Rufus arrived in Vancouver in the spring of 1910 and immediately persuaded the Province to hire him. He was not your average ‘cub reporter’ – a 22-year-old who’d spent the past five years roughing it in countless jobs across the country – he had experience in spades. He’d done, and seen, most of what was going on in Canada. So, here he was, not six months later, lining up at the Legislature to interview the premier, the Tory Richard McBride.
Whew! That took a bit of nerve, I’m sure. He looks a tricky customer.
And to make it more nerve-wracking, he was interviewing him about the financial scandal of the day, the launch of the Dominion Sawmill Co. on the London stock exchange, where the share offering had sold at vastly inflated prices.
Was McBride involved?
That’s what Rufus was hoping to find out – in a roundabout sort of way. Also, what the government doing about the stock’s promoters.
Did McBride give him the answers?
He did not – just politician’s double-speak. Henceforth Rufus suspected McBride of ‘feathering his nest’ and McBride was wary of Rufus. It was not a great beginning. But it changed slightly for the better in 1912.
Rufus had just started a new job – Editor of the Cowichan Leader in Duncan – when prime minister Laurier called a federal election. Suddenly, Rufus had McBride in his office, all smiles, trying to persuade him to write nice things about the local Tory candidate.
And did he agree to do it?
He did not – he was determined not to take sides, but for a while he suspended judgment on the premier. But, soon, he realised he’d been right about McBride – as editor, he was hearing all sorts of scuttle-butt on the Victoria rumour mill.
What did he do about it?
Well, like the foolish young man that he was, he started taking him on in his editorials! McBride’s most useful ‘fixer’ was Sam Matson, editor of the Victoria Daily Colonist. And when McBride paid Matson $75,000 of public money “for services rendered” – he had persuaded the Songhees to move their village from Victoria Harbour to Esquimalt – Rufus heaped on the sarcasm and made both men a laughing stock.
What did he write?
He said that, as Matson was already rich, he was sure that he’d be dividing the money. “We are therefore anxiously awaiting official announcement concerning these divisions of the booty because we confidently expect that the government.. will recognise .. the yeoman service which the Cowichan Leader has at all times rendered to the present administration. If we could afford it we should publish a full page portrait of Sir Richard McBride and his colleagues, but pending definite information as to the disposal of their $75,000 we have not yet given the order for the cuts.”
If that’s Sam Matson, he looks a pretty mean dude, if you ask me.
He was mean and he was tricky and he ended up getting the better of innocent young Rufus. And when both McBride and Matson wanted to silence Rufus, Matson did what he had to do.
Why did Matson care – he had the Colonist, a much richer newspaper, at his disposal? He could answer in kind, surely.
He could, but Rufus had also threatened one of his investments. Matson and a group of Victoria investors – possibly including McBride – had bought the land around Cowichan Lake. They stood to make a fortune whenever a decent road to the lake was put in and when the Colonist started a campaign to get the government to build it, Rufus cried foul – ‘taxpayers’ money being used to benefit the rich,’ etc., that sort of thing. Now a lot of people wanted to silence him.
How did Matson do it?
Oh, he was a clever beggar. He found out that Rufus needed money desperately – he owed a big chunk on his house and he also wanted to buy Leader shares. So he lent him $1000 – and Rufus , suspecting nothing, accepted it. Too late, he realised he was on the hook – if Matson went public about the loan, Rufus would be exposed as a hypocrite. He’d publicly scorned Matson as a low-life and was now accepting his money! So when Matson offered him the job of News Editor at the Colonist – in Victoria – Rufus had to accept or risk being exposed.
I see – that was clever. In one move he’d silenced the Cowichan Leader, and he now had Rufus – his most damaging critic - under his thumb!
And what’s more, because Rufus was a darned good journalist, with plenty of skills and enthusiasm, he’d also made a pretty good hire.
I can just see the high fives all round when Matson and McBride next got together!