The election of the Perth provincial representative received extensive coverage in the Palmerston Observer for the better part of two months in 1943, with articles spanning the dates of July 8 to September 2.

Although it was impossible to know at the time, the Second World War would soon be coming to an end (relatively), which would place the crucial task of navigating the post-war economy (partially) on the shoulders of whoever was elected. The Observer, quoting the Fergus News Record noted, “delegates ought to remember that the man who is elected will probably be sitting during the remaining years which follow the coming of peace. On them will depend, to some extent, the way the returning soldiers are fitted into civilian life again”1. Because of this, the economy, as always, would be an important issue that the candidates would have to weigh in on over the course of the election.

Before proceeding any further, it is necessary to quickly describe the candidates for the three parties that were participating in the election: the Progressive Conservatives, the Liberals, and finally, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, better known as the C.C.F. The first candidate, J. Fred Edwards, who ran for the Progressive Conservative party, was a well known figure around Palmerston, having been born in the town and living there for his entire life, operating a popular pharmacy. Because of his direct involvement with Palmerston, there seems to have been a disproportionately large amount of coverage in the Observer, unlike the other two candidates who were also in the running for the Perth County seat. Upon his nomination as representative of the Progressive Conservative party, an article was written detailing the event: “at a well attended convention in Mitchell last night, J. Fred Edwards received the nomination as Progressive Conservative Candidate for Perth in the coming provincial election”2. The announcement of his nomination began of the extensive coverage of Edwards that would soon appear in the Observer.

The representative of the Liberal party was W. Angus Dickson, who, at the time, was the incumbent candidate. A short biography of Dickson in the Observer stated that “Dickson [..] served in the Provincial house since mid-summer of 1943. His home farm, which he operates, is located at Atwood, but Mr. Dickson is a frequent visitor to Palmerston and is very well known here”.3 Much like Edwards then, Dickson also had strong local ties to Palmerston.

The final candidate that was in the running for the provincial seat was Bert Davies, the representative of the C.C.F party. Of Davies, the Observer wrote “Alderman of Stratford, C.C.F. Candidate in Perth Riding, and the only one of the trio to hold a rally meeting in Palmerston”4, which is interesting to note, given the strong local connections that the other two men had to Palmerston. Despite this, as we will see, Davies, and the C.C.F as a whole, will end up taking the biggest beating in the lead up to the election.

Gearing Up For Election Day – What Were The Issues?

Shortly after the campaign season was underway in Palmerston and the surrounding area, an editorial was appeared in the Observer, which would have served as a useful primer for prospective voters in the area. The editorial began with a word of caution for those who would be following the campaigns, stating that “statements made required careful thought by the elector, and each point made should be mentally weighed”5, sound advice that can still be applied today. The editorial then goes on to outline some of the key issues that would be debated over the course of the election, listing things such as “effective control of supplies such as fuel, milk, and other basic necessities”6, a proposed “reduction in school taxes”7, “subsidies to farmers”8, and the start of “great public undertakings to ensure post-war employment”9. Ensuring post-war employment was a crucial issue at the time, as no-one wanted to return to the pre-war era of the Great Depression once the war had concluded. As such, the editor expressed a justified level of cynicism for this initiative, stating that many people had “spent […] the best years of their lives in slothful, enforced idleness during the pre-war depression. There was no money available then to give us jobs, but within a few months we could make the greatest effort of our national history to fight a war”10 basically showing how the powers that be will often allow those less fortunate to languish in poverty until it begins to negatively affect their bottom lines.

One week after the writing of this extensive editorial, another was written, seemingly reacting to the lack of response the last column had received. It stated “there seems little enthusiasm aroused in or near Palmerston for the election, despite the fact that we have a Palmerston born man contesting the seat”11. And then goes on to list why various groups of people, farmers, workers, etc. do not have the time to pay attention to the election (i.e. they were too busy working). At the time the editorial was being written, Liberal candidate Angus Dickson visited the Observer offices and remarked that the disinterest could have arisen from “the public satisfaction with the present administration”12, an answer that, while almost certainly tongue-in-cheek, is a wonderful example of the type of political spin that is ever-present during election times.

