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Fullerton, Douglas H.

Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, c1986. 348pp, cloth, $24.95, ISBN 0-7710-3218-8.CIP

Grades 10 and up
Reviewed by Allan S. Evans

Volume 15 Number 2
1987 March

This book was commissioned by the Bank of Canada to mark its fiftieth birthday and to honour its first governor, Graham Ford Towers. The author is a well-known economist, writer, and consultant, who was both a friend and working colleague of Towers. Fullerton has done an outstanding and, in the circumstances, extremely fair-minded job of presenting the talents and contributions of man who clearly was an unsung, but great Canadian. In the process, he also has provided the reader with quite a full explanation of the origins and evolving role of central banking in Canada, as well as of Canada's significant contributions to international banking and finance, particularly during World War II. Graham Towers was chosen to become the first governor of the Bank of Canada on the basis of the many qualities that he had displayed during a meteoric rise in the Royal Bank. Chief among these were his integrity, judgment, practicality, and, above all, his brilliant intellect. Assuming his new job during the depths of the depression, and knowing the fragility of the financial community both at home and abroad, Towers quickly asserted the type of solid, consistent leadership that helped to inspire the vital confidence of Canadians in their main fiscal institutions, and indeed in the government itself. Later, during the war, he was an instrumental figure behind the scenes in shaping the delicate economic interrelationships among Canada, the United States, and a desperately strapped Great Britain. At home, he played key roles in bond financing, the control of prices, wages, and production, and the planning of the postwar economy. After the war he rejected offers to become head of the World Bank and later of the International Monetary Fund.

In the late 1950s, Towers resigned from the Bank of Canada to pursue a new career in private business. He quickly amassed directorships and chairmanships on the boards of some of the largest and most influential corporations in this country. Meanwhile, he continued to serve the public in several capacities both official and unofficial. In the early 1970s his health began to fail; he died of cancer in 1975 at the age of seventy-eight.

The author repeatedly emphasizes the warm private nature of his subject in order to dispel the suspicion that the austere, aloof public exterior projected by Towers truly depicted the real man. Apparently, in private the dour banker was a kind, thoughtful, and affectionate individual with a lively sense of humour, a zest for living, and a penchant for the telling of reasonably spicy stories. Fullerton alludes to a few areas of potential controversy about his subject. These involve his judgement and policy on certain economic policies, especially in the immediate postwar period, plus allegations from some quarters about possible racial/ethnic prejudice, and a tendency to dalliance in private life. Only the first issue, obviously central to the book's theme, is dealt with to any extent and the author gives his subject very high overall marks, referring frequently to Towers's evident genius and high standards of excellence.

Despite this book, and his many unquestioned accomplishments and talents, the name of Graham Towers probably will remain relatively obscure. Yet Fuller-ton has done service to his memory, and a greater service to historians and economists who research the crucial, formative years of Canadian central banking from the 1930s through the 1950s.

Allan S. Evans, Emery C.I., North York, Ont.
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