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John C. Bowen

John C. Bowen
6th Lieutenant Governor of Alberta
In office
March 23, 1937 – February 1, 1950
MonarchGeorge VI
Governors GeneralThe Lord Tweedsmuir
The Earl of Athlone
The Viscount Alexander of Tunis
PremierWilliam Aberhart
Ernest Manning
Preceded byPhilip Primrose
Succeeded byJohn J. Bowlen
Alberta Official Opposition Leader
In office
March 15, 1926 – June 28, 1926
Preceded byCharles Mitchell
Succeeded byVacant until James Walker (1941)
Leader of the Alberta Liberal Party
In office
March 15, 1926 – June 28, 1926
Preceded byCharles Mitchell
Succeeded byJoseph Shaw
Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta
In office
July 18, 1921 – June 28, 1926
Preceded byNew district
Succeeded byDavid Duggan
Charles Gibbs
John Lymburn
Warren Prevey
Charles Weaver
City of Edmonton Alderman
In office
December 8, 1919 – December 12, 1921
In office
December 12, 1927 – December 10, 1928
Personal details
John Campbell Bowen

(1872-10-03)October 3, 1872
Metcalfe, Ontario
DiedJanuary 2, 1957(1957-01-02) (aged 84)
Edmonton, Alberta
Political partyLiberal
Edith Oliver
(m. 1906)
Residence(s)Edmonton, Alberta
Alma materMcMaster University
OccupationClergyman, Insurance broker, politician
Military service
Branch/serviceCanadian Expeditionary Force
Years of service1915–1918
Battles/warsWorld War I

John Campbell Bowen (October 3, 1872 – January 2, 1957) was a clergyman, insurance broker and long serving politician. He served as an alderman in the City of Edmonton and went on to serve as a member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta from 1921 to 1926, sitting with the Liberal caucus in opposition. He also briefly led the provincial Liberal party in 1926.

Bowen was appointed as the sixth and longest-serving lieutenant governor of Alberta. He served that post from 1937 to 1950.

Early life

John Campbell Bowen was born in Metcalfe, Ontario, on October 3, 1872. He was the son of Peter Bowen and Margaret Poaps, and grew up in Ottawa.

He took his post-secondary education at Brandon Baptist College, where he earned a degree in theology, and also at McMaster University. After university he moved west to Dauphin, Manitoba, to become the pastor of the Baptist church in that town.[1] He married Edith Oliver on October 25, 1906.[1]

Bowen moved to Edmonton, Alberta, with his family in 1912 to become pastor of Strathcona Baptist Church. He also got into the insurance business.[1]

Bowen joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the First World War, serving as a military chaplain. He gained an interest in politics and ran successfully for municipal office in 1919.[1]

Political career


Bowen ran for a seat to Edmonton City Council for the first time in the 1919 Edmonton municipal election. He won the fifth-place seat to serve a two-year term on council as an alderman.[2]

Bowen won election to the Alberta Legislature in 1921 and decided not to run for re-election in the municipal election that year. After he failed a re-election bid in the 1926 Alberta general election, he returned to the municipal politics by winning an aldermanic seat in the 1927 Edmonton municipal election held using single transferable vote.[3]

Bowen ran for mayor in the 1928 Edmonton municipal election after serving only one year of his two-year term as alderman. He was defeated by incumbent mayor Ambrose Bury in a close two-way race.[4]


Bowen was elected to the Alberta Legislature as a Liberal candidate in the electoral district of Edmonton. He won the second of five seats that was contested by 26 candidates, under the block voting system.[5] In his maiden speech to the legislature, Bowen brought attention to the need for increased government assistance for the unemployed and for adjustment to the taxation system to reduce the financial burdens facing urban centres.[6]

In 1926 Bowen briefly held leadership of the Alberta Liberal Party and also became Leader of the Official Opposition in Alberta. Bowen ran for re-election in 1926 but was not re-elected.

Bowen attempted a political comeback five years later. He ran for the Liberal nomination for a by-election to be held in the Edmonton electoral district on January 9, 1931. Bowen defeated Joseph Clarke for the right to stand as a Liberal candidate on December 19, 1930, at a convention attended by almost 200 delegates with a vote of 98 to 54.[7] He was defeated in the election finishing third place in the field of four candidates, losing to Conservative candidate Frederick Jamieson.[8]

Lieutenant governor

On March 23, 1937, following the sudden death in office of his predecessor, Philip Primrose, Bowen was appointed as the sixth lieutenant governor of Alberta by Governor General the Lord Tweedsmuir, on the advice of Prime Minister Mackenzie King.

One of Bowen's first acts as Lieutenant Governor on May 1, 1937, was an order in council regarding the "resignation or retirement" of William Chant, Minister of Agriculture, after Premier Aberhart requested Chant's resignation to implement a "more aggressive" Department of Agriculture. It was the second occasion in Alberta where a cabinet minister was removed from office by a lieutenant governor, after Charles W. Cross was removed as attorney general by Robert G. Brett in 1918.[6]

A few weeks after taking office, Bowen became involved in a constitutional crisis when he refused to give royal assent to three government bills passed by the governing Social Credit Party, which was accused of exceeding its constitutional powers. Two of the bills would have put the province's banks under the control of the provincial government, while a third, the Accurate News and Information Act, would have forced newspapers to hand over the names and addresses of their sources to the government, and to print government rebuttals to stories the provincial cabinet objected to.