As we can see, the Observer covered Edwards and even Dickson at times, in a positive light, giving them the exposure that they needed to be successful in their electoral race. The C.C.F, however, was portrayed much differently. For example, in the aforementioned editorial, it was noted that “the third party in the fray, the C.C.F., either lacks finances or organization in this riding for publicity purposes, for we know little of what they offer in the way of platform”13, then going on to state that while there have been claims that the Progressive Conservatives lifted much of their platform from the C.C.F., these claims were “childish”14. In the electoral advertising campaign, the C.C.F would bear the brunt of the assault of both parties.

The Importance Of Selling Yourself

One of the most important steps in winning any kind of election is to advertise, more specifically, to utilize both positive ads, to make yourself look good, and negative ads, to make your opponents look bad. In the 1940’s, when this election was being held, one of the best ways to advertise was in the local newspaper, even more so if the issue was not a national one, as your message could then be very specifically tailored to the local audience. Local newspapers were circulated to exactly the demographic that all three candidates wanted to appeal to, working people who could both afford, and have interest in, the newspaper, and thus possessing at least a small fraction of political clout. As such, the Observer was host to many ads regarding the 1943 provincial election, some which will be analyzed below.

Country Editor Shows How Socialism {C.C.F.} Leads to Dictatorship

palmerston observer socialism ad

One of the tactics that had commonly been used to discredit the C.C.F during the Great Depression was to create an association between the C.C.F, and one of the great boogeyman’s of the time, Communist Russia, along with insinuating that they were, in fact, godless, unpatriotic, foreigners. The idea, essentially, was Propaganda 101, if you dehumanize your enemy, people will begin to hate them, or, in the case of an election, not vote for them. We can see this tactic in action in this advertisement, which creates a link between accepting socialism (the C.C.F.) and accepting dictatorship, a complete non-sequitur, even going so far as to liken any nation that adopts socialism as being on a direct path towards becoming World War II Germany or Italy15. The advertisement itself was paid for by the Progressive Conservative Party.

C.C.F. Would Bring Social Revolution

palmerston observer 1943 election ad

Although it seems obvious that the C.C.F. would find its heaviest opposition from the P.C. party, as they were essentially ideological opposites, the C.C.F. would also find itself under heavy attack from the Liberals as well. One ad placed in the Observer which was sponsored by W. Angus Dickson, the Liberal candidate in the area, claimed that the “C.C.F. Would Bring Social Revolution”16, and that if they were to gain power “private business would disappear”17 and that “all farmers would become serfs working under Government orders and the Government lash”18 This is an excellent example of the attempted marginalization of the C.C.F. by the more mainstream parties, which was common at the time.

Vote C.C.F. Elect Ald. Bert Davies For Social Security

palmerston observer bert davies ad

The C.C.F., however, did get a chance to respond to these ads through one of their own which was printed in the Observer. If you were going by what had been stated of the party in the ads of their opponents, you might have expected to see Communist emblems emblazoned across the advertisement, with calls for violent uprisings and social revolutions featured underneath. In fact, the ad was much more benign, featuring a picture of Bert Davies, and some generic promises that the C.C.F had made to their electorate. The only goal of the party that could be read as even slightly leaning towards Communism was their aim to “Protect the Industrial Worker and Farmer From Monopoly Exploitation”19. Despite this, the C.C.F., like many other “radical” parties that would come after them, faced marginalization from those who sought to uphold the capitalist status quo.

A Tribute to the Farmers of Perth County

palmerston observer liberal ad

Much like the aforementioned C.C.F. Advertisement, this Liberal advertisement makes note of farmers, devoting an entire advertisement to extolling the virtues of farm subsidies, which the Liberals supported, and farmers themselves, who made up a large part of Perth County. As you can see, the ad itself is titled “A Tribute to the Farmers of Perth County”. The content of the advertisement states that “it was not the money reward alone that spurred our farmers to this extra effort [during the war effort]. There is no doubt that our farmers were moved by patriotic considerations as well as for monetary reasons.”20 Further stating that “The result [farmer’s surplus] is a credit to the farmers of this county and is a vindication of the policy of the Provincial Government in establishing subsidies”21. As the incumbent candidate, Dickson obviously had the advantage of being able to point to past deeds in an effort to bolster his campaign.

