GREENWAY, THOMAS, businessman, politician, and farmer; b. 25 March 1838 in Kilhampton, England, son of Thomas Greenway and Elizabeth Heard; m. first 25 Jan. 1860 Annie Hicks of Devon (Centralia), Upper Canada, and they had seven children; m. secondly 4 Jan. 1877 Emma Essery, and they had seven children; d. 30 Oct. 1908 in Ottawa.
Thomas Greenway Sr arrived in Upper Canada from England in 1846 and took up land in Huron County. His son Thomas received the sketchy education not uncommon at the time in rural areas. He did learn, however, that he did not want to devote all his energies to farming. In the mid 1860s he became a general merchant in Devon, where he prospered, married, and began to raise a family.
During his years in Ontario Greenway developed a passion for politics which dominated the rest of his life. He became associated with Isaac and John* Carling, leading Conservatives who noted his business success and his political ability as deputy reeve of Stephen Township in 1868 and reeve from 1869 to 1874. In 1872, with their encouragement and $2,000 from funds obtained through what would soon break as the Pacific Scandal [see Sir John A. Macdonald*], Greenway contested the federal constituency of South Huron for the Conservatives, losing to Malcolm Colin Cameron*. He opposed Cameron again in 1874 and lost, but the result was overturned. In the ensuing by-election of 1875 he won by acclamation.
Greenway was an uneasy Tory. When he entered the House of Commons he sat in opposition as an independent Conservative. Illness kept him away from Ottawa for much of the session of 1875, however, and his private life was saddened by the death from smallpox of his wife, Annie. The following year he was back in Ottawa, feeling even more uneasy as he listened to the budget address of Liberal finance minister Richard John Cartwright*. On division he broke with the Conservatives and supported the budget. He was now – and would remain – a Liberal. Like most commercial men, he opposed protection because it limited trade. Early self-interest and his later experience in the west would make him a convinced anti-tariff man.
Greenway was not an active member of the house or the Liberal caucus of Prime Minister Alexander Mackenzie*. His ambitions were turning elsewhere. In 1877 he remarried and began to pursue a growing interest in the development of the prairie west. A year later, after Mackenzie called a general election, Greenway withdrew from the nomination contest in South Huron in favour of Cameron. It was not simply a party arrangement. In return for Greenway’s political endorsement, Cameron agreed to support his plans to develop the area of Rock Lake (Man.) and to provide funds as a silent partner in his land speculations.
In autumn 1878 Greenway toured Manitoba and returned to Ontario to recruit prospective settlers whom he led west in April of the following year. Ostensibly he was a farmer, but his major interest was land speculation, including potential town lots. The centre of his activity was to be Crystal City in southwestern Manitoba, where he eventually owned several lots in addition to 1,600 acres devoted to wheat and livestock. His speculative purchases were largely financed by Cameron, who also drew Cartwright into their schemes. The Liberal connection was paying gratifying dividends. But Greenway’s ambitious plans for the district (and for his own fortunes) would be thwarted to some extent by his failure to attract a railway to Crystal City. The Canadian Pacific Railway had its own agenda for developing the area, using its own town-sites. Greenway’s public attacks on the CPR in the years following his move to Manitoba were prompted more than a little by personal disappointment.
Greenway was elected to the Legislative Assembly for his constituency, Mountain, on 16 Dec. 1879, within a year of his arrival. He assumed a studied, non-partisan attitude, not uncommon in the early years of Manitoba politics. But with John Norquay* and the Conservatives in power, his discretion was also the result of his desire to serve the interests of his constituents and his own land schemes.
He gradually drifted into opposition to Norquay, however, adding to his anti-tariff stand objection to federal disallowance of Manitoba railway legislation [see Norquay] and support for provincial control of natural resources, especially land, withheld by Ottawa when Manitoba entered confederation in 1870. In the provincial election of January 1883 Greenway and 15 others ran as Provincial Rights candidates, campaigning primarily on the issue of disallowance. After challenges to election results were settled, 21 Conservatives confronted a combined opposition of 9, made up of Provincial Rights candidates, Liberals, and independents, who quickly coalesced under the Liberal banner with Greenway as their leader. Manitoba politics was now divided along federal party lines.
