Frank Hanley was a
member of the Montreal City Council from 1940-1970 and for four years was vice
president of the city of Montreal Executive Committee. He was first elected to
the Quebec Legislative Assembly in 1948 and was re-elected five times as an
independent in St. Anne. In this interview Mr. Hanley looks back on his
political career and comments on Iris experience opt both City Council and the
Quebec Assembly. Mr. Hanley was interviewed for the Canadian Parliamentary
Review by Lynda Steele in November 1985.
What did you do
before you ran for public office?
In my youth I was
city and provincial featherweight boxing champion representing the YMCA. I had
always loved horses and had worked for some local chaps exercising their
horses. One fellow, Mike Grant, used to do a lot of horse shoeing and I can remember
taking horses from his stables, four at a time, through the streets of
Montreal. I loved horses and decided to become a jockey. I rode in Maryland
where my trainer was George M. Ridge. I got a lot of experience because as a
novice I was given the tougher horses to ride. After riding in the States for a
few Years I got too heavy to continue as a jockey and came back to Montreal.
For exercise I used to go down and dance on Peel Street – ten cents a dance.
During the depression I was on welfare but we had to work for it by doing
various jobs for the city. I shovelled sidewalks, did some construction work
and other manual work. I got married in 1932.
How did you get
A friend of mine.
Mr. Couturier, got me interested in politics. We were both working for the city
at that point. There were no unions in Montreal then and there were a lot of
objections to the working conditions. One day Mr. Couturier said to me
"Frank let's get into politics so we can object to these conditions."
So, we formed the St. Anne's Businessmen's Association. We were pretty active
in the area and we made lots of friends. In 1940, I was delegated to run for
city council and I won by acclamation. Camillien Houde was the mayor of
Montreal at the time.
How did you get
along with Mayor Houde?
Great! Just after
I got into city council there was talk that the garbage men wanted to go on
strike. Apparently, they did not want to have to work after hours when there
was a bad storm. Well, another councillor Honoré Parent, called me up and said
"Frank, go down and see if you can settle the strike." So, I went
down and we talked and we agreed on a compromise whereby two men took back the
horses they, used for work while the other men were allowed to stay in the back
and drink their beers. Then next time it would be someone else's turn to pot
the horses away. So it was all settled over a bottle of beer! This got me on
pretty good terms with the mayor.
As for Houde
himself, he was the greatest mayor we ever had. He ran a city with a heart, a
city with a soul. He took care of his people. And he ran things with good
common sense. Montreal in those days was an open city.
What do you
mean by "open city"?
Well, he closed
the book on regulations. Montreal had prostitutes but they were all in special,
segregated areas where they didn't bother anyone just like the government is
thinking of doing now. And we allowed the gamblers and bookmakers to make their
livings too. We did not tax the gambling joints, for instance. We did not make
them pay for a licence. Instead we just raided them once a month and made them
pay a thousand dollars fine each time (which was actually like paying for
twelve licences). Montreal was a busy city. It attracted lots of Americans too.
And with regard to violence, Montreal from the 1940s-1960s was the cleanest
town in North America!
In 1948 you
were elected to the Quebec National Assembly. Why did you choose to run as an
I guess that is
the Irish in me ... we are just naturally "agin" any elected
government! And when the government is elected, I do not join them, they join
me. Besides, I do not like being dictated to. I felt I had more power and more
influence as an independent. Let me tell you something I worked for what I got
in St. Anne's. I worked day and night. I believe I got more at city hall and
more in Quebec as an independent. If you are going to work for your
constituency, you try to use your own common sense avid judge what you should
do. I figured this was the best way to get all I could, not for me but for my
But which party
did you support when it came to a vote?
Well, I voted with
the party in power naturally. Why would I do anything else?
describe your relationship with Quebec Premier Maurice Duplessis?
I was very
friendly with Duplessis and we got along very well. Duplessis had the people
behind him. He was the best Prime Minister I have ever known. He was very
charitable and very good to the minorities but he just was not liked by the
English. You know, they could never revive the Union Nationale after Duplessis
Did the Union
Nationale put up candidates against you?
I never really had
a strong opposition. Duplessis supported me and did not put anyone strong
against me. One time the Union Nationale did decide to run a lawyer. I heard
later, after he had lost the election, that Duplessis had said to him 'We do
not want you to run against Hanley, we only want you to walk!" Then,
another time the Liberals decided to try and get me out. They actually told the
people that the Pope wanted me defeated. Well, when Duplessis heard that he put
his money in to back me and made sure I did not lose.
What was the
Assembly like in the 1950s compared to today?
Oh, it is not the
same now. I would not want to be a member of the assembly today. Then, it too
was run with good common sense. Today there are too many professors and stuff
shirts. Of course, in those days, you only made two thousand dollars a year if
you were in the Assembly, not like the salaries you get today. But then that was
not too important because I never liked money much anyway.