Mindful of the federal government's disallowance of some of the Social Credit Board's earlier legislation, Bowen initially reserved royal assent of the act and its companions until their legality could be tested at the Supreme Court of Canada as Reference Re Alberta Statutes.[6] This was the first use of the power of reservation in Alberta,[9] and was heavily criticized by the government and by some members of the public, who appeared at the door of Government House, threatening the governor and his family. All three bills were later declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. In 1938, Bowen threatened to dismiss Aberhart's government, which would have been an extraordinary use of his reserve powers. The Social Credit government remained immensely popular with the Albertans, however, so the threat was not carried out.

In the summer of 1938 Aberhart's government announced the elimination of Bowen's official residence, his government car, and his secretarial staff. Biographers attribute this action to retaliation by Aberhart.[9][10][11] For a time, Bowen defiantly remained in Government House, despite the power, heat, and telephone service being cut off by the government. Eventually, however, after being forced to sign an order-in-council closing Government House, Bowen moved to a suite at the Hotel Macdonald.[12][13] The building, the furniture, and fixtures were subsequently sold, and Bowen was the last lieutenant governor to officially reside at Government House. Bowen would eventually move into a home in Edmonton's Glenora neighbourhood.[6]

In September 1938 Bowen insisted that an order in council regarding the establishment of credit houses and other Cabinet expenditure proposals be amended to remove the authority for unlimited expenditures, and instead have a limit of $200,000.[6]

During World War II, Bowen spent a lot of his time promoting the sale of war bonds and otherwise helping the war effort. Bowen made many visits to military units posted in Alberta and the United States Army posted in Edmonton and Whitehorse during the construction of the Alaska Highway. On July 2, 1943, Bowen hosted Alaska Territory Governor Ernest H. Gruening for a joint Dominion Day and Independence Day celebration in Edmonton.[6]

Despite the friction between him and the government his posting was renewed. Bowen served almost 13 years as lieutenant-governor, resigning in 1950 due to ill health.


John Bowen received an honorary doctorate of laws from the University of Alberta in 1939. Bowen also received the American Medal of Freedom Silver Palm in 1947 in recognition of his service to American forces stationed in Edmonton. Bowen was invested as a Knight of Grace in the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in 1949.

In 2002, the City of Edmonton named Bowen Wynd, a road, in his honour.[6]

Late life

Bowen died on January 2, 1957, in Edmonton, and was buried in the Edmonton Cemetery.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Biographies of Mayors and Councillors – B". Edmonton Public Library. Archived from the original on July 5, 2011. Retrieved July 3, 2010.
  2. ^ "Election Results 1892–1944". City of Edmonton. p. 44. Archived from the original on September 4, 2013. Retrieved July 1, 2010.
  3. ^ "Election Results 1892 – 1944". City of Edmonton. p. 59. Archived from the original on September 4, 2013. Retrieved July 1, 2010.
  4. ^ "Election Results 1892–1944". City of Edmonton. p. 61. Archived from the original on September 4, 2013. Retrieved July 1, 2010.
  5. ^ "Edmonton Official Results 1921 Alberta general election". Alberta Heritage Community Foundation. Retrieved March 21, 2010.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Perry, Sandra E.; Powell, Karen L. (2006). Massolin, Philip A. (ed.). On Behalf of the Crown, Lieutenant Governors of the North-West Territories and Alberta, 1869–2005. Edmonton, Alberta: Legislative Assembly of Alberta. p. 444-466. ISBN 0-9689217-1-X. Retrieved 23 March 2020.
  7. ^ "Capt. Bowen Is Liberal Choice In Edmonton". The Lethbridge Herald. Vol. XXIV, no. 8. December 19, 1930. p. 1.
  8. ^ "By-elections 1905–1973". Elections Alberta. Archived from the original on June 7, 2009. Retrieved April 10, 2010.
  9. ^ a b Elliott, David R.; Miller, Iris (1987). Bible Bill: A Biography of William Aberhart. Edmonton: Reidmore Books. pp. 273–278. ISBN 0-919091-44-X.
  10. ^ Brennan, Brian (2008). The Good Steward: The Ernest C. Manning Story. Calgary: Fifth House Ltd. p. 54. ISBN 978-1-897252-16-1.
  11. ^ McWhinney, Edward; The Governor General and the Prime Ministers; Ronsdale Press, Vancouver; 2005; pp. 38–39
  12. ^ Jackson, D. Michael (2013). The Crown and Canadian Federalism. Toronto: Dundurn. ISBN 978-1459709904.
  13. ^ "70 years after rift, family donates artifacts to Alberta". CBC News. 19 May 2010. Retrieved 9 October 2015.
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John C. Bowen
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