To consolidate the invigorated Liberal party and his own position within it, Greenway eschewed potentially divisive municipal and local issues, preferring instead to concentrate his attacks on federal railway policy and the granting of subsidies in lieu of provincial control of lands. The faltering economy and slowing pace of immigration to the prairies in the 1880s caused widespread dissatisfaction that could be exploited by a vigorous opposition. Greenway found a convenient vehicle to hand. The Manitoba and North West Farmers’ Union [see George Purvis*], organized in late 1883, had spread quickly throughout the province. It drew up a “Bill of Rights” condemning the withholding of resources, the protective tariff, and the monopolies of the CPR and the grain-elevator owners [see William Watson Ogilvie*]. Within little more than a year the organization had disappeared, but in its wake were Greenway and the provincial Liberals, self-appointed champions of provincial rights.
The increasing popularity of the anti-Ottawa campaign was not yet strong enough to overcome the conviction that an immature province had best align its politics with the federal party in power if its interests were to be served. In the provincial election of December 1886 Norquay won 20 seats, Greenway’s Liberals 14, and the independents 1. Just a year later Norquay resigned after a dispute with Prime Minister Macdonald which fatally eroded his support. He was succeeded by David Howard Harrison, whose term lasted only weeks. On 19 Jan. 1888 Greenway formed Manitoba’s first Liberal government.
Greenway’s youthful cabinet of five moved to consolidate its power and received an unexpected boost from Ottawa. Sir George Stephen*, president of the CPR, had concluded that the railway’s monopoly in the west could no longer be defended. His price for its surrender, however, was high. He persuaded Macdonald to guarantee a bond issue of $15,000,000 so that the CPR could purchase control of two American railways. Macdonald then conceded that the federal government would no longer disallow provincial railway charters. With the hated monopoly broken, Greenway’s popularity soared and he seized the opportunity to call a provincial election in July 1888, sweeping 33 of the 38 seats in the recently enlarged assembly.
Greenway had little leisure to savour the triumph. As long as the CPR maintained its high rates on grain shipments, common opinion held that there was no money to be made in wheat farming. The CPR, built as a matter of national policy, well ahead of settlement and traffic that would bear its operating costs, was in no mood to lower rates. Greenway’s challenge was to provide cheaper transportation to attract settlers and appease local discontent.
The Red River Valley Railway would be the key to the freight rate dilemma. It was to run south to join the Northern Pacific Railroad in the United States and thus provide an alternative outlet to Lake Superior for grain shippers. It had been disallowed by Ottawa and, in a defiant gesture, Norquay had pledged its completion as a public work. Construction had gone ahead spasmodically. Greenway and Attorney General Joseph Martin*, who also served as railway commissioner, hoped to sell the line to private interests who would complete it to Winnipeg, extend branch lines westward, and provide competition for the CPR. Henry Villard, president of the Northern Pacific, expressed interest in penetrating Manitoba. At this point Greenway and his colleagues made a critical error.
They considered the railway problem as it affected Manitoba and the eastern Canadian prairies. But transcontinental railways seldom make decisions based on local conditions alone. The attraction for Villard was not the scattered traffic of Manitoba. The Northern Pacific was being challenged in the area of Seattle, Wash., by the CPR. It could not lower its rates to meet this incursion since American law required that it reduce them throughout its entire system. What Villard needed was a makeweight. If he could acquire control of the RRVR, which was beyond American law, he could threaten the CPR in Manitoba and force it to back off in the Pacific northwest. Blithely unaware, Greenway began negotiations with Villard in the summer of 1889.
Greenway and Martin returned from New York that July with an agreement that would be approved by cabinet and the legislature. Two subsequent issues would taint their accomplishment. The first was the charge that they had each received $50,000 of Northern Pacific funds. Vociferously denied by Greenway, the charge was never proved or disproved. Whatever money he may have received most likely went into the coffers of the Liberal party. More important was the new contract itself. In return for completion of the RRVR and other conditions, Villard insisted on exclusive rights. Thus any railways wishing to undercut the CPR could be denied running rights over the new outlet. Villard was not interested in competing with the CPR in Manitoba but in curbing its activities elsewhere. The result was that the Northern Pacific remained in control of the lucrative traffic to Puget Sound, Wash., while the CPR continued to dominate the prairies. Manitoba would have to wait for its deliverance from CPR bondage. The deal also cost Greenway the support of the talented Rodmond Palen Roblin*, who left the Liberal party in disgust. Only the emergence of another, even more dangerous issue deflected attention from the railway fiasco, but Greenway could and did claim credit for ending the formal monopoly of the CPR in Manitoba. His role in the dispute over the schooling of Manitoba children was more ambivalent.
