John Howatt Bell
Premier from 1919 to 1923
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JOHN HOWATT BELL WAS BORN in Cape Traverse on December 13, 1846, the son of Scottish settlers
who came to Prince Edward Island in 1820. John Howatt Bell received his education at Prince of
Wales College in Charlottetown and at Albert College in Belleville, Ontario where he graduated in
1869 with his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees.
Bell chose law as a profession and remained in Ontario to study in Toronto. He was called to the Bar of Ontario in 1874 and set up practice in Ottawa where he remained for eight years. In 1882 Bell went west and established a law practice in Emerson, Manitoba. He returned to Prince Edward Island in 1884 and set up a practice in Summerside where he remained until his death.
Bell first entered the political area as a candidate for the Liberal party in fourth Prince in 1887. He entered the federal field in 1905 and won election as the Member of Parliament for Prince. Bell returned to the Provincial political field in 1915 when he was chosen leader of the Liberal Opposition. In the Provincial general election of 1919 he led his party to victory and became the fourteenth premier of Prince Edward Island.
Premier Bell's term in office was marked by a number of Cabinet quarrels and the resulting intrigue and suspicion did much to alienate the support his administration had with the electorate. His Government was defeated in the general election of 1923 and Premier Bell retired from public life. He died in California on January 29, 1929 as a result of a car accident.
Premier John Howatt Bell was the first Island Premier to lead his party from opposition to power and remain with the party as leader until its defeat. His Government was the first in the province to adopt a Highway Improvement Policy. To accomplish this, an unpopular tax was passed and it was this tax that was attributed as the reason for the defeat of the Bell administration.
Bell is buried in the People's Protestant Cemetery in Summerside