George Spence was born in the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland in 1879. He received his public school education in England, and attended the Leith Academy Technical College in Scotland, where he studied electrical engineering.
In 1900, he came to Canada and spent three years in the gold fields of the Klondyke. He then farmed in Manitoba, and spent some time with the Canadian Pacific Railway, working on survey parties. In 1912, he settled on a homestead at Monchy, south of Swift Current, right on the United States border. His experiences as a homesteader in one of the dryest parts of the Canadian Prairies left a lasting impression on the man who in later years was to become one of Canadaís staunchest advocates of soil and water conservation by every possible means.
George Spence entered politics in 1917, and was elected to the Saskatchewan Legislature, then re-elected in 1921 and 1925. In that year he resigned his seat, and was elected as a Member of Parliament. Two years later he returned to provincial politics, and in succession was appointed Minister of Labor and Industries, Minister of Highways, and Minister of Public Works. During the period 1927 to 1938 he was influential in the building of ten branch railway lines in southwestern Saskatchewan, and in the early beginnings of the present-day numbered highway system.
George Spenceís greatest contribution to the welfare of western Canadian agriculture was made during his nine years as director of the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration, set up to deal with the problems created by the drought of the 1930s. He was appointed to the post in 1938, and during his regime the engineering and financing of joint federal, local and provincial conservation schemes such as the St. Mary River and Bow River