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Squires, Richard Anderson

(1880-1940). Prime Minister. Born Harbour Grace, son of Alexander and Sydney (Anderson) Squires. Educated Harbour Grace; Methodist Academy, Carbonear; Methodist College; Dalhousie University. Married Helena Strong. The Newfoundland Jubilee Scholar for 1898, Squires graduated from Dalhousie law school and in 1902 was admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court and joined the legal firm of Edward P. Morris (who was Minister of Justice and Attorney General in the government of Robert Bond). In 1907 Morris broke with Bond and formed the People's Party, which became Bond's major opposition in the November 2, 1908 election. Squires was a candidate for the People's Party in Trinity, where he missed winning the seat by only five votes. The general election ended in a tie, and, with neither party able to gain the confidence of the House, a new election was called for May 8, 1909. In that election, Squires topped the poll in Trinity and the People's Party won 26 of the 36 seats.

The next four years were relatively quiet ones for Squires. In 1911 he was enroled as a barrister and he was made King's Counsel in 1914. The 1913 general election pitted the People's Party against the Liberal party in coalition with the newly-formed Fishermen's Protective Union (FPU) qv. Squires again contested Trinity, but the voters returned three Liberal-FPU supporters, with Squires finishing fourth. In 1914 Morris appointed Squires Minister of Justice and a Member of the Legislative Council.

The Royal Newfoundland Regiment qv suffered disastrous losses during the first years of World War I. The need to encourage more volunteers called for a united legislative front and resulted, in 1917, in the formation of a National Government consisting of members from all three parties, with Morris remaining Prime Minister and Squires becoming Colonial Secretary. The election due in 1917 was postponed. When Morris resigned on December 31, 1917 a new National administration was formed, with Liberal leader William Lloyd as Prime Minister. Squires was invited to be a member of the new administration but declined, indicating, among other reasons, that he wanted no part of a government that was apparently unduly influenced by the Reid Newfoundland Company qv.

Before the election of November 1919, Squires's hope to succeed Morris as leader of the People's Party had been thwarted when Michael Cashin qv formed a new administration. What was left of the Liberal party tried to convince Bond to come out of retirement, but he refused. Squires made contact with Bond and reported that Bond had advised him that the party needed to be revitalized by younger men, a decision Squires communicated to a number of leading citizens and Liberal supporters. They urged Squires to accept the leadership, which he did, and he soon effected a coalition with the FPU. During the campaign he promised, among other things, improved education and health care, an increase in the old age pensions, new emphasis on the fisheries, more roads and the ``dawn of a new political and industrial era''.

The administration fulfilled several of its promises. It established the Departments of Posts and Telegraphs and of Education, and allotted $100,000 for the establishment of a teachers' training school. Other legislation included regulations on cutting and exporting timber, the introduction of the sales tax and a business profits tax, and the incorporation of St. John's as a city. Fisheries regulations, introduced by Minister of Marine and Fisheries William Coaker qv, were withdrawn early in 1921 under severe criticism from merchants and some southern European markets. Two major projects were the infusion of public money into the financially troubled Newfoundland Railway and the establishment of a pulp and paper mill in Corner Brook.

Proud of his record, especially the successful negotiations for the establishment of a paper mill in Corner Brook, Squires called a general election for May 3, 1923. The Liberals won 23 seats, the opposition 13. Legislation was passed establishing the Newfoundland Power and Paper Company, which would build and operate the new mill. This deal was not without its costs to the people of Newfoundland as the Reids refused to relinquish the timber rights unless the government took over complete operation of the railway and cancelled the remainder of their contract. Thus on July 1, 1923 the government assumed full financial responsibility for the railway. Shortly after the railway deal was completed, the first cracks appeared in the Squires administration. Dr. Alexander Campbell qv, a close friend, after defeat in the 1919 and 1923 elections was appointed to the Legislative Council and to Cabinet as Minister of Agriculture and Mines. In mid-July the opposition and the press charged that Campbell had used his position and government funds to dispense election patronage. An examination of the expenses of the Department of Agriculture and Mines added fuel to the fire. On July 23, four Cabinet Ministers insisted that Campbell be dismissed from cabinet. When Squires refused and all four resigned, Squires himself resigned as Prime Minister, and sat as an Independent. William R. Warren, one of the four dissident ministers, formed a new administration. A commission of enquiry, headed by Thomas Hollis Walker qv, into the charges against Campbell found evidence to support allegations against both Campbell and Squires. Warren ordered their arrest, but Squires was immediately released on bail. Meanwhile the caucus was split and a motion of non-confidence in Warren's administration carried by one vote. Squires did not run in the 1924 election, won by the opposition party under Walter S. Monroe. In the meantime he succeeded in having a grand jury dismiss the charges for lack of evidence, and this decision was later upheld by the Supreme Court. (The next year he was fined for income tax evasion.)

During the next four years Squires pursued his political ambitions behind the scenes. He was elected Grand Master of the Loyal Orange Association qv in 1925, embarked on a fence-mending campaign with many Liberal members who had opposed him in 1923, was reconciled with Coaker and became leader of the Liberal party once again. The 1928 election saw him return to power, with 28 of the 40 seats. He himself ran in the new district of Humber, taking 83% of the votes cast.

The first year of the new administration was relatively prosperous, with expanded markets for fish and newsprint and new mining ventures. Then came the Great Depression. The administration had no sooner survived a fiscal crisis in 1931, when 1932 brought new trouble. Finance Minister Peter Cashin qv resigned from cabinet, and when the House opened on February 4 accused Squires of falsifying cabinet minutes to conceal misuse of public funds by the Prime Minister and several of his ministers; and later alleged that Squires was receiving a yearly government stipend of $5000 as Newfoundland's War Reparations Commissioner. The opposition demanded an enquiry into Cashin's charges by a select committee of the House. But the House finally agreed with Squires that an enquiry into the charges against him should be conducted by the Governor. Governor Middleton reported that he found no evidence to support the charges. Meanwhile, the government was still desperately trying to meet the demands placed on it by the banks. Among other measures taken in 1932, it increased import tariffs and reduced benefits to war veterans. When the House met on April 5 about 10,000 demonstrators gathered outside. After a delegation was denied entrance to the Legislature a riot ensued, and a mob forced its way into the building. Squires, in disguise, barely escaped. The House was dissolved and an election set for June 11, 1932. The government went down to defeat, and Squires himself lost his seat in Trinity South. He continued his law practice and spent much time at his farm at Midstream (now a part of Bowring Park). Appointed K.C.M.G. in 1921, Sir Richard Squires died at St. John's March 26, 1940.


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