PA-025535 | John Wesley Dafoe

John Wesley Dafoe
April 1884, 19th century
This artefact belongs to : © National Archives of Canada
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Keys to History

During the Depression, no newspaper editor in Canada had more influence than John Wesley Dafoe (1866-1944), since 1901 the editor of the Manitoba (later Winnipeg) Free Press. In his teens he had turned from the Conservatives and joined the Liberal party, having come to believe that the latter's low tariff policy benefited Canada.

Dafoe therefore greeted with skepticism the decision by the Conservative government of R. B. Bennett (1870-1947) to raise tariffs as a means to economic recovery. Protection for manufactured goods meant higher prices for Canadians, Dafoe believed, while imposing tariffs on goods that Canada needed to export made no sense.

Dafoe was no knee-jerk Liberal. He criticized Canada's timid foreign policy in the later 1930s. But his reputation as the voice of Prairie Liberalism earned him an appointment in 1937 on the Royal Commission on Dominion-Provincial Relations.

  • What

    Under Sir Wilfrid Laurier (1841-1919) and W. L. M. King (1874-1950), who between them led the Liberal party from 1887 to 1948, the Liberals generally favoured low taxes and tariffs.

  • Where

    Dafoe is still the most famous son of Combermere, Ontario, a small community in Madawaska Township, Renfrew County, about an hour's drive northwest of Ottawa.

  • When

    In 1901, when Dafoe became editor of the Free Press, Winnipeg was the largest and most important city in the Canadian West. By 1944, Vancouver was taking its place.

  • Who

    Dafoe was still a young reporter with the Montreal Herald when this photograph was taken in 1884.