The Dentist

 Lieutenant Colonel E. F. Armstrong
159th (1st Algonquins) Battalion

I feel a little timid, but I know that you, Sir [Speaker of the House], are very sympathetic towards a young member who has had very little experience in public speaking and is addressing this House for the first time. But I am sent here by people of the north…

(Armstrong’s maiden speech, Debates, 22 Feb 1926, 1234)

Born 14 July 1878 in Flesherton, Ontario, Ernest Frederick Armstrong was a dental surgeon and mining prospector. He moved north as a young man and became an early settler of Cobalt. In the small mining community, he set up a dental practice and became chief magistrate.

As commanding officer of the 97th Regiment, Armstrong raised the 159th Battalion from the Temiskaming area and sailed to England in October 1916. After the unit was broken up, Armstrong searched for a way to assume an active role in France. In May 1917, he eventually reverted to captain to join a field ambulance unit as a dentist with the 4th Division.

159thIn 1925, he was elected Conservative Member of Parliament for Temiskaming South. In the October federal election, Armstrong defeated Labour candidate, Malcolm Lang, an Ontario MPP who had enlisted in the 159th Battalion as a lieutenant.

In the House of Commons, Armstrong promoted northern Ontario’s potential for economic development and tourism. In his first speech, he declared, “A spirit of Canadianism is being engendered up there. As I say, we have been called the melting pot of this Dominion, and we look forward with hope to a great development in the not distant future. And I know we shall not be disappointed.”

His former hometown newspaper, the Flesherton Advance, favourably concluded that Armstrong’s maiden speech, “was a most auspicious beginning to the parliamentary career of the talented native of Flesherton.” However, Armstrong’s term would be short. In the September 1926 federal election, he lost in a rematch with fellow 159th veteran, Malcolm Lang.

Armstrong was later twice mayor of Cobalt in the 1920s and 1930s. He died in 1948.

Digitized Service File (LAC):

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