#121 – Crime Ministers: Richard Bedford Bennett

R. B. Bennett made it law that publically speaking in favor of communism or socialism would be punished criminally with up to 20 years in jail. Because mimicking Stalin is the best way to beat him, right? Iron Heel Bennett’s policy of extending a middle finger to basic rights of association and free speech are truly hallmarks of a Great Canadian Leader. He also allegedly took part in funding the anti-Semitic Adrien Arcand’s newspaper le Goglu. Nothing is more Canadian than funding a guy who called himself Canada’s fuhrer! He presided over the arrest of senior members of Canada’s Communist Party, provoking a riot and a Toronto performance that was itself beaten down by Toronto police.

Meanwhile, Bennett’s means to fix the troubles of the Great Depression was to support and protect Canadian businessmen from external competition. The work relief camps were described as appalling and horrifiic, but they were Canadian so they worked amazingly. From failing to create a common plan in the British Empire at a conference that Bennett hosted and dominated (how novel – a Canadian failing to create consensus) to slapping a New Deal onto Canada without any of the planning that FDR put into it, Bennett was one of Canada’s worst Crime Ministers. And that’s saying something on a list that contains Bowell Mackenzie and Charles Tupper.

Oh, and Bennett was rich as fuck. And he loved showing it off. During the Depression. Apparently political savvy hadn’t been invented yet. Shockingly, his mindless belief in the British and in a common Imperial market failed to start the economy again. That was really the only arrow in Bennett’s quiver and the fucker only made it one term before getting the stuffing kicked out of him from within his own Party. Yes, the man gave from his own millions to help the struggling – but that’s not the job of a Prime Minister. The job of a Prime Minister is to get the state’s policies and ideas in line to ensure that people actually have money, not handing it out yourself.

Indeed, Bennett has little to write about save for that – his failures to make the state work for struggling Canadians, his pompous displays of wealth in a context of poverty, and a completely inept response to the Depression. Oh, and creating Section 98 of the Criminal Code, which might as well have come from Soviet lawbooks. The bad law was part of how the Canadian left came together in the first place, although Canada’s solution was, of course, to use it in another law (the War Measures Act), which Trudeau would use before finally putting the bad idea to bed. Only 40 years from bad law to final abolition? That’s fast by Canadian standards.

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