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Memorable Manitobans: Tobias Crawford Norris (1861-1936)

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T. C. Norris
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MLA (1896-1899), MLA (1900-1903), MLA (1908-1910), MLA (1911-1914), MLA (1914-1915), Premier of Manitoba (1915-1922), MLA (1916-1920), MLA (1921-1922), MLA (1923-1927), MLA (1927-1932).

Born at Brampton, Ontario on 5 September 1861, son of Arthur Crawford and Phoebe Crawford, he migrated to Manitoba with his family and moved from farming into auctioneering, where he established a considerable reputation.

He was elected to the Manitoba Legislature, serving from 1896 to 1903. In the latter year, he was defeated by 16 votes by H. E. Hicks but was re-elected in 1910, 1913, 1920 and 1922. He was Leader of the Opposition for several years. Norris became Premier of Manitoba in May 1915 when Sir Rodmond Roblin resigned over a construction scandal involving the Legislative Building. During his term of office (1915-22), the government had to deal with wartime conditions and the return of peace, including the post-war challenges of the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919. The Norris ministry has been labelled “the centre of reform activity in Canada” for its progressive legislation. It introduced temperance legislation, female suffrage, compulsory education, workmen’s compensation, and minimum-wage legislation, in addition to a public nursing system, rural farm credit, regulation of industrial conditions, and a mother’s allowance for widowed dependent mothers. The province also increased road construction and public works, while balancing its books.

Norris’s great failure, perhaps, was his inability to intervene successfully in the labour unrest of 1919; the provincial government stood aside while the strikers in Winnipeg battled the city and the federal government. His government was defeated in August 1922, but Norris remained in the legislature until 1925, when he unsuccessfully contested a federal seat, being defeated by Robert Rogers. He then returned to the provincial legislature until taking up an appointment to the Board of Railway Commissioners.

He died at Toronto, Ontario on 29 October 1936. His premier’s papers are in the Archives of Manitoba. He is commemorated by Norris Road in Winnipeg.

See also:

Pioneers of Manitoba by Robert Harvey (1970).

“Tobias C. Norris, 1915-1922 ” by Morris Mott in Manitoba Premiers of the 19th and 20th Centuries, edited by Barry Ferguson and Robert Wardhaugh, Canadian Plains Research Centre, 2010.

Sources:

Who’s Who in Western Canada: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Men and Women of Western Canada, Volume 1, edited by C. W. Parker, Vancouver: Canadian Press Association, 1911.

“Hon. T. C. Norris dies in Toronto early Thursday,” Winnipeg Free Press, 30 October 1936. [Manitoba Legislative Library, Biographical Scrapbook B9]

Pioneers and Prominent People of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Canadian Publicity Company, 1925.

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by J. M. Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 1 September 2014

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