When Manitoba had entered confederation in 1870, education was provided in schools operated by the Catholic, Anglican, and Presbyterian churches. The School Act of 1871 confirmed this intimate relationship of religion and education by creating a dual public system in which Catholic and Protestant denominational rights in education, as protected, it was thought, by section 22 of the Manitoba Act of 1870, were continued and funded by the province. This dual public system was abolished 20 years later and replaced by a system of “national” schools. The Manitoba school question, as it became known, would touch fundamental issues in the life of the province and the nation.
Its origin lies in the demographic changes which had taken place in the province. In 1870 the population of Manitoba was over 11,000. With the exception of the Indians, it was divided almost evenly into French-speaking Catholics and English-speaking Protestants, the latter being nearly all Anglicans and Presbyterians. By 1891 there had been an enormous change. The 20,571 Catholics, French- and English-speaking, constituted only about 13 per cent of the population. The overwhelming Protestant majority included 38,988 Presbyterians, 30,852 Anglicans, and 28,431 Methodists; among the last group was Greenway. This rapid transformation resulted in what historian William Lewis Morton* describes as “the triumph of Ontario democracy.”
The institutions of Manitoba were remade in the image of Ontario. During the 1870s the parish base of local government was swept away in favour of the township system. In 1876 the Legislative Council, which accorded the French minority some measure of representation, was abolished in the interests of frontier frugality [see Robert Atkinson Davis]. The official use of the French language became the target of attacks in the same decade despite its protection by section 23 of the Manitoba Act. Ontario immigrants also brought with them a very different concept of the role of the school. Their outlook was pragmatically secular and the public school was to be the homogenizing agent of society. In their vision, Manitoba and the prairie west were to be British and Protestant.
As this new majority began to associate Catholic schools with French schools – an understandable if not completely accurate conclusion given the significant number of English-speaking Catholics – the inflammatory issues of “race” and religion were added to the problem of chronic underfunding of schools in the new (and English) areas of the province. Periodic adjustments of funds had occurred as the Protestant (and English) portion of the population increased. But there was continuing resentment that the older settled areas (which included almost all the French inhabitants) were still receiving a disproportionate share. By the early summer of 1889 Greenway’s government was contemplating some radical changes to the education system, much to the consternation of Provincial Secretary James-Émile-Pierre Prendergast*, the spokesman for Franco-Manitobans.
There is no indication that Greenway harboured any ill will towards his Catholic fellow citizens. On the other hand, there is no reason to conclude that he did not share the outlook of his fellow Methodists, for whom he was an active lay preacher. Almost all the Methodists had arrived in Manitoba since 1870. Opposed to financial aid for church schools (from which they had been largely excluded) and firmly believing in the separation of church and state, they welcomed the news that the dual school system and the official use of French were to be ended. Their attitude does not necessarily convict Greenway by association. To some extent he was captured by events and exhibited neither the strength nor the will to resist the rising tide of Anglo-Protestant assertiveness. In the opinion of Roman Catholic archbishop Alexandre-Antonin Taché*, however, Greenway’s fault was not weakness but treachery.
When Greenway’s government was formed in 1888, it was with the benign neutrality of Taché. The inclusion of Prendergast in the cabinet eased any anxiety about the educational rights of the minority. Indeed, in a much-publicized by-election in St François Xavier in January 1888 assurances were given by Liberal spokesmen, including Martin, that they would guarantee the continuation of the dual school system and French language rights. But over the next 18 months Greenway, and especially James Allan Smart*, minister of public works, became more and more disposed to radical change.
As early as March 1889 government and caucus appeared to agree on replacing the Board of Education with a government department which could more closely control spending. What else was planned was not yet clear. Norquay’s sudden death in July, however, set in motion the final series of events that led to abolition. Released from the restraining hand of Norquay and his link with the easy tolerance of Red River days, Brandon Conservatives demanded an end to “separate” schools and the official use of French. Not to be outdone, Smart, in speeches on 1 and 2 August with Greenway in attendance, announced the government’s preference for national schools with a secular curriculum, but he refrained from urging the end of the dual system.
There was no holding back Martin on 5 August in Portage la Prairie. The featured speaker on that occasion was D’Alton McCarthy*, who added his support for any measures to restrict the use of French in Manitoba. Martin went farther, promising action on the school issue and the end of government printing in French. However ambivalent Greenway may have been about the issues, he told Prendergast that the government now planned to move on both. Prendergast acted on a resignation he had submitted in June, realizing that the premier intended to take advantage of the favourable public reaction to the announcements of Smart and Martin. Railway problems happily slipped into the background.
