Communist Smith

The November 20 1937 edition of the Toronto Globe and Mail had an article that caught my attention:


The article discusses two proposals put forward by Toronto alderman Stewart Smith, who is referred to later in the article as “Communist Alderman Smith”. Presumably, the Globe and Mail did not intend this as a compliment.

Stewart Smith (c. 1907-1993) served as an alderman until 1944, and then on the Board of Control in 1945-1946, before being defeated in the 1947 elections. He remained as head of the Ontario branch of the Communist Party of Canada’s successor, the Labor-Progressive Party, until 1956.

After this, he went from communism to capitalism. The 1958 city directory lists him as running Smith Appliances & Furniture. By 1963, he had co-founded Top Discount Stores, a chain of drug stores; by 1969, the chain had expanded to 10 branches in Toronto. Top Discount sold to Shoppers Drug Mart in 1978.

Ironically, one of the motions that “Communist Alderman Smith” had put forward in 1937 was an increase in the assessment tax on chain stores. Perhaps his research into chain stores in the 1930s gave him a competitive advantage when he decided to start one.

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