Duplessis kept a
firm hand over the assembly then and he knew how to get what he wanted. I
remember once when he wanted to pass a bill for a luxury tax to be imposed on
jewellery. Duplessis got all the members into the assembly and kept the session
going for hours. Finally, when he could see that most of the members of the
opposition were asleep he called the vote on the tax bill. He was a smart man
and lie knew how to manage his ministers too. Anytime one of his ministers was
asked a question, Duplessis would point to the minister to sit down and he
would get up and answer for him. He always answered for his ministers. Perhaps
Brian Mulroney could learn from Duplessis and do the same thing. Look at all
the trouble he would have saved himself!
practices were also quite different, were they not?
When we started,
we had to pay for our own expenses in Quebec City from $2,000 a year. Those who
could afford it, paid it themselves. For those who could not, Duplessis gave us
money tinder the table to help us with our expenses. At that time the taxpayers
did not pay for an election. Duplessis had a system whereby all the government
contracts would give ten per cent towards the election fund. When he called an
election,. the Union Nationale paid for the election. Now, the system has been
changed, whereas t he taxpayers pay. And, you still have the "slush"
fund where the money left over goes into the party's account. So, you see,
Duplessis's method was not bad because our taxpayers never had to pay. Look at
the parties now. They have millions of dollars in their fund but the taxpayers
will still pay for the election of all the candidates.
As I mentioned,
Duplessis helped us out. He used to call me up and ask me how much I needed for
expenses and he would give it to me. In 1960 his successor, Antonio Barrett,
asked me how much I needed and I said $35,000. He was shocked. He said the
Minister of Finance only got $25,000. But, I got it anyway!
I did run into
some problems at one point with the money I was given. You see, I was given the
money to do with as I needed and I did not have to pay tax on it. Well, there
was a lot of people more in need that I was. I had people every week coming to
my door asking for money and such. I guess I probably gave a6out one hundred
dollars a week to these people. Then, six years later someone snitched and the
income tax people came to see me. They said I owed $32,000 which, of course, I
did not have. Instead they said they would take my house. That's what happened.
So, we moved and bought a small house in Greenfield Park.
politics in 1970, but not voluntarily.
I only slipped
once in my campaigns and that was against George Springate of the Liberals.
Fear of separatism was the main issue at that time and George worked hard on
that theme. I was not that worried about it; I thought the election would be a
cinch but the people were scared. I guess I was just over confident. So, when
the people threw their support behind Springate, I lost.
But you know, even
though I lost the election, I had the best time of my life that night. I had
devised a plan where I would get Jack Webster and Pat Burns (two controversial
radio show hosts) together in one room. I asked each one separately to meet me
in a big hotel room where a bunch of us were waiting for the election results.
Of course, I did not tell them the other would be there. Well, when the two of
them arrived I locked the door behind them and we enjoyed the greatest battle of
all times. What a terrific night!
Why did you run
for the Liberals in the 1972 federal election?
I didn't run for
the Liberals. I ran as an independent. Let me explain what happened. In 1972
there was a federal election, so the people said to me "Hey Frank, how
about shaking up your federal member. Why don't you run?" Now, I have had
Quebec and I have had city council, so I was not really interested in winning
but I was willing to rattle them a little. So I got a van with "Official
Liberal Candidate" on it ... which, of course, I was not!. Now, I was
driving along Dorchester Street by the CBC and I see all kinds of people
gathered around. Apparently the Prime Minister was being interviewed at the
CBC. So I figured I would wait and shake hands. Well, Pierre Trudeau arrives,
looks at my van, shakes my hand and says "Gee, I hope you make it."
The next day in the Sunday papers there is a picture of Trudeau shaking my hand
wishing me luck in making it to Ottawa thinking I was the official Liberal
candidate. Well, you can imagine the ballyhoo in the Liberal organization of
Now a few days
later I am sitting in a restaurant on Peel Street when a friend of mine comes
in and tells me Trudeau is nearby at a meeting. Well, I went down to see him
along with forty, or fifty other people. Pierre comes out, I am right there,
and his limousine is around the corner. He says to me 'Frank, come here, follow
me." We get into his limo, he rolls the window up and he says to me
"You little bastard, you trapped me." I said, "Oh, no Pierre,
you said it!" And you know the funny thing? I damned near won that
Was it not
difficult being involved with both the Quebec Assembly and city council at the
same time? How did you have time for that plus your other organizations and
committees and family life?
It was not unusual
for someone to be involved in both the provincial legislature and city council;
actually it was good for the city to have a member of its council in Quebec
City. It was good to know exactly what was going on there in the legislature.
And the time... Well, I had to find the time. I was away at meetings and
banquets and my wife never complained in 53 years of marriage. My children
later became involved with ine in my, pursuits and they are still interested in
politics although my grandson swears I'll never get him into the game.
So you are
still involved in politics?
Oh yes. I am the
President of the Progressive Conservative Party organization here in Montreal
and I worked for Brian Mulroney when he ran for the leadership of the party. I
was with him right from when he first got going in politics. A little while ago
when the government was considering a reduction in payments to the senior
citizens, I wrote Brian and advised him not to do it. I told him he would have
a lot of people upset with him. He wrote me back saying he would reconsider,
which he did.
It has been over a
year since the election and I have never asked for any reward although I was
made a Census Commissioner and that will be a pretty big job. I do not know
anything about it yet but I guess I will learn. So, I am keeping busy still
with politics and various organizations. I do like to be involved you know!