History | Chester Walters, Financial Expert | Back
The following article appeared on page 12 of the 1 Apr 1937 issue of The  Simcoe Reformer 
[Some paragraph breaks added by the transcriber.]

Chester S. Walters, Ontario Financial Expert
Waterford Son

Premier Hepburn names him Keenest Financial Brain in Dominion
Born and Spent Boyhood in Waterford
Mayor of Hamilton at Thirty-Five
by Eric Hutton in Toronto Star Weekly.

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."

Ontario's financial "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. Hepburn's."

Collecting money 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 financial affairs.

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 and Omsk.

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 up."

Copyright 2012-2016 John Cardiff