Walter Maxfield Lea
Premier from 1930 to 1931, 1935 to 1936
Click to enlarge
WALTER M. LEA, the first farmer to become Premier of Prince Edward Island was born in Tryon, on
February 10, 1874. After completing his education, he became a successful farmer and breeder of
horses and cattle. His skills in breeding and the constant desire to improve his stock through
experimentation led to many programs now accepted as good farm practices.
From an early age Walter Lea was interested in the political life of his province and was first elected to the House of Assembly as a Liberal in 1915, following in his father's footsteps as an MLA. He was re-elected in 1919 and was named Commissioner of Agriculture. Mr. Lea suffered defeat in the 1923 election but was returned to the House in 1927 and was again given the Agricultural post. During his tenure as Commissioner of Agriculture, Mr. Lea introduced a number of programs such as tuberculin testing of cattle and community breeding stock, which he had experimented with on his own farm.
In 1930, Premier Saunders was elevated to the Supreme Court and Mr. Lea was called upon to form the Government. In 1930, his Liberal Party was defeated at the polls. While sitting as Leader of the Opposition, Walter Lea rebuilt the Party from the ground up and this reorganization was partly responsible for the huge Liberal majorities of the late 1930's and 40's.
In 1935, Walter Lea's Liberal Party won all 30 seats in the Legislature and it was the first time in the history of the British Commonwealth that a party faced no opposition in the House. This developed into a rather unique situation as some members of the Government took the opportunity to assume the duties of an unofficial opposition and criticise the actions of their own party.
Mr. Lea, as well as being Premier took on the portfolios of Agriculture and Provincial Secretary Treasurer. His health had been failing for some time and the 1935 election campaign had been a severe strain. On January 10, 1936 Walter Lea died in office.
As a farmer-Premier, Mr. Lea strove to improve agriculture in the province and the efforts of his administration left an indelible mark on this province's most important industry.
Walter M. Lea is buried in the Tryon People's Cemetery.