Crerar named to “national historic significance”

An early builder of one of the Prairies’ farmer-owned grain companies, later to be Prime Minister Robert Borden’s agriculture minister, has been formally engraved as a person of national historic significance.

Thomas Alexander Crerar’s official plaque from the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada was unveiled Friday by MP Inky Mark in Crerar’s home town of Russell, Man., about 100 km southeast of Yorkton, Sask.

Crerar “made a major impact in both the economic and political spheres of our country,” Mark said. “The government of Canada is proud to recognize this influential architect of the Canadian grain trade, pioneering political leader and prominent member of the Senate.”

Born in 1876 in Ontario but raised on the farm near Russell, Crerar headed of the farmer-owned Grain Growers’ Grain Co. from 1907 to 1929. The company merged with Alberta Farmers’ Co-operative Elevator Co. and became United Grain Growers, (later UGG) in 1917, ultimately merging into Agricore United in 2001 and Viterra in 2007.

“In the 1920s he helped to organize co-operative grain marketing organizations or pools,” the government said in a release Friday from Parks Canada, which oversees national historic sites and monuments. “Although he supported co-operative marketing, he was unsympathetic to compulsory, or government-operated, marketing systems.”

Crerar in 1917 was also elected to Parliament as the MP for Marquette, and served as Borden’s Unionist agriculture minister (1917-19). He later served as Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King’s mines and resources minister (1936-45) and briefly as acting ag minister in 1935.

King named Crerar to the Senate in 1945, “where until his retirement in 1966, he opposed the growth of public debt and social programs,” the government said.

The government noted Crerar’s leadership of the western-based federal Progressive Party after the First World War, “demonstrating the potential of third parties.” He joined the Liberal caucus in 1930 after the Progressives’ collapse.

“Thomas Alexander Crerar’s contributions to Canada have been broad in their scope and long-lasting in their impact,” Jim Prentice, minister for Parks Canada, said in the release. “It is truly remarkable that one man could accomplish so much in one lifetime.”

A permanent installation in Russell has yet to be chosen for Crerar’s now-unveiled plaque.

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