Aided by the Depression, the ineptness of Conservative Premier George HENRY, and funding from business and mining interests, Hepburn won an overwhelming victory in the 1934 provincial election. In office, Hepburn implemented a number of populist measures - the auction of government limousines and the closing of the lieutenant-governor's residence. He cancelled power contracts with 4 Québec companies, tried to bring order to provincial finances, improved labour legislation and aided the iron-ore industry. He regarded the compulsory pasteurization of milk as his greatest accomplishment. Less successful was his attempt to aid parochial schools.
The most celebrated event of his first administration was the strike at General Motors in Oshawa in 1937 (see OSHAWA STRIKE). Hepburn, while sympathetic to the unemployed, was opposed to unionization and to letting the Committee for Industrial Organization (later the Congress of Industrial Organizations) into Canada. He supported GM in its refusal to negotiate with the CIO organizers, and when Ottawa refused to dispatch a unit of the RCMP, he organized his own volunteers - Hepburn's Hussars. Ultimately, the strike was settled with what amounted to an acceptance of the union. The strike ruptured Hepburn's relationship with Prime Minister KING (which had never been close), and in January 1940 he passed a resolution in the Ontario legislature critical of King's war effort. King thereupon called an election, which he won handily.
Mitch Hepburn's day was over; he helped to scuttle the 1941 federal-provincial conference and supported A. MEIGHEN in the South York by-election of 1942, but his struggle with King ruined his party and destroyed his health. In 1942 he resigned as premier and in 1943 as provincial treasurer. The Liberals asked him to lead the party in the 1945 election, but the party was routed and Hepburn lost his seat.
Author JOHN SAYWELL
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The Archives of Ontario Remembers the Home Front
In honour of the 60th anniversary of D-Day, the Archives of Ontario presents this stirring retrospective of Ontario’s extraordinary Home Front contribution to the war effort. Check out the personal stories, photographs, posters, video clips and other multimedia.
Shawnadithit grew anxious waiting for her uncle, Longnon, to return to camp at the junction of Badger Brook and the Exploits River, deep in the wilds of Newfoundland...