In the legislative session of early 1890 the government’s course became clear. It moved first to end all government printing in French. This measure was followed by two education bills, introduced on 12 February. The first abolished the Board of Education and erected a Department of Education under ministerial leadership. The second created a non-denominational school system, supported by public funds. Catholic schools, although not proscribed, would receive no public funds and parents who chose to send children to them would have to bear the cost as well as pay taxes to the public system. The “double taxation,” it was hoped, would mean their end. The majority of Manitobans now apparently had the school system they wanted, one that would ensure a British and Protestant future for the west.
The Catholics, mostly French, were unhappy on two counts. They felt they had been stripped of their constitutional rights as guaranteed by section 22 of the Manitoba Act. More immediately, the reality of the new schools was troubling. The former Protestant part of the dual system had become the new public system with the same buildings, books, inspectors, and teachers, and similar religious exercises. So the minority sought political or legal redress.
Prime Minister Macdonald had refused to allow the lieutenant governor, John Christian Schultz*, to reserve the school bill. Preferring a judicial solution, he also declined to support disallowance of the law as urged by Manitoba Catholics. The federal government sponsored a legal challenge in the name of John Kelly Barrett*, a Winnipeg ratepayer who refused to pay his school taxes on the grounds that the Public Schools Act of 1890 violated his denominational rights. As expected, in Barrett v. the City of Winnipeg judge Albert Clements Killam upheld the act. The Supreme Court of Canada, under Sir William Johnston Ritchie*, reversed this decision on 28 Oct. 1891, declaring that the plain intent of the Manitoba Act had been to continue the denominational system.
Before launching an appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, Manitoba sought to improve its prospects. Clifford Sifton*, who had replaced Martin as attorney general in May 1891, arranged a second challenge to the school act by an Anglican, Alexander Logan, who claimed for Anglicans the same denominational rights Barrett had sought for Catholics. Logan v. the City of Winnipeg, argued and decided favourably on the precedent of the Barrett case, moved swiftly through the Canadian courts and both cases were appealed together by Manitoba to the JCPC in Britain. The purpose of this diversionary manœuvre was to induce the committee to believe that sustaining the Canadian Supreme Court’s decisions would undermine totally the capacity of the Manitoba government to provide a general system of public education when faced with the threat of denominational particularism. It was a clever ruse, and it worked. On 30 July 1892 the committee overturned the decisions of the Supreme Court and the Barrett and Logan suits were lost. The decision came just one week after a provincial election in Manitoba in which the province’s right to have the school system of its choice was made the major issue. Greenway had won a smashing victory on 23 July as the champion of majority rights: the voters returned 26 Liberals, 11 Conservatives, and 3 independents.
This apparently overwhelming endorsement of Greenway’s leadership on the school issue must be examined. Support for a system of national schools was less an example of bigoted anti-Catholicism than part of the social agenda of the newly dominant Ontario-born élite to ensure its own vision of the future for the prairie west. Manitoba Protestantism was not homogeneous, however. It was divided along denominational lines as well as between laity and clergy. Each major denomination had its own traditions and convictions about the role of education for the child and society. On one point, however, almost all Protestant denominations had agreed. National schools must not mean “godless schools.” Thus the Public Schools Act, which the government described as non-denominational, was not rigorously secular. Provision had been made in the legislation for religious exercises, as opposed to religious instruction. This provision, however, simply confirmed to Catholics that the new public schools were really a continuation of the old Protestant schools.
Greenway had to recognize that he had not satisfied all non-Catholics. Many of the Anglican clergy and a few of the more traditional Presbyterians were disappointed that there was no provision for religious instruction. Happily, Greenway was able to rely on the Anglican laity, especially those among it who shared the outlook of the articulate Methodists and Presbyterians: they were willing to forgo religious instruction in return for a school system which would “Canadianize” the non-British and inculcate imperial sentiment. But however inadequate they judged the religious exercises with which they had to be satisfied, at no time did they ever consider them inappropriate or irrelevant.
