Richard Bedford Bennett, 1st Viscount Bennett(3 July 1870 – 26 June 1947), was a Canadian lawyer, businessman and politician who served as the 11th prime minister of Canada from 1930 to 1935. He led the Conservative Party from 1927 to 1938.
Bennett’s tenure as premier was dominated by the Great Depression, which it overlapped, and an unsuccessful attempt to establish an imperial preference-free trade agreement. He left behind lasting legacy in the form of Canada’s Broadcasting Corporation (1932), and Bank of Canada (1934). These institutions were regarded by even his political adversaries as being instrumental in mitigating some of the worst effects of Canada’s economic depression.
Bennett was born in Hopewell Hill, New Brunswick, and grew up in nearby Hopewell Cape. After graduating from Dalhousie University in law, he moved to Calgary in 1897 to form a partnership with James Lougheed to start a law practice.
Bennett was a member of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories, 1898-1905, and then in the Alberta Legislature, 1909-1911. From 1905 to 1905, Bennett was the first leader of the Alberta Conservative Party. He resigned in 1911 after his election as a member of the House of Commons. From 1920 to 1921, Bennett was Minister of Justice under Arthur Meighen. In 1926, Meighen’s second government, Bennett was briefly Minister of Finance. His tenure was just three months. After the defeat of the Conservative Party in 1926, Meighen quit the leadership. Bennett was elected Leader of the Opposition.
After the 1930 election in which Mackenzie King’s Liberal Party won a majority, Bennett was elected prime minister. Bennett was the first prime minster to represent an Alberta constituency. Bennett’s tenure as prime minister was marked by the Great Depression. His party tried to address the crisis initially with laissez faire policies. However, these proved ineffective. However, over time Bennett’s government became increasingly interventionist, attempting to replicate the popular “New Deal” enacted by Franklin Roosevelt to the south. This reversal caused a split in Conservative ranks and was seen by the public as evidence that Bennett was not competent.
Bennett was defeated in a landslide at the 1935 election. Mackenzie King returned for a third term. Bennett remained leader of the Conservative Party until 1938, when he retired to England.
He was created Viscount Bennett, the only Canadian prime minister to be honoured with elevation to the peerage.
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