Date: 1936

Origin: CNE Archives; 1936 CNE Annual Report; The Canadian Encyclopedia.

Ontario Premier Mitchell (Mitch) Hepburn at the opening of the CNE Bandshell in 1936. Also pictured to the left is Percy Vincent, Lord Mayor of London who was here for the opening. To learn more about Premier Mitch Hepburn, please click here.

Excerpt from the Opening Ceremonies Address delivered by the Honourable Mitchell F. Hepburn, Premier (Prime Minister) of Ontario

Delivered at the CNE Opening Ceremonies on August 28, 1936. I desire at the outset to thank the directors of the great Canadian National Exhibition for the kind invitation to be present on this auspicious and important occasion. Important because it marks another milestone in this great show window of the nations, and auspicious because of the presence here today of the most distinguished guests it has been our privilege to receive. On behalf of the people of the Province of Ontario, I desire to extend to the Lord Mayor of London and to the members of his party our heartiest greetings, coupled with a sincere hope that their visit to Canada will be most enjoyable and that they will take back to England with them many pleasant memories of the occasion. May I at this point digress to say a word to my fellow citizens of Canada? I have already referred to the Canadian National Exhibition as the show window of the nations. As we journey from building to building and observe at close rang the products of our great resources – our forests, fisheries, mines, factories and farms – may well say with pardonable pride, “this our own, our nation”. Canada, not withstanding her natural advantage, shares with other countries of the world perplexing economic and social problems but we are optimistic enough to believe that, inasmuch as these problems are man-made, they are capable of a solution. At the present times an unemployment commission, appointed by the Dominion Government, is making a thorough study of the whole situation and, knowing in a personal way some of the members of that commission, I am confident that, when their report is presented to the Dominion Government, it will contain constructive recommendations for remedial measures which, when applied, will improve our status. We have had handed down to us as a heritage free schools and responsible government or, in other words, we, of this generation, have the machinery with which to maintain a trained democracy and, with such machinery at our disposal, Canada must and will emerge from this transition period.

The International Economic Situation

We are suffering the economic consequences of a war of armaments, and trade war and, to some extent a monetary war/

The need for monetary adjustments and reforms, many of them long overdue, will continue so long as people endeavour to struggle along in a futile and useless effort to bear up under the present debt structure. Those countries which have dealt with this problem are to be commended and those that have not might as well reconcile themselves for the day when they must face realities. In Canada, we might very well learn a lesson from Australia, a young sister nation whose problems are very similar to our own, but which country faced those problems, dealt with them courageously and, as a consequence, today is enjoying a measure of prosperity which is fundamentally sound.

In the matter of world trade today, and from this perspective, we look back to the period after the war and rehabilitation; look back to the days when there was inculcated in the minds of political leaders, charged with the responsibility of shaping fiscal policies, ideas of selfish economic nationalism. Impossible trade barriers were erected, false stimulation was given to agriculture and industry, and the law of supply and demand totally and wholly disregarded. Following the application of the unsound and unnatural policies were confusion and bewilderment and then the adoption, in some countries, of even a more unsound policy – that of prosperity based on scarcity, for this supposedly sane old world actually witnessed the wholesale and deliberate destruction of filed crops and the wholesale and deliberate slaughter of livestock. The anomaly and irony of the whole situations was that the very people who destroyed their crops and livestock under a bonus system calmly and without protest submitted to new and increased taxation necessary to pay for their own handiwork. Today, one observes a restoration of a measure of sanity among the trading nations of the world and the general tendency is towards a great measure of freedom of trade. This, at least, provides one ray of hope for those who are endeavouring to follow the meanderings and ramifications of governmental policies.

Looking after the health of Ontarians

I only wish that one could feel as optimistically in another direction. In Ontario, burdened as we are with our many and varied responsibilities, we are actually increasing the services ordinarily provided by the Department of Health. We are co-operating with the Ontario Medical Society in an endeavour to take care of the health of our unemployed and those who are classified as indigent patients. Next year, additions will be erected to our existing mental institutions; substantial grants have been made to assist in the construction of sanatoria in districts where such have not hitherto existed, and additional preventive means are being adopted. All this were are doing willingly, for we believe the health of our people is of paramount importance.

The War Clouds Are Gathering In Europe

And yet, while we are trying to conserve life, in Europe whose every acre is still wet with human blood, war clouds are gathering, nations are arming to the teeth, frantically and feverishly preparing for another conflict which will be so horrible and terrible that we cannot visualize its consequences from this perspective.

Canada & the United States as Examples

The history of Canada is but a simple story of progress and development in agriculture and industry – a story in which international hatred and animosities scarcely appear. By reason of these differences in our history and background we find it hard to understand or appreciate the difficulties of the older countries with longer histories and where the environment is not so conducive to good will among men. To those who are our visitors today and residents of Europe, may I suggest that when you return to your native land, you counsel and advise your people to look toward this continent where our pioneer ancestors settled a perplexing, domestic and racial problem after the conquest of Canada by the British, for here we find the conquerors and conquered settled down in peace and harmony and assimilated into this Canadian nation of which we are so proud. Look to the three thousand miles of Canadian-United States frontier without a cannon on the boundary. Not only are there no cannons but each year we build new bridges and highways to encourage and attract our American cousins to Canada. For them, there is “Welcome” on the doormat and I hope the citizens of the great republic to the south will accept this sincere and genuine expression of goodwill in the spirit in which it is given. And troubled Europe may well learn a lesson from the peoples on this continent before it is too late and another war begins. I believe I voice the sentiments of the Canadian people when I say we have no sympathy for jingoism, militarism, and the war lords of Europe. And may I say further, if the peace-loving people of war-tattered Europe allow themselves to be dominated by what must be, in the age of civilization, a minority group who believe that problems can only be settled by the shedding of blood, the suffering of cripples, widows and orphans, then Europe deserves exactly what she will get if another war takes place. I still have faith enough in humanity to believe that war will be averted. Certainly, it can be averted. A contributing factor towards better understanding among nations is an international show of this kind, where exhibitors indulge in friendly competitions which have education and economic value.

And so I say in conclusion to the officers and directors of this great show: your efforts are being appreciated. Those who are giving so freely of their time and energy might well be proud of what is being accomplished. Keep up the good work and may each year find the Canadian National Exhibition bigger and better than the one before! I know declare the Exhibition officially opened.