After the disappointing result of the Barrett case, the Catholics of Manitoba sought redress by other means. Another clause of section 22 of the Manitoba Act (as well as section 93 of the British North America Act) provided that a minority which felt aggrieved by a denial of denominational rights in education could seek remedy from the federal government. In what became known as Brophy and others v. the Attorney-General of Manitoba the federal Conservative government referred six questions concerning this right of appeal and Ottawa’s power to take remedial action to the Supreme Court in February 1894. In early 1895 the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, on appeal, returned the poisoned chalice to an unhappy and badly divided federal cabinet, saying, in effect, that the Catholic minority of Manitoba did indeed have the right to seek redress.
The final stage was now set for Greenway. The federal government, led by Sir Mackenzie Bowell*, issued an order in council on 21 March threatening Manitoba with remedial legislation if the rights of Catholics were not restored. Greenway delayed replying for several months, cultivating the image of himself as the stout defender of an outraged and abused province. His refusal to comply, sent to Ottawa on 25 June, led to the announcement of remedial legislation by the federal government. Greenway’s response was to call a provincial election. The campaign of 1895–96 was short and pointed. There was only one issue and Greenway attacked Ottawa unmercifully with almost no regard for other, potentially difficult, local issues such as freight rates. The province was being menaced by an overbearing and ignorant federal government. The election of 15 Jan. 1896 was a romp. The Liberals were unchallenged in 9 seats, including Greenway’s; overall they won 31 seats against a combined opposition of 9, including 5 Conservatives.
Publicly, Greenway claimed that this demonstration of Manitoba’s resolve would deter the federal government. Privately, he was quite willing to delay events to assist the federal Liberals. Through February and March 1896 he sparred inconclusively with Bowell, finally agreeing to a meeting in Winnipeg with federal authorities, led by Sir Donald Alexander Smith*. He failed to turn up, pleading ill-health. The debate in the House of Commons on the remedial bill, which had been introduced on 11 February, droned on, bringing the federal election inexorably closer. The bill was withdrawn on 16 April and a week later parliament was dissolved. The strategy of Liberal leader Wilfrid Laurier*, that of spinning out the debate while promising that a more “sunny way” would bring a compromise, had allowed the Liberals to avoid a final vote on the measure. They were thus able to appear both as defenders of provincial rights and as the best hope of the Manitoba minority.
Time had, indeed, run out for the Tories, led by Sir Charles Tupper*, prime minister since 1 May, and the election of June 1896 had the school children of Manitoba as its major issue. Except, curiously, in Manitoba where their fate was scarcely discussed. There, four of the province’s seven seats went Conservative and two more narrowly missed doing so! The voters, however, had not expressed a preference for the party that was committed to remedial action. Local issues dominated in Manitoba. The tariff, the appeal of the Patrons of Industry [see Charles Braithwaite], and the CPR played varying roles in the result. For the majority of Manitobans, the school issue was settled. Their school system was secured by legislation embodying the will of the majority and would not be undone by the courts or the federal government. It would remain to be seen how Laurier, the new prime minister, would act on his pledge to ease the burden of Manitoba’s Catholic minority.
By August the main proposals of a settlement were agreed on and Greenway had had little to do with them. The thrusting ambition of Sifton and Laurier’s determination to remove the issue from public controversy were the twin keys to what became known as the Laurier-Greenway compromise. Published on 19 November, it was a compromise between winners; the Catholic minority of Manitoba would receive little relief. Sifton knew exactly the limits of cosmetic concessions that Greenway and his Manitoba colleagues would accept. When he had sent Greenway a copy of the “Memorandum Re Settlement of School Question,” the premier had accepted it almost without demur. He was not asked to retreat on the “principle of national schools” nor would there be any tax relief for those who sent their children to Catholic schools. In the new Public Schools Act of 1897, incorporating the agreement, religious instruction would be permitted on petition for one half-hour after the school day; where sufficient numbers warranted it, a teacher of the minority denomination could be employed; and again when warranted pupils with a native language other than English could be taught “in French or other such language and English upon the bi-lingual system.” Provision for daily religious exercises in the public schools was continued so that Greenway could insist they were not “Godless Schools.” There was not much for Manitoba Catholics to rejoice about. Adélard Langevin*, who had succeeded Taché as archbishop of St Boniface in 1895, adamantly rejected the compromise. He saw, as well as Greenway, the essential principle – the Catholics had lost their schools. He, for one, would never be mollified.
