Influence

Sir Charles Tupper, Prime Minister, 1896. Elliot & Fry / National Archives of Canada / C-010109

On May 1, 1896, Sir Charles Tupper, a Father of Confederation, began what became the shortest term of any Canadian Prime Minister-approximately three months. Five days later the headline in the Ottawa newspaper read, "Will J.R. Booth Run?" The story that followed reported Sir Charles Tupper having met with Booth for a 15 minute private conversation, and it was not known if Booth consented to run or not. Reports circulated in Conservative circles that he was offered the nomination and there was a chance he would accept. Despite the reports, Booth refused to enter public life, preferring to influence policy makers from behind the scenes.

There is ample evidence to suggest that he did just that. After the defeat of Tupper's Conservative government, Booth continued to remain in contact with those on Parliament Hill. On December 5, 1896, Booth joined Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier and others on an inspection tour of Ottawa by train. Often the advisor of businessmen and politicians, Booth used his influence behind the scenes and was a leader in forming and supporting several big business organizations.

One of the few disappointing incidents in Booth's career is exposed in the uncarved shields of the elaborately carved dining rooms of 252 Metcalfe. In September of 1901 it was rumoured that the honour of knighthood was to be bestowed upon J.R. Booth. Despite the outpouring of support from his contemporaries for the receipt of that particular honour, the knighthood never materialized, thus the shields in the dining room of 252 Metcalfe remained unfinished. It has been suggested that despite Booth's role as a confidant to influential people, he was denied knighthood because he often ran afoul of government regulation and, for a period of time, was summoned to court on almost a weekly basis for his refusal to abide by the changing laws relating to the disposal of waste wood products from his mills.

Nevertheless, the extent of Booth's influence is indicated by an invitation from the directors of the Canadian National Exhibition to be the chief speaker at the Exhibition's opening day. Although Both didn't accept because of health reasons, this invitation-given only three months before his death-to host the opening ceremonies of an exhibition that paid tribute to outstanding Canadians, demonstrates the continued esteem of J.R. Booth's peers throughout his long life.