“Billy” Ernst Part 1 By Justin Ernst

Bridgewater Bulletin, August 5, 1930.

Nearly thirty-three years ago, October 18, 1897, to be exact, William Gordon Ernst was born in the beautiful little town of Mahone Bay. His parents were Edward A. and Georgina Ernst of that place. On both his mother’s and his father’s side his ancestors were amongst the earliest pioneers who settled in Lunenburg County. Edward A. Ernst, or “Ed” as he is generally called, has been in the lumber business from the days of his earliest boyhood. Although no longer a young man, his step retains the delight of youth, and he takes great delight in the fact that he is and has been chief of the Mahone Bay Fire Department since the day of its foundation.

“Billy” Ernst went to school at Mahone Bay and graduated from high school in 1918 with the distinction of leading the province in his grade. From there he went to Kings College, windsor, intending to study for the ministry of the Church of England. Fate ordained otherwise, but during the three years he was there he won every prize or scholarship open to competition. In March, 1916, came the call of Empire and like so many of our young men he joined the army, not as an officer, but as an ordinary rear rank private. As such he went overseas, where he was singled out for commissioned rank, and sent to that famour Nova Scotia Battalion, the 85th. Twice wounded, he won two decorations for bravery, the Military Cross, and bar. Many an old comrade recalls with pleasure his sunny smile and cheerful voice. When it was all over the rear rank private, barely twenty-one years of age, had become Captain in command of “B” Company, the South Shore Company.

On his return to Canada in 1919 he decided to study law and went to Dalhousie University at Halifax. There for one year only, he again led his class, and in addition found time for active participation in sports, especiall rugby football, at which he was outstanding. During that year he won the Rhodes Scholarship for the province, and the following year was at the famous old English University, Oxford, where he studied law for two more years, graduating with honours. Once more he turned his footsteps toward his native heath, and formed a partnership with the late James A. McLean, K.C., at Bridgewater. On the death of Mr. McLean he carried on alone for a time, and then formed the present partnership of Ernst & Pearson. Although a young man, in eight years of practice Mr. Ernst has become one of the outstanding lawyers of the province.

From the time he came to Bridgewater “Billy” Ernst has been interested in politics. As Secretary of the Conservative Association for Lunenburg County, he put life into a dormant organization and took an active part in the provincial elections of 1925. In the same year he entered the lists as federal candidate for Queens-Lunenburg against the redoutable William Duff. He was defeated by a little over three hundred votes, but his smile didn’t fade. The next year, 1926, he had his return battle, turned the tables to the tune of nearly eight hundred majority, and has represented Queens-Lunenburg at Ottawa since that time. His record there has been just as brilliant as his earlier career. One of the outstanding speakers of the House of Commons, he is not only fluent and convincing, but possesses that rare gift of making the most difficult subject appear simple and plain to his hearers. His services have been in demand all over Canada, and two years ago he made a trip across the entire country under the auspices of the National Association of Canadian Clubs, speaking on the problems of the Maritime Provinces. From the time of his maiden speech at Ottawa, he has held the attention of the House of Commons, and when it is known he is speaking the galleries rapidly fill. Outstanding amongst his efforts in the House were his speeches on Reparations, Pension Problems, Unemployment, and his maiden speech on Maritime Rights.

(to be continued)

Contributor: Rosemary Rafuse

“Billy” Ernst, continued

Bridgewater Bulletin, August 5, 1930.

This constituency has good cause to take pride in his achievements. Not only have they resulted in substantial benefits to the people he represented, but they have done honour to the wisdom of the people of Queens-Lunenburg in electing him. Here are a few Press comments which may be of interest:

” The Citizen” Ottawa (Liberal) December 16, 1926- ” Commoners and Senators were freely discussing yesterday the advent of a new orator to Parliament in the person of the young lawyer, Ernst, of Lunenburg, whose maiden speech Tuesday evening captured the attention of the House as has no initial effort for years. The speech of this youthful Nova Scotian is regarded as the prelude to a brilliant Parliamentary career.”

“The Gazette,” Montreal, (Conservative) December 15, 1926- “An eloquent speech came tonight from W.G. Ernst, new Conservative member for Lunenburg and victor over William Duff, former Deputy Speaker of the House. Mr. Ernst, in his maiden speech, held the House in rapt attention as he dwelt with the Maritime Commission Report, and urged the governement to carry into effect “to the letter” the recommendations of that report which he termed one of the most momentous documents ever submitted to Parliament.

“The Mail & Empire”, Toronto, (Conservative) April 17, 1930- “Young men all over Canada should be given an opportunity of hearing Mr. Ernst.”

“The Citizen,” Ottawa (Liberal) May 16, 1929- “It is to be hoped that the capable young member for Queens-Lunenburg will not be engulfed in the rising tide of Liberalism and that he will be returned to Parliament.”

The Halifax Chronicle “Men & Things” stated of Mr. Ernst that any constituency might well be proud to have him as its representative.

During the debate on the motion for payment of reparation claims, moved by Mr. Ernst on May 19, 1928, the Hon. Lucien Cannon, solicitor General, said of him,” I admired the Hon. gentleman’s speech. His reputation had preceded him to this House, and on saturday afternoon he lived up to the very highest expectations that the friendliest member in this house could have for him. “If the question has been clarified to such an extent that there is very little difference between the two parties, I may say that we owe it to the presentation of the member for Queens-Lunenburg.”

Hon. Ferdinand Rinfret, Secretary of State, in the same debate, said,” I cannot find fault with my hon. friend for his presentation of the facts. He has done so in moderate language, and has shown much study in the preparation of his case and remarkable skill in its presentation. Many other quotations to like effect could be given but these will suffice to show the standing of “Billy Ernst” both in Parliament and with the Canadian people.

Contributor: Rosemary Rafuse