Greenway had used the school question to ensure solid electoral victories in 1892 and 1896, but the compromise would work against him when he next went to the polls. He would suffer as well from his association with the federal Liberals. Greenway, and most Manitoba farmers, had confidently expected that the new Liberal government in Ottawa would deliver them from protection. They were disappointed. Greenway had to bear local criticism of the federal Liberals’ accommodation to the National Policy of industrial protection. Furthermore, Laurier was less than forthcoming when Greenway made his case for better financial terms for Manitoba. Despite the acknowledgement of the province’s claims as accurate, Laurier tried to tie their satisfaction to additional educational concessions to the Catholic minority. Greenway faced a politically impossible choice. In the end, he refused further official action on school matters. Manitoba’s monetary claims were only grudgingly and slowly satisfied. Greenway’s political relations with Laurier’s government were never good, despite, or perhaps because of, Sifton’s growing influence in Ottawa.
Limited success in dealing with Ottawa was not Greenway’s only problem. The politics of railways had made him premier; they would also count heavily in his loss of that office. The pressure on him to secure some competitive alternative to the CPR had never ceased. Badly needing a new issue and an obvious accomplishment to prepare for the next provincial election, he grasped with a curiously innocent optimism at Northern Pacific’s proposal to build the long-desired competitive outlet to Duluth, Minn. He informed William Mackenzie* and Donald Mann*, promoters and contractors of the Lake Manitoba Railway and Canal Company, the only successful locally chartered railway in the province, that they could expect no further aid from his government. He shifted his focus from them to the Northern Pacific, but once again his hopes were dashed. Negotiations with the Northern Pacific in 1897 proved fruitless and the resulting public disappointment cost him dearly. Ironically, it was the jilted Mackenzie and Mann who then stepped in. They joined their Lake Manitoba Railway with the Winnipeg Great Northern Railway in December 1898 to form the Canadian Northern Railway, laying the basis for their western empire. But the Canadian Northern’s impressive new charter of July 1899 came too late to save Greenway.
The provincial campaign in the late autumn of 1899 was badly managed. Greenway’s easy victories in 1892 and 1896 were unrecognized aberrations. The compromise of 1897, and particularly the decision to allow French in the classrooms, did not go down well in the Brandon region and traditional Tory voters began to drift back to their party. Ethnocentric southwestern Manitoba had little sympathy with federal immigration policy, now in the hands of Sifton as minister of the interior. The failure of negotiations with the Northern Pacific had been a serious blow and Greenway’s promise of a ten-cent freight rate on wheat rang hollowly through the grain fields of Manitoba. Perhaps worst of all was Greenway’s disdainful underestimate of the new leader of the provincial Conservatives, Hugh John Macdonald*. The Liberal ride on the school question was over.
The final standing in the assembly – 22 Tories, 17 Liberals, and 1 independent – masked an almost even popular vote and was hardly a massive rejection. The Conservatives won 6 seats by fewer than 30 votes. Better organization, as Greenway conceded later, might well have reversed the results of 7 December. Reassuming the role of opposition leader was not a prospect he welcomed. He felt that he deserved consideration from the federal Liberals and his clear preference was for one of the two Manitoba vacancies in the Senate. After his government resigned on 6 Jan. 1900 his colleagues besieged Sifton to have Greenway remain in Manitoba for at least the next session to allow the provincial party to reorganize. Sifton, for whatever reason, claimed the Senate positions could not be held open for that long. While he did, indeed, offer a seat to Greenway, the former premier did not feel at liberty to accept it immediately. Sifton then filled both vacancies.
Greenway put little effort and less enthusiasm into his position as leader of the opposition. He hung on only to maintain his claim to a suitable federal appointment. His personal finances were deteriorating. The loss of his premier’s salary of $4,000 forced him to sell land and livestock to support his large family in Crystal City. In 1903 he rejected Sifton’s offer of the next Manitoba seat in the Senate as no longer adequate. But his lacklustre leadership was driving provincial Liberals into despondent disorganization. They won only eight seats in the provincial election of 20 July 1903. Greenway had spent as much time denouncing prohibitionists as he did attacking the Conservative government. He was determined now to leave provincial politics.
