John Walter Jones

John Walter Jones

APRIL 14, 1878 - MARCH 31, 1954

Farmer, Premier and Senator, John Walter Jones was born on April 14, 1878 at his family farm in Pownal, Prince Edward Island. Jones spent his formative years working on the family farm and attending the Prince of Wales College.

Jones first adult job came as a public-school teacher. He pressed on for further self-education. Jones graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Acadia University in 1905, while there he was captain of the rugby and track-and-field teams, being selected to the All-Canadian rugby team but declining the invitation to play with them.

Jones returned to P.E.I. and found a job as principal of a consolidated school, but he only remained for a few years. In 1907 Jones left again, this time for the Ontario Agricultural College in Guelph, Ontario. While there he set Canadian college records in hammer-throw and shotput while specializing academically in experimental agricultural techniques. Jones graduated in 1909 and returned home briefly to marry Katherine Francis Boyver, before setting off for a new career in the United States.

Jones taught at a Virginia agricultural school for just nine months before being quickly promoted to assistant superintendent of the Arlington Experimental Station in Washington, D.C. Whilst in the states Jones caught wind of the opportunity in seed potato crop and extolled its potential to the PEI farmers he remained in contact with. In doing so Jones helped to start its important role in the future of the Island’s economy.

In 1912 he returned to Canada for a job at the Commission of Conservation. His report “Fur Farming in Canada” was published in 1913 and revised in 1914 to international attention. Jones saw the opportunity highlighted in his own research and returned home to Prince Edward Island.

In 1914 Jones went into partnership with his father-in law at a farm in Bunbury, P.E.I. and spent the next year alternating his time there and at Acadia University where he attained his Masters in Economics and History. Jones assumed full control over the farm and gleaned significant profits from the combination of mixed farming and fox ranching he employed. In 1917 he used his profits to invest in a herd of Holsteins. Through the following years, Jones would breed his herd selectively and efficiently, the Holsteins eventually making him a very wealthy farmer.

Jones frequently took home prizes for his Holsteins. His herd saw dominant successes at the Royal Winter Fair, Canadian National Exhibition and other competitions. They were also great producers at home, attaining tremendous success on Record of Production tests. Jones’ dam Countess Abbekerk Hiemke even held a world record for production at one point.

Jones first attempted to enter politics in 1921 as a United Farmer-Progressive candidate. He failed in this initial endeavor but was successfully elected to the provincial legislature as a Liberal candidate in 1935. In 1943 Liberal leader Thane Campbell stepped down and Jones became Premier of Prince Edward Island. A position that was quickly solidified by the Liberal party’s victory in the 1943 P.E.I. election.

In 1946 Jones returned to the O.A.C. to give a speech at the Animal Husbandry Club banquet. Here Jones showed that despite his political position he still was not above discussing the nitty-gritty of livestock with his fellow agriculturists.

Later that year Jones was one of the key negotiators and acceptors of a “tax pact” with the federal government. The pact involved giving up certain taxation privileges to the federal government in exchange for annual financial endowments. The principles behind the pact laid the foundation for the equalization payment system in the following decade.

Jones used the influx of federal funding to modernize PEI’s rural infrastructure. Conducting rural electrification projects, founding forestry programs as well as improving provincial soil analysis and veterinary services. He also participated in the crafting of a federal plan to supply doctors to rural sections of the country in need.

Jones always put his Province’s farmers first, sometimes even at the expense of others. In 1947 a strike at the Canada Packers meat-packing plant jeopardized the ability of PEI Farmers to bring their stock to market. Jones took the plant over and found employees to work while he negotiated with the union. Eventually Jones provided a short-term government wage-stipend to return the union workers while they negotiated terms with their employer. Jones also banned margarine throughout the province in order to protect dairy farmers. During the second world war, Jones refused the Federal Government’s plan to use soldiers to relieve farm labour shortages, citing concerns over a farms’ ability to pay the mandated $3 a day wage.

Jones’s premiership only came to an end in 1953 when he accepted an appointment into the Canadian Senate. He would pass away the following year in his Office in Ottawa.

In his career, Jones brought agricultural innovations, won numerous awards, raised five children and brought farmers to the forefront in P.E.I. politics. Jones never backed down from his beliefs in the political arena and always remained a successful dairyman and farmer. Jones’s lifelong commitment is perhaps best demonstrated by this quote. “If the farmers all go foolish like the people in the towns, good-bye Prince Edward Island.”

Celebrating 150 Years of Canadian Agriculture