Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Behind the Scenes: The Life and Work of William Clifford Clark

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Behind the Scenes: The Life and Work of William Clifford Clark

Article excerpt

Robert A. Wardhaugh, Behind the Scenes: The Life and Work of William Clifford Clark (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010), 560 pp. Cased. $80. ISBN 978-1-4426-4126- 6. Paper. $37.95. ISBN 978-1-4426-1052-1.

Clifford Clark was the greatest if not the first (that honour went to Oscar Skelton) of the 'Ottawa Men', J.L. Granatstein's memorable label for the small group of talented civil servants who transformed the federal administration and the government it served in the 1930s and 1940s. As deputy minister of finance from 1932 until his death in 1952, Clark was the author of most of the major fiscal and monetary policy initiatives of the federal government and the prime mover for the establishment of the Bank of Canada. He was also the principal channel of communication on fiscal and trade matters for Canada with Britain and the United States and largely responsible for managing the difficult foreign exchange and balance of payments issues arising out of, and in the aftermath of, the Second World War. Like other members of the group he and Skelton assembled, he was a member of the first generation to have pursued graduate studies outside Canada and moved beyond the groves of academe (after a short period at the spiritual home of the Ottawa Men, the Department of Political Economy at Queen's University), first to a large American corporation (like Mackenzie King) and then to Ottawa.

Wardhaugh's biography is comprehensive, exhaustively reviewing the archival sources, well written and a pleasure to read. He identifies three themes that are worth noting. First, the degree to which the policies conceived and implemented by Clark transformed Canada (albeit in response to the exigencies of the Second World War) into a budding welfare state, dominated (temporarily) by a federal government wielding a rapidly grown and technically superb civil service, in the space of less than a decade. …

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