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George Anthony Walkem
George Anthony Walkem (November 15, 1834–January 13, 1908) was a British Columbian politician and jurist. Walkem moved to British Columbia in 1862 and served as a member of the colony's appointed Legislative Council from 1864 to 1870 and was a supporter of Canadian confederation. With the admission of the colony into Canada, Walkem was elected to the provincial legislature in 1871 and became Attorney-General in the cabinet of Premier Amor de Cosmos and succeeded him as premier.
Walkem's government pressured Ottawa to meet its commitment to build a railway to the Pacific Ocean but was initially unsuccessful. Walkem fought the 1875 election facing charges that he had filed to secure railway construction and had increased the province's debts by engaging in expenseive public works projects. Walkem's government was re-elected with a reduced majority but he was also accused of plunging the province into debt by engaging in public works that it could ill afford. Nevertheless, his government was returned, albeit with a reduced majority but grievances continued.
Walkem’s government passed a racist law denying Chinese and native people the vote and also worked to curtail and reduce the size of Indian reserves leading to land claims disputes that continued for over a century.
The Walkem government's financial difficulties mounted and his government lost a Motion of No Confidence in early 1876 and was replaced by a new government formed by Andrew Charles Elliott with Walkem becoming Leader of the Opposition. Elliot's government was unstable and collapsed within two years leading to early elections which allowed Walkem to form a second government in 1878 with a comfortable majority.
The new Walkem government opposed "cheap Chinese labour" and inserted a clause banning the hiring of Chinese workers in all its contracts. The government also attempted to levy a special tax restricted to Chinese which was struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada. In the election campaign Walkem had threatened to lead British Columbia out of confederation if the federal government did not commence construction of the promised railway by 1879. The provincial government appealed directly to London resulting in the British government pressuring Ottawa to fulfill the deal.
In 1882 Walkem narrowly survived a Motion of No Confidence due to rising costs of a project to build a dock on Vancouver Island but lost the subsequent election due to hostility from Islanders who had a disproportinate number of seats in the legislature and thus were able to bring down the Walkem government.
Walkem retired from politics in 1882 he was appointed to the Supreme Court of British Columbia sitting on the court until his retirement in 1904.
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