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SHORT, HARRY BERNARD, businessman and politician; b. 1 Sept. 1864 in Bear River, N.S., son of William H. Short and his second wife, Maria Clarke; m. 4 Oct. 1891 Flora Kathleen Robinson (d. 22 June 1950) in Hantsport, N.S.; they had no children; d. 14 April 1937 in St Petersburg, Fla.

Harry Short’s father emigrated from England to New Brunswick and worked as a lumber merchant in Saint John. After the death of his first wife, he married into the influential Clarke family of Bear River in 1859 and relocated there. The Clarkes’ interests included lumber, pulp, shipping, and general merchandising. Short died ten years later, and his widow moved with her young son, daughter, and stepchildren to the nearby bustling shire-town of Digby. There she set up Short’s Hotel, which she would run for the rest of her life.

Harry did not follow his mother into the hospitality industry but instead sought employment as an agent for the Bay of Fundy Steamship Company Limited, which operated vessels between Saint John, Digby, Annapolis Royal, N.S., and Boston. Short married in 1891. His mother died suddenly in 1895, the year he decided to become a wholesale fish merchant. He and Captain James Ellis formed Short and Ellis and continued in partnership for 14 years. They then sold the business to the Maritime Fish Corporation Limited when Short launched it in 1910 with Alfred H. Brittain and Harold George Connor. The new firm was based in Montreal; Short was manager of its substantial Digby operations. Maritime Fish was the first company in Atlantic Canada to consolidate successfully the harvesting, processing, and marketing of seafood, and it also introduced steam trawling on a large scale, which would revolutionize the industry.

Though he would not become an mp until 1925, Short was well connected and already had a great deal of political influence. In 1918 he was called upon to give evidence at the American-Canadian Fisheries Conference hearings. He is credited with persuading Ottawa to impose a 0.5 per cent tariff on fish imported from the United States and to lower rates for shipping fresh and processed seafood by rail from the east coast to central Canada. In the late 1920s he would witness the acquisition of the National Fish Company in Halifax by Maritime Fish to create the Maritime National Fish Company, a transaction that laid the groundwork for a merger with other enterprises in 1945 to form National Sea Products. He would also live to see Maritime National lose a case before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in 1935. The company was accused of being in breach of a boat-charter agreement and based its defence on “frustration of purpose” owing to a new licensing regulation. The JCPC determined that this argument was not relevant under the circumstances. The decision remains significant in contract law today.

Success as an independent businessman had encouraged Short to try his hand at municipal politics. He became a councillor in 1897 and was elected mayor for 1904–5 and each year from 1911 to 1914. When federal politics beckoned in 1925, he campaigned as a Conservative for Digby-Annapolis, turning out incumbent Liberal mp Lewis Johnstone Lovett. Short won again in 1926 and in 1930, when the Conservatives came to power under Richard Bedford Bennett*. In 1933 redistribution saw his riding combined with that held by Kentville Liberal lawyer James Lorimer Ilsley*. Short, who might have given Ilsley a run for his money, stood down in 1935; the Conservatives were trounced in the general election that October, every seat in Nova Scotia going to the Liberals.

By 1933 Short was retired from active business, though he still contributed to Maritime National in an advisory capacity. He and his wife spent the winter months in Florida, and it was there that he died suddenly of a heart attack in 1937. Short had adhered strictly to Baptist doctrines all his life, so it was not surprising that his principal beneficiary, other than his widow, was the Digby Baptist Church.

Harry Short exemplified the astute, civic-minded businessman who accumulated goodwill and parlayed it into a successful career in politics at both the municipal and federal levels. In 1936 he was considered prominent enough to be included in the first edition of “a ‘who’s who’ of the political, professional, commercial and moral leaders” of Nova Scotia.

Barry Cahill

Digby Justice Centre (Digby, N.S.), Probate registry, file A2709. LAC, R233-35-2, N.S., dist. Digby (15), subdist. Digby (C): 1. Digby Weekly Courier, 9 Oct. 1891, 20 Sept. 1895, 16 April 1937. American-Canadian Fisheries Conference, Hearings at Washington, D.C., January 21–25 … St. John, N.B., February 5–6 (Washington, 1918), 340–55. Can., House of Commons, Debates, 1925–35. Heritage remembered: the story of Bear River, ed. E. F. Hall (2nd ed., New Minas, N.S., 1998). Stephen Kimber, Net profits: the story of National Sea (Halifax, 1989). Leaders of Nova Scotia, 1936: a “who’s who” of the political, professional, commercial and moral leaders of the province, ed. R. B. Blauveldt (Yarmouth, N.S., 1936). Maritime National Fish Ltd v. Ocean Trawlers Ltd, [1935] Law Reports, Appeal Cases (London): 524–31 (Privy Council). Maritime reference book: biographical and pictorial record of prominent men and women of the Maritime provinces (Halifax, 1931). Mike Parker, Historic Digby: images of our past (Halifax, 2000). R. B. Powell, Scrap book: Digby town and municipality ([Digby, 1968]).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Barry Cahill, “SHORT, HARRY BERNARD,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 16, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 19, 2018, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/short_harry_bernard_16E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/short_harry_bernard_16E.html
Author of Article: Barry Cahill
Title of Article: SHORT, HARRY BERNARD
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 16
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 2018
Year of revision: 2018
Access Date: June 19, 2018