Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


The life of George S. Henry and his management of the Ontario economy as Conservative premier (1930-1934) has been unjustifiably ignored by academics. Henry's unique upbringing --his Methodist canons of individualism, his Pelmanist notions of efficiency, and his obsession with economic development--would shape his career throughout the 1920s when, as Highways minister, he brought uniformity and standardization to the province's complex road system. As premier, these principles and values would also have a significant impact upon how Ontario was governed in the early depression years.;Throughout Henry's premiership, his government's austere attitude towards unemployment was determined by three factors: a faith in recovery; public and financial pressures for economy; and, most importantly, the government's fear of further credit instability based upon its difficult experience in early 1932. Ontario's economic position during the early depression years was far more precarious than historians have assumed. Government relief policy was more sensitive to the majority--the overburdened taxpayers and their demands for less government--than those who were in actual need. This climate of opinion was reflected in Henry's policies, many of which have left an indelible mark upon his province: his attempt to centralize and regulate unemployment relief administration, his imposed standardization and centralization of government services, his establishment of the Ontario Municipal Board and its ensuing provincial control over municipal finances, and his creation of agricultural marketing boards to improve Ontario's exports.;Nonetheless, Henry's unusual approach to politics won few admirers. More of an administrator than a politician, Henry was determined that Ontario's infrastructure of highway and hydro-electric development--particularly the gains made in the 1920s--should not be allowed to unravel. Accordingly, his concern for the province's long-term economic development took pride of place over short-term political gain. As manifested in his unpopular policies of economic retrenchment and electoral redistribution, Henry's penchant for efficiency in public service and his corresponding disdain for "politics" was a source of great disunity and dissent within the Ontario Conservative Party--one that would lead ultimately to defeat at the hands of Mitchell Hepburn's Liberals in 1934.



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