Sir Frederick Borden
1847 – 1917
A medical doctor, successful businessman, politician and philanthropist, Borden served as minister of militia and defense for 15 years in the Laurier government.
Borden was first elected to the House of Commons in 1874 but did not settle in Ottawa for many years. Eventually, he bought a house on Wilbrod St. before purchasing the grander Stadacona Hall at 395 Laurier Ave. E., just three houses down from Laurier’s own dwelling.
Borden was a hard-working intelligent man with keen political skills. Over the years, he would become a trusted advisor of Laurier and a mentor to Mackenzie King.
An activist minister, he implemented a wholesale reform of the Canadian military, including the entrenchment of the merit principle and a modernization of equipment. It was during his tenure that Canada fought its first foreign war (in South Africa) and that Canadian soldiers replaced British garrisons still in the country. During his tenure, his department’s budget increased sevenfold while that of the government as a whole only went up 130 percent. Canadian Forces Base Borden in southern Ontario is named after him.
Borden benefited politically from the fact that his first cousin, Robert, a Conservative who respected and liked him, became Leader of the Opposition in 1901 (he would go on to become prime minister in 1911).
Borden was a bon vivant who belonged to at least 20 private clubs in Canada, Great Britain and the United States. His second wife, Bessie, was articulate, educated and well-read. She had a flair for fashion, liked to entertain and was active in numerous social clubs and charitable works. During their stay, Stadacona Hall became well-known in Ottawa for their legendary hospitality.