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George Hees

George Hees
Hees c. 1942–1948
Minister of Veterans Affairs
In office
September 17, 1984 – September 14, 1988
Prime MinisterBrian Mulroney
Preceded byBennett Campbell
Succeeded byGerald Merrithew
Minister of Trade and Commerce
In office
October 11, 1960 – February 8, 1963
Prime MinisterJohn Diefenbaker
Preceded byGordon Churchill
Succeeded byMalcolm Wallace McCutcheon
Minister of Transport
In office
June 21, 1957 – October 10, 1960
Prime MinisterJohn Diefenbaker
Preceded byGeorge Carlyle Marler
Succeeded byLéon Balcer
Member of Parliament
for Northumberland
(Prince Edward—Hastings; 1968–1979)
In office
November 8, 1965 – November 21, 1988
Preceded byPauline Jewett
Succeeded byChristine Stewart
Member of Parliament
for Broadview
In office
May 15, 1950 – April 8, 1963
Preceded byThomas Church
Succeeded byDavid Hahn
Personal details
George Harris Hees

(1910-06-17)June 17, 1910
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
DiedJune 11, 1996(1996-06-11) (aged 85)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Political partyProgressive Conservative
Mabel Dunlop
(m. 1934; died 1993)
  • Politician
  • soldier
  • businessman
George Hees
Career information
Height6 ft 3 in (191 cm)
Weight200 lb (91 kg)
CollegeUniversity of Toronto & Royal Military College
Career history
As player
1934, 1937–38Toronto Argonauts
Career highlights and awards
HonoursGrey Cup champion - 1938

George Harris Hees PC OC (June 17, 1910 – June 11, 1996) was a Canadian politician and businessman.


Born in Toronto, Hees was educated at the exclusive Crescent School in Toronto, Trinity College School in Port Hope, Ontario, the Royal Military College, student #1976 (where he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Military Science in 1986), the University of Toronto, and spent a year at Cambridge University in 1933.


He was a noted athlete, winning championships in boxing and lacrosse at Cambridge. As a professional football player he played 3 seasons with the Toronto Argonauts (11 regular season and 3 playoff games)[1] and won the Grey Cup in 1938. While serving during the Second World War, he played in the famed Tea Bowl for the Canadian Army football team against American Army team at White City Stadium in London on February 13, 1944; the Canadians won 16-6.[2]

Military service

He attended The Royal Military College of Canada from 1927 to 1931. He then attended the University of Toronto and concurrently served for four years with The Royal Grenadiers, a Militia Regiment based in Toronto. He served in the Canadian Army in North-West Europe during the Second World War. During the Battle of the Scheldt, he served as the brigade major of the 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade. On 1 November 1944, he volunteered to take over command of a company of The Calgary Highlanders when all their officers were killed or wounded after crossing the Walcheren Causeway. He was wounded in the arm during the battle, evacuated, and repatriated to Canada where he was discharged from active service.


After placing second to Liberal candidate David Croll in the Toronto riding of Spadina in the 1945 federal election, he won election to the House of Commons of Canada in a 1950 by-election in the nearby riding of Broadview. He was also President of the Progressive Conservative Party from 1953 to 1956.

When the PCs under John Diefenbaker won government in 1957, Hees was named Minister of Transport, and oversaw the opening of the Saint Lawrence Seaway and the new Halifax International Airport.[3] In 1960, he was appointed Minister of Trade and Commerce. During this period, Hees was regarded as the second most powerful man in the Tory party. However, in 1963, he fell out with Diefenbaker, and became embroiled in the Munsinger Affair and elected to sit out the 1963 election. In that election, the Liberals replaced the Tories' minority government with one of their own, causing Diefenbaker's succession with Lester B. Pearson as prime minister.

Hees considered leaving the Conservatives for the Liberals, but did not do so. He became president of the Montreal Stock Exchange. He returned to Parliament in the 1965 election as a PC, defeating Liberal MP Pauline Jewett in the rural riding of Northumberland, and remained in the front rows of the opposition ranks for almost two decades.

He ran for the leadership of the PC Party at its 1967 leadership convention, and placed fourth in a field of eleven on the first ballot. He remained for two further ballots before withdrawing, and supporting the eventual winner, Nova Scotia Premier Robert Stanfield.

He was noted as being involved in a memorable case of battery, in which he forcefully ejected a campaign worker from his room, striking his head against the door. Hees tried to plead self-defence, which failed due to the lack of imminent harm anticipated by him (MacDonald v. Hees (1974), 46 D.L.R. (3d) (N.S.T.D.)).

He was not named to Cabinet during the Joe Clark government in 1979–80, and was quoted saying, as Clark stepped down in the 1983 leadership race, "We've got him! We've got the S.O.B."

In 1981, Hees was the Chairman of the Canada-US Permanent Joint Board on Defence. In this role, he was the first Canadian to bring to the attention of then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau the US request to test nuclear-capable cruise missiles over Canadian territory.[4]

When Brian Mulroney led the party to a majority government in 1984, Hees was named Minister of Veterans Affairs. Hees retired from politics at the 1988 Canadian federal election. In 1989 he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

There is a veterans wing at Toronto's Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre bearing his name, and near the relocated Crescent School he attended as a child.

Election results (partial)

1958 Canadian federal election: Broadview
Party Candidate Votes
Progressive Conservative George Hees 15,364
Liberal George A. Taylor 4,738
Co-operative Commonwealth John Alan Lee 3,356
Socialist Ross Dowson 447

In popular culture

Hees was portrayed by Christopher Plummer in the 1997 TV miniseries The Arrow.


  1. ^ 2008 Toronto Argonaut Media Guide
  2. ^ The coffee & tea bowls: football classics: Canada vs. the United States in wartime London as Spitfires fly cover.
  3. ^ "Halifax Opens New Airport". The New York Times. 11 September 1960. p. 42.
  4. ^ John Murray Clearwater, Just Dummies: Cruise Missile Testing in Canada (Alberta: University of Calgary Press, 2006), pp. 4–5.
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George Hees
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