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Phelps, Joseph (1899-1983)

Born in Ontario on August 12, 1899, Joseph Phelps accompanied his family to the Wilkie area of Saskatchewan in 1909. Phelps began farming at an early age, and at seventeen became a Saskatchewan Grain Growers Association district director. His interest in politics continued as he participated in the founding of the Saskatchewan Farm-Labour Party in 1932. He also joined the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) party, and successfully ran in the Saltcoats constituency in the 1938 provincial election. Phelps again won in Saltcoats in 1944, when the CCF came to power. Premier T.C. Douglas appointed Phelps as his Minister of Natural Resources and Industrial Development; in that position, Phelps played a leading role in creating numerous new and controversial Crown Corporations. He also oversaw reorganization of the Saskatchewan Power Corporation and early Rural Electrification. Northern Saskatchewan, where CCF interventions in fish, fur, forestry, and retailing created controversy, occupied much of Phelps' attention. Following electoral defeat in 1948, Phelps devoted energy to developing the Western Development Museum; and from 1949 to 1954, he served as president of the Saskatchewan Farmers Union, the successor to the United Farmers of Canada (Saskatchewan Section), which flourished under his leadership. During the 1950s, he also sat on the provincial Royal Commission on Agriculture and Rural Life, and issued a dissenting minority report when the commission reported. Phelps remained active until his death on March 15, 1983.

David M. Quiring

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Further Reading

Archer, J.H. 1980. Saskatchewan: A History. Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books; Quiring, D. 2004. CCF Colonialism in Northern Saskatchewan. Battling Parish Priests, Bootleggers, and Fur Sharks. Vancouver: UBC Press.
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University of Regina Government of Canada Government of Saskatchewan Canadian Plains Research Center
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