Laird, Henry Willoughby
Journalist, Private Secretary, Businessman, Alderman, Mayor, Military Officer, Senator
H.W. Laird in his backyard surveying the damage after the 1912 cyclone CORA-RPL-A-910
Henry Willoughby Laird was Mayor of Regina when Saskatchewan became a province on September 1, 1905. But he very nearly wasn't Mayor of Regina at all – his victory over J.E. Bole was won by the narrowest of margins.
Laird was born in 1868 in Port Dover, Ontario, to a minister and his wife. After attending the Jarvis Street Collegiate Institute and Toronto University , Laird became a journalist. His beat was the political scene and he spent 3 years as a pool reporter at the House of Commons and the Ontario Legislature. Laird married Lillian Blanche Defoe in 1888. They had 6 children.
In 1901 the Laird family moved west when Henry Laird took a job working for F.W.G. Haultain, then the Premier of the North West Territories . Laird soon saw the limitless possibilities in the tiny frontier town of Regina . He launched his own business in 1902 – the Regina Storage and Forwarding Company. This company was Regina 's first wholesale business. Laird soon became one of Regina 's most ardent boosters, selling Regina as a distribution point for many large eastern Canadian manufacturers. (This was before Regina 's wholesale or “warehouse” district was formed.) Later, Laird became involved in the insurance business.
While he continued to operate businesses within the city, Laird also became interested in politics. He ran first for alderman and then for mayor. The mayoral race of 1904 was an incredibly tight one. Laird beat his competitor, J.E. Bole, by only 4 votes.
Regina had just become a city in 1903 and by 1904 it was in the midst of several civic improvement projects. Laird saw a need to implement a plan for the city's growth rather than allowing the haphazard development of new areas. Laird's administration developed a building permit system and allocated a tract of land north of the CPR tracks for a warehouse district. A full-time secretary-treasurer was hired for the growing city to oversee the many civic projects that were being undertaken during Laird's tenure as mayor. A new water project was begun at Boggy Creek and water and sewer lines were laid throughout the city. The city took over the power plant from private interests and opened a new generating station. Laird also oversaw plans to build a grand new city hall that would be a centre for culture, business and government within the new city of Regina.
Laird was mayor when Saskatchewan became a province in 1905. His administration planned numerous celebrations to honour the occasion, including parades, masses, a performance of the Musical Ride and a large banquet and dance to honour the occasion.
Years later, Saskatchewan would honour Laird's contributions to the city when he was appointed a Senator for the province. He held the position of Senator from 1917 until his death in 1940.