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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Business government : party politics and the British Columbia business community, 1928-1933 Groves, Robert Edmund

Abstract

The term business government describes the principles of public administration which the Conservative party attempted to implement between 1928 and 1933 during its tenure as the government of British Columbia. In general, business government meant that the province's elected officials would apply the same principles in attending to the public's financial business that a private enterprise would employ in its affairs. Implicit, too, in this notion was the Conservative commitment to emphasize those policies that served the interests of the province's business community at the expense of social welfare programs. The purpose of this thesis is to describe the elements in the Conservative business government philosophy and to assess its impact during this period. Analysis of the relations between the Conservative government, its business clientele, and the Liberal opposition is crucial in order to understand and assess the impact of the business government program. Chapter I therefore describes the attitudes of influential businessmen in Vancouver and Victoria towards the economy and the government's legitimate responsibilities in relationship to it. This is followed in Chapter II by a similar discussion of the Conservatives' business government philosophy as reflected in actual government policy, and an assessment of the somewhat different philosophy concerning the role of government espoused by the Liberals. Chapter III relates the financial difficulties which the Conservative government encountered as a result of the depression, and the nature of the business government remedies offered in response to the slump. Chapter IV outlines how a coalition of the corporate business elites in Vancouver and Victoria successfully agitated for the appointment of a businessman's inquiry into the public finances, the Kidd Commission, and through it pressed for the implementation of a more extreme version of the business government solution. Finally, Chapter V analyzes the fragmentation of the Conservative government after the Kidd Report, the coincident rise of the CCF as a socialist alternative to business government, and the victory of the more moderate reform Liberalism of T. D. Pattullo in the election of 1933. The main conclusion of the thesis is that business government, as articulated by the Conservative government and the prominent business spokesmen of the period, was acceptable to the electorate only so long as the economy remained buoyant. Once the depression became pronounced the weaknesses in the business government approach became manifest, especially to those who were most in need of government assistance. According to the tenets of business government philosophy, governments could play but a limited role in stimulating recovery, and therefore they should restrict their activities to balancing the budget through ruthless economies in order to preserve the province's credit. The election of 1933 indicates that the electorate rejected this business government response in favour of the platforms of the Liberals and the CCF which promised a more interventionist state to provide more generous social welfare benefits and the experimental monetary and fiscal policies that appeared necessary to induce recovery.

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