In 1920, Prime Minister Arthur Meighen described James B. Harkin, director of the Dominion Parks Branch, as “one of the most competent officers in the Government Service” (p. 336). It strikes me as a most Canadian of compliments, for a man who emerges from E. J. Hart's lengthy biography as a deft and dedicated bureaucrat who consistently and effectively championed national parks to the Canadian government and the Canadian public throughout the first half of the twentieth century.

Most scholarship on Canada's national parks has focused on their “double mandate” of preservation and use, a mandate inherited from Harkin's tenure and which Parks Canada (and its critics) has struggled to reconcile. According to Hart, we should see it as...

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