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Williams, Charles Cromwell (1896– 1975)

Charles Cromwell Williams, June 1963.
Regina Leader-Post

Charlie Williams was born in Moosomin on February 9, 1896, and went to school in Wapella. He took one year of arts education at Brandon College before accepting a job as a telegraph operator with the CPR in Manitoba. He joined the Order of Railroad Telegraphers and became active in the labour movement.

He enlisted in the Canadian Army in 1915 and served on the front lines before being wounded by a grenade at the Battle of Amiens in August 1918. On returning to Canada he worked for the Grand Trunk Railway as a station agent at numerous places across the prairie provinces. He was stationed in Regina in 1931 and became active in the Regina labour community, serving as his local’s president for six years, as secretary of the provincial Committee of Railway Brotherhoods and in the Trade and Labour Congress (TLC).

In 1937 Williams won a spot on the Labour-dominated Regina City Council. He ran for the CCF in the Regina by-election in 1938, but was defeated. Williams and the entire Labour slate were defeated in the 1939 city council election. He ran for mayor in 1940 but was defeated. Williams was successful on his second try for mayor in 1941 and was re-elected twice before being elected to the Saskatchewan Legislature in 1944.

Williams was Minister of Labour in T.C. Douglas’ first Cabinet in 1944 and piloted a series of major reforms in labour legislation in the province. He introduced mandatory two-week holidays, expanded the number of statutory holidays, and introduced workers’ compensation. Under his leadership, Saskatchewan became the first province to guarantee the right to collective bargaining. Williams spent twenty years as Minister of Labour, the longest any Saskatchewan Minister has served in one portfolio.

He retired from provincial politics in 1964, but contested the 1965 Regina municipal election and served on council until his final retirement from politics in 1973. He died while on vacation in Vancouver on January 31, 1975.

Brett Quiring

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