Zebulon Aiton Lash, lawyer, businessman, civil servant (b at St John's Sept 1846; d at Toronto 24 Jan 1920). Called to the Ontario bar in 1868, Lash set up practice in Toronto. He specialized in commercial law and in 1872 was also appointed lecturer at Osgoode Hall Law School. In 1876 Lash (who was a Liberal) was named chief clerk in the federal Department of Justice. He became deputy minister, a position he would hold until 1882.
It was a time when the federal-provincial division of powers was in the process of definition and Lash, although a Liberal, supported a centralist federal government. He favoured the use of disallowance on provincial legislation that infringed on federal jurisdiction. Lash also helped draft amendments and regulations concerning land use that would affect the settling of the Prairie West. One result was the dispossession and dispersal of the natives and Métis in the new province of Manitoba (see Manitoba Act). Despite his federalist stance, however, Lash advanced the jurisdiction of provincial courts over such matters as bankruptcy and insolvency, and he brought forward a scheme whereby provincial voters' lists could be used for federal elections.
In 1882 Lash left the Department of Justice and entered private practice with Edward Blake, thereby gaining the reputation as the foremost Canadian corporation lawyer of the time. In this role he developed interests in such firms as Bell Telephone, British America Assurance, Canada Life Assurance, National Trust, and Western Canada Flour Mills. He was instrumental in the formation of the Canadian Northern Railway in 1899, serving as chief solicitor and then vice-president. By 1910 he was vice-president of the railway's major backer, the Canadian Bank of Commerce. In this role Lash worked to enhance the accessibility of bank financing to manufacturers and farmers alike. His contributions were recognized when he was named chief solicitor of the newly formed Canadian Bankers' Association.
Lash opposed the Liberal Party over the reciprocity issue in 1911 and became founding president of the Canadian National League, established to defeat the deal. When the Conservatives won office under Robert Borden, Lash advised the prime minister on Cabinet formation. During WWI he served as Borden's legal counsel on the organization of the Canadian National Railways. In Toronto he served on the board of governors for the University of Toronto and as a trustee for the Toronto General Hospital. His publications include The Banking System of Canada (1907) and Defence and Foreign Affairs (1917).