however, Walkem appealed to Governor James Douglas (who you may remember as our buddy Amor‘s enemy) and Jimmy D proclaimed the Legal Professions Act, permitting “colonial” lawyers to plead in court”4
  • 1864-1870: member of the Legislative Council of the Colony (the members of which were appointed) for the Cariboo East and Quesnel Forks District
  • like Amor, he pushed for the union of the Colonies of BC & Vancouver Island, and then for the united Colony to join Confederation
  • 1871: with BC now a part of Canada, Walkem was elected to the provincial legislature for the Riding of the Cariboo and was the chief commissioner of lands and works in John Foster McCreight‘s government;
  • he was appointed as the Attorney General in the cabinet of our buddy, Amor, despite having described Amor as having “all the eccentricities of a comet without any of its brilliance”4
  • 1874: upon the resignation of Amor as Premier of BC, Walkem was asked by Lieutenant Governer Joseph William Trutch to be the next Premier
  • because BC loves a scandal, Walkem faced one when he took over as Premier – specifically, the “Texada scandal,” which consisted of allegations members of Amor‘s government, including Walkem, were going to “profit from public development of newly discovered iron ore on Texada Island”4. A royal commission later declared there was “insufficient evidence to charge anyone with an attempt to prejudice the public interest.”4 Because BC loves a good quotation, Walkem had said, “I did not take silver for iron.”4
  • back then, the railway was kind of a big deal, and Walkem put pressure, unsuccessfully, on Ottawa to build a railway all the way to the Pacific Ocean like it had promised to do. People in BC were ticked off that Walkem couldn’t make this happen, as well as having increased the debt by taking on public works projects, but his government was still re-elected in 1875, “albeit with a reduced majority”4. I’m not sure how someone without a party can have a majority, now that I think of it, but I guess things worked a bit differently back then?”1
  • 1876: his government was kicked out by a vote of non-confidence over its financial troubles. I have no idea how a government with a MAJORITY gets kicked on a vote of non-confidence, but, again, he didn’t have a party so I have no idea how he had a majority in the first place1
  • 1876-1878: served as the Leader of the Opposition against Andrew Charles Elliot’s government. Again, no idea how this works since Walkem wasn’t in any political party and neither was Elliot.1
  • 1878: re-elected as Premier with a majority2 after Elliot’s government falls apart
  • it appears that Walkem was quite the racist, particularly against people of Chinese and First Nations descent – he passed a statute denying Chinese and First Nations people the vote; he opposed “cheap Chinese labour” and banned Chinese workers from being hired for any provincial government contract; he even tried to implement a tax solely on Chinese people, but the BC Supreme Court struck it down as unconstitutional; he also took a “comparatively hard line on the size of Indian reserves”4 and “may have stalled settlement of the Indian land question to retaliate against the Mackenzie government for its position on the railway”4
  • still pissed off about Ottawa reneging on that railway thing, he appealed directly to London and, since Britian was still the boss of Canada back then, Britian put pressure on Ottawa to build that damn railway
  • April 1882: nearly lost another vote of non-confidence over, among other things, financial problems (this time over a dock being built on Vancouver Island – probably referred to as “Dock-gate”3 at the time)
  • May 1882: appointed to BC Supreme Court, possibly because it was felt that it would be easily to solve the whole railway thing without Walkem in the way, possibly because John A. MacDonald was returning a favour (specificially, Walkem helping MacD a seat in the House of Commons for Victoria after he was defeated in Kingston in 1878)
  • July 1882: the government, now headed by Robert Beaven, who replaced Walkem when he was appointed to the Supremer Court, lost the election
  • Despite the fact that he, as Premier, put forth legislation requiring BC Supreme Court Judges to reside in their judicial districts , Walkem himself, now a BC Supreme Court Judge, refused to move from Victoria to live in his judicial district. Hello, hypocrite.  Apparently, though, he turned out to be well liked as a judge.  More so than he was as a Premier.

In summary, George Anthony Walkem, 3rd Premier of BC, somehow had some majority governments even though there were no political parties in BC at the time, but people were pissed at him because Ottawa didn’t build the railway to the Pacific like they promised, so sometimes they kicked him out. Also, he was a racist.

Image credits: From the National Archives of Canada, accessed from Wikipedia. In the public domain.

Footnotes:
1Doing a little digging (i.e., clicking through links on Wikipedia, I have discovered that, although there was no recognition of provincial political parties until 1903, candidates would declare themselves as in support of the “Government” or as not in support of the government (“Non-Government” or “Independent”). Then sometimes they’d change their mind later and, since there were no actually parties, one could go from having a “majority” to being kicked out by a vote of non-confidence if enough people who had called themselves “Government” decided they didn’t like you and were now “Non-Government.”
2Even the Canadian Biography Online entry about Walkem concedes “although in a sense there is no such thing [as a majority] in a system without political parties,”4 right after saying he won a “comfortable majority,”4 so wtf?
3😉

References:

  • Wikipedia, the reference of choice for the lazy
  • 4Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, the source from which the Wikipedia entry on G.A.W. appears to be plagiarized. As in direct quotations not being enclosed in quotation marks, nor referenced within the text.


et cetera