Walter Maxfield Lea

Walter Maxfield Lea

Served during the following dates: 1915-09-16; 1919-07-24; 1919-10-03; 1927-06-25; 1927-09-01; 1931-08-06; 1935-07-23

LEA, WALTER MAXFIELD, farmer; b. 10 February 1874 in Tryon, son of William Charles Lea* and Anna Lea; m. ca. 2 October 1899, Helena Esma Maude Mary Rogerson, and they had five children, Marion, Edith, Gordon, Chester, and Clifford; Methodist; d. 10 January 1936 in Charlottetown.
Lea, a Liberal, was first elected to the Legislative Assembly in the general election of 1915 for 4th Prince. He was re-elected in the general elections of 1919, 1927, 1931, and 1935. He was defeated in the general election of 1923. Under Premier John H. Bell*, Lea was Minister of Agriculture, and he established the Agricultural and Technical School. In the Albert C. Saunders* Administration he was appointed Commissioner of Agriculture and Provincial Secretary-General. Premier Saunders was appointed to the Supreme Court and Lea was called on to form a government, which he did on 20 May 1930. The Lea Administration was defeated at the polls in August of 1931, but Lea was re-elected in his district and served as Leader of the Opposition.
Lea was the first farmer to become premier in the province’s history. During his first term as premier, the Island was the only province to reduce its bonded debt in the midst of the Great Depression. Lea’s platform for the 1931 general election was based largely on fiscal stewardship. However, the effects of the Depression were just beginning to be felt and the electorate desired more services from government. Conservative Leader James D. Stewart* argued that he would be in a more favourable position to increase financial support from fellow Conservatives in the federal government of R. B. Bennett. In the general election of 1935, in contrast to the 1931 defeat, Lea and his Liberals took all 30 seats in the Legislative Assembly, marking the first time in the history of the British Commonwealth that a government faced no opposition in the Legislature. Some Liberal Members served as an unofficial opposition and criticized the actions of their own government. Premier Lea became Minister of Agriculture and Secretary-General. Lea, who had been in ill health for some time, died as a result of pneumonia less than five months into his second term as premier.
Lea’s father, William Charles*, had been a Member of the Island’s government. He was first elected to the House of Assembly in 1872 for I1' Queens and was re-elected in the general election of 1876 for 4th Prince.
Lea was born in Tryon but resided in Victoria where he attended public school. He farmed extensively in Victoria and was interested in the improvement of his stock through breeding. He served as president, director, and vice-president of the Holstein Breeders Association. Lea was a promoter of the Co-operative Cream System and supplied milk and cream to the creamery for over 30 years. He was interested in the farming practices of other countries and represented the province as a member of the Canadian Farmers Party, where he inspected the breeding establishments and the marketing systems of European countries. Walter Lea died 10 January 1936, while in office, at the Prince Edward Island Hospital.
Helena Lea, the daughter of Thomas Rogerson and Ellen Howatt of Crapaud, was born 17 March 1875 and died in 1962. Marion married Walter Fitz-Alan Stewart* who represented 1st Queens.

References: Guide to abbreviations

Photograph courtesy of PEI Public Archives and Records Office, Reference Number Acc3177/54