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Spanish Flu raised doctors’ political appeal.

Spanish Flu raised doctors’ political appeal.

It will be interesting to see if the current corona virus creates a new sense of urgency for professionals to start entering politics again.

Over the last 25 years many Canadians have complained about the quality of candidates for election and suggested highly qualified people simply do not want all the personal investigations associated with being a politician.

Superstars like B.C. Medical Officer of Health Bonnie Henry are emerging from the pandemic in regions that seem to be flattening the curve of new cases.

In the middle of the Spanish flu epidemic in January of 1919, no fewer than nine medical doctors were chosen to lead their communities as mayor or reeve, depending on the size of the municipality. Besides Burlington, physicans were elected in Alliston, Amherstburg, Barrie, Belleville, Collingwood, Seaforth, Smiths Falls and Tillsonburg.

People either had a renewed confidence in doctors or perhaps wanted more of them in positions of power to create improvements to the health care system.

One of the newly elected was Dr. T.W. Peart, who had been tending to many flu patients in Burlington and, sadly, signing the death certificates of some, including the Rev. Frank Weldon Hovey of St. Luke’s Anglican Church, who passed away at the age of 38.

Medical personnel were struggling to find a cure for the dreaded disease. A physician in Windsor was alleged to have issued 160 prescriptions for liquor a day for 10 days at $1 each.

Peart took office on Jan. 6, 1919. However, he turned out to be the shortest-serving mayor in the history of Burlington. He and most members of council resigned just 12 days later to protest Reeve Hughes Cleaver’s decision to invite the founder of Ontario Hydro Sir Adam Beck to a meeting without informing his colleagues.

By DENIS GIBBONS

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