When a weak
hockey team buys a great star, or a baseball team seeks the services of a
home-run king, that's everyday business in the sports world, but when two
provinces try to "borrow" a civil servant from a third province,
that's news indeed.
Ontario is not
lending this civil servant to anyone. Perhaps the triumphant budget which
Premiere Hepburn brought down a few weeks ago throw some light on the
reason why. "Chest Walters," said Premiere Hepburn during his
budget speech, "is possessed of one of the keenest financial
intellects not only in Ontario, but in Canada."
Chester Walters is a
big man who frightens young reporters by looking out the window of his big
office and speaking in a gruff voice, usually disagreeing with anything
the writer might advance. He also frightens tax-shy millionaires, but by
somewhat different methods.
But when it comes to
supplying data for a "piece about himself," Ontario Comptroller
of Finance Walters becomes almost shy.
"Aw don't do
that," said he, "you know what the people will say: "There
goes that fellow, talking about himself."
So the following is
the sum of Mr. Walters voluntarily stated biography: "I weight 215
pounds and I'm 58 years old."
"trouble shooter" looks a lot younger than that. He is rugged as
a granite crag, and his handsomeness is on the same stamp. But he doesn't
look as if he had quite "hit 50" yet. It doesn't impress him
very much to be told so, however.
"I saw a picture
of myself in a Hamilton paper a couple of days ago," he lamented,
"and I looked 88 if a day."
While newspapers and
a large section of the province's population were echoing Mr. Hepburn's
praise for Mr. Walters -- last year the premier called him "the
greatest tax expert in Canada" -- the recipient of the honors would
have none of it.
"I simply took
orders" he said. "The ideas were Mr. Hepburn's the budget is Mr.
where none, apparently, was collectable before is Mr. Walters' forte. His
latest demonstration of that was this week, when the premier pointed out
that last year the provincial income was $44,000,000, compared with
$26,000,000 in the last year of the previous government's term.
Years ago, when he
was appointed federal inspector of taxation at Hamilton, revenue promptly
jumped by several million dollars annually.
One day in the town
where he was born, Waterford, young Chester was looking at a queer picture
hanging in a store. It showed a turtle up a tree and an alligator waiting
on the ground. He turned to ask his employer "How did the turtle get
there?" Chester demanded. "He had to, or the alligator would
have got him."
The situation somehow
seemed close to the fatherless boy. He realized he too would have to keep
out of the way of life's "alligators." He started climbing then,
and up to now the alligator has never even got near to him.
Looking over Chester
Walters' career, it seems easier to list what he has not been than what he
has been. He is still the youngest man who has ever been mayor of
Hamilton, for example. He was 35 years old and had been alderman for one
year. But what a year! His first summer in council was taken up by an
investigation into the affairs of the works committee and its accounting,
which he started.
The name of Chester
Walters was broadcast through the city. The findings of Judge Snider
justified the steps he had taken. Fundamental reforms were established
too, as a result of the "Walters probe" and they stood the test
10 years later when another investigation was necessary into the city's
Chester Walters can
also "choose his men," said Premier Hepburn. "He has
surrounded himself with an excellent staff of senior officials without
regard to political affiliations."
Macaulay (Lord, not
Leo) is one of Mr. Walters' favorite writers. From him he got the
idea, which he carries into practice, that "public men ought to
be careful to remain humble." Reading history is about the only hobby
Mr. Walters has. Carlyle and Macauley are his choice.
Work is about all he
has had time for, as a matter of fact. His first job paid $50 a year, and
out of this he boarded and bought his clothes. "And I had money
coming to me at the end of two years," he added.
From the little town
of Waterford, Hamilton looked like a big city to young Walters. So he took
his savings and went there in 1904. He got a job with the International
Harvester Co., where more people were employed than lived in Waterford,
was nervous and suffered from 'stage fright,' but buckled down to
learn all there was to know about his job. It wasn't long before he
started climbing -- just like the turtle -- and in a few years was
appointed works accountant for the huge plant.
Twice Mr. Walters has
been in business for himself, at widely separated times, but public
service always attracted him too much. The first time was when he resigned
from the Harvester Company and set himself up as a public accountant in
1908. He did right well, too, until he had served two years as mayor, he
plunged into war.
But even that could
not keep him away from his beloved figures. He ended up as inspector of
accounts with C.E.F. in Siberia, where his outfit was protecting the
communication lines of the White Army against the Reds between Vladivostok
After the war he was
for seven years inspector of income tax for the Hamilton district. For six
years he was commissioner of income tax at Ottawa, and after that returned
to private practice as a taxation and tariff adviser. In 1934 he came to
Toronto as deputy minister of public works, but in January, 1935, he was
made general supervisor of revenues and expenditures.
It might be thought
that, after helping bring down the budget that the Liberal government is
so proud of, Mr. Walters might sit back and relax a bit. But no.
"The budget made
me take time off from my regular work," he said, explaining how he
came to be so busy this week. "I've got a lot of work to catch