Taxpayers of Palmerston – Read This and Think What It Means To You

palmerston observer conservative ad

In this advertisement, we see J. Fred Edwards, the Progressive-Conservative candidate, focusing on the issue of alleviating the tax burden for the residents of Perth County by reforming school taxes. Under the proposed plan of the P.C’s, the ad states that “the ratepayers of Palmerston will have to raise […] only one-half the amount they are now taxed on real estate for school purposes”22. Thus, after examining at least one advertisement from each political party, we have seen, most, if not all, of the issues brought up that were identified in the editorial that was written shortly before the election race began. The only question now was, who did the residents of Palmerston, and Perth County as a whole, believe in?

The Results Are In…

The date of the election was August 4, 1943, and, in the last editorial before election day, the Observer gave its final verdict regarding the candidates, writing “our only opinion to offer, and an opinion we are sure of, is that there will be two very disappointed men in Perth County on August 5”23. Against almost all odds, the Observer was wrong, there were to be three disappointed men, though not all at the same time.

The initial report in the Observer reported that J. Fred Edwards had won by a margin of 2624, however, this verdict would not last long. One week later, the Observer noted that “multiple recounts”25 had let to Angus Dickson gaining a “17 vote margin”26, however, this total again would be counted again, with the final verdict set to be give on September 2. Come September 2, the Dickson victory stood, leaving Perth County under control of the Liberal Party for the foreseeable future. At the time, this result was rather rare, Roger Graham writes of the 1943 provincial election that:

“Throughout the province the Liberal party had been decisively rejected. Counting Hepburn, who was returned as an independent Liberal, only sixteen of its ninety candidates were successful [including Perth County’s Angus Dickson] […]. Thirty-eight Conservatives were elected, fifteen more than in 1937, but this was no cause for unrestrained jubilation. The most stunning feature of the election was the strong showing of the CCF, which came from nowhere to elect thirty-four members.”27

In Palmerston however, the work of the previous Liberal provincial government was enough to allow Dickson to retain his seat in spite of the major losses that were suffered by his party across much of the rest of the province, making a Palmerston an outlier, until, that is, J. Fred Edwards would take over in the future.

1 – “Press Opinions,” The Palmerston Observer, 8 July. 1943, 4.
2 – “J. Fred Edwards Will Represent Prog-Con,” The Palmerston Observer, 8 July. 1943, 1.
3 – “W. Angus Dickson,” The Palmerston Observer, 29 July. 1943, 1.
4 – “Bert Davies,” The Palmerston Observer, 29 July. 1943, 1.
5 – “Note and Comment,” The Palmerston Observer, 15 July. 1943, 4.
6 – Ibid.
7 – Ibid.
8 – Ibid.
9 – Ibid.
10 – Ibid.
11 – “Note and Comment,” The Palmerston Observer, 22 July. 1943, 4.
12 – 2Ibid.
13 – Ibid.
14 – Ibid.
15 – George James “Country Editor Shows How Socialism {C.C.F.} Leads to Dictatorship,” The Palmerston Observer, 29, July. 1943, 3.
16 – “Title,” The Palmerston Observer, 29 July. 1943, 4.
17 – Ibid.
18 – Ibid.
19 – “Vote C.C.F. Elect Ald. Bert Davies For Social Security,” The Palmerston Observer, 29 July. 1943, 5.
20 – “A Tribute To The Farmers Of Perth County,” The Palmerston Observer, 15 July. 1943, 3.
21 – Ibid.
22 – “Taxpayers of Palmerston Read This And Think What It Means To You,” The Palmerston Observer, 22 July. 1943, 1.
23 – “Note and Comment,” The Palmerston Observer, 29 July. 1943, 4.
24 – “Edwards For Perth – 26 Margin,” The Palmerston Observer, 5 Aug. 1943, 1.
25 – “Note and Comment,” The Palmerston Observer, 12 Aug. 1943, 4.
26 – Ibid.
27 – Roger Graham, Old Man Ontario: Leslie M. Frost (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990), 92.