Clarence Decatur Howe, engineer, politician (b at Waltham, Mass 15 Jan 1886; d at Montréal 31 Dec 1960). Howe was the most successful businessman-politician of his day, and provided a link between the Liberal Party and Canadian industry.
Clarence Decatur Howe, engineer, politician (b at Waltham, Mass 15 Jan 1886; d at Montréal 31 Dec 1960). Howe was the most successful businessman-politician of his day, and provided a link between the Liberal Party and Canadian industry. Although he claimed relationship to the Nova Scotian Liberal statesman Joseph Howe, C.D. Howe's Canadian connections were remote until he came N to Halifax with an engineering degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to teach engineering at Dalhousie. Howe's years there (1908-13) were successful, if unexciting, and he readily abandoned academia in 1913 to work with the Canadian Board of Grain Commissioners designing wheat elevators across the Prairies. Howe found the job congenial and in 1916 formed his own engineering firm, specializing in grain elevators.
Between 1916 and 1935 the C.D. Howe Co built elevators in Vancouver, Saskatoon, Churchill, Pt Arthur, Toronto and Prescott, as well as Buenos Aires, Argentina. Howe became the foremost grain-elevator builder of his day. His straightforward, blunt personality, and his ability to build elevators at a fixed price, commended him to his customers, especially in Western Canada. But the 1930s Depression ended his business, and in 1935 he entered politics and Parliament as a Liberal, representing Pt Arthur (Thunder Bay, Ont). He was promptly made a member of Mackenzie King's Cabinet, becoming minister of transport in 1936. In that capacity Howe helped create Trans-Canada Airlines (later Air Canada).
In 1940 Howe became minister of munitions and supply, with the task of running Canada's war-production program. He succeeded brilliantly, working beside a group of largely Conservative businessmen who came to appreciate his efficient and daring conduct of economic affairs. This stood him in good stead when in 1944 he was asked to preside over the new Dept of Reconstruction. He reconverted the Canadian economy to a free-enterprise system, with minimal government controls. During the 1950s Howe was concerned with developing certain sectors of the Canadian economy, such as steel, and as minister of trade and commerce, with expanding Canada's trade. In that capacity, in 1956, he sponsored a trans-Canada pipeline, with government aid to a private firm. The move stirred up a parliamentary storm, and Howe's increasingly short-tempered response to criticism helped undermine the government's position. In 1957 the Liberals were defeated, as was Howe. Despite his accomplishments, he is best remembered for his dismissal of Commons debate as "the children's hour " and for asking members critical of his estimates, "What's a million?"