With no suitable federal appointment in the immediate offing, he finally decided to seek nomination in the federal riding of Lisgar for the election of 1904, with the backing of Sifton and John Wesley Dafoe* of the Manitoba Morning Free Press. He made only one speech, the burden (and the costs) of campaigning being undertaken by others, including his son, John Franklin Greenway. He won easily and returned to the House of Commons with the Laurier Liberals, who rode a wave of advancing prosperity in most of the dominion. For the next four years he was an unnoticed backbencher, speaking infrequently, exercising little influence, and hoping that Sifton, despite his departure from the cabinet in 1905, would secure a lucrative appointment for him. When the membership of the Board of Railway Commissioners was enlarged in 1908 to accommodate western interests, Sifton organized the western Liberal members to press Greenway’s claim. After some hesitation, Laurier made the appointment in September. It was a cruel irony that on the day Greenway arrived in Ottawa to take up his new duties, he suffered a fatal heart attack. He was buried in Crystal City on 2 November with appropriate ceremony.
W. L. Morton summed up Greenway’s career as that of a “shrewd mediocrity.” The judgement seems somewhat harsh. Morton’s assessment stems largely from the argument that Greenway seized the occasion of McCarthy’s visit in 1889 to create a diversion over language and school issues and thus deflect criticism from his stumbling railway policy. It is clear, however, that the decision to move on school legislation had been taken well before McCarthy appeared and had been announced by Smart with Greenway beside him.
While it was true that Greenway’s search for competitive freight rates would never be satisfied by the Northern Pacific, he must be conceded some credit for ending the CPR monopoly. But, on balance, he was unable to deal effectively with the CPR and its president, William Cornelius Van Horne*; their resources were simply too great to be thwarted by a small provincial government. The struggle was made even more unequal after Sifton entered the Manitoba cabinet; he was far too cosy with the CPR and had his own political and personal agenda.
Greenway had eventually been able to eliminate Martin as a political liability. He could never control the ambitious and determined Sifton. It is probably fair to say that from 1892 to 1896 Greenway was not the master of Manitoba’s government. At best, he shared power with Sifton. But to a significant extent Greenway, the political survivor, reflected the social fluidity of this new western society. As the Ontario immigrants, of whom he was a leader, became the dominant force in Manitoba, he was an appropriate instrument to help mould their vision of the new west.
AASB, Fonds Langevin; Fonds Taché. NA, MG 26, A (mfm. at PAM); D; E; G (mfm. at PAM); MG 27, II, D15. PAM, GR 1662; MG 7, A3; MG 12, E; MG 14, C15; P 339/PRL-84-7; P 348-49/PRL-84-36. UCC, Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario Conference Arch. (Winnipeg), A. B. Baird papers; Methodist Church, Conference of Manitoba and the North-West, minutes, 1878–1908; Presbyterian Church in Canada, Synod of Manitoba and the North-West Territories, minutes, 1878–1908. Univ. of Manitoba Libraries, Dept. of Arch. and Special Coll. (Winnipeg), mss 3 (J. W. Dafoe coll.). Manitoba Morning Free Press, 1878–1908. Winnipeg Tribune, 1892–1908. C. J. Brydges, The letters of Charles John Brydges, 1883–1889, Hudson’s Bay Company land commissioner, ed. Hartwell Bowsfield, intro. J. E. Rea (Winnipeg, 1981). G.-L. Comeault, “The politics of the Manitoba school question and its impact on L. P. A. Langevin’s relations with Manitoba’s Catholic minority groups, 1895–1915” (ma thesis, Univ. of Man., 1977). Paul Crunican, Priests and politicians: Manitoba schools and the election of 1896 (Toronto and Buffalo, N.Y., 1974). Christopher Hackett, “The Anglo-Protestant churches of Manitoba and the Manitoba school question” (ma thesis, Univ. of Man., 1988). Hall, Clifford Sifton, vol.1. J. A. Hilts, “The political career of Thomas Greenway” (phd thesis, Univ. of Man., 1974). The Manitoba school question: majority rule or minority rights?, ed. L. [C.] Clark (Toronto, ). J. R. Miller, “D’Alton McCarthy, equal rights, and the origins of the Manitoba school question,” CHR, 54 (1973): 369–92. Morton, Manitoba (1957). Roberto Perin, Rome in Canada: the Vatican and Canadian affairs in the late Victorian age (Toronto, 1990). T. D. Regehr, The Canadian Northern Railway: pioneer road of the northern prairies, 1895–1918 (Toronto, 1976).
© 1994–2023 University of Toronto/Université Laval
Cite This Article
J. E. Rea, “GREENWAY, THOMAS,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed March 25, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/greenway_thomas_13E.html.
The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:
|Author of Article:||J. E. Rea|
|Title of Article:||GREENWAY, THOMAS|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||1994|
|Year of revision:||1994|
|Access Date:||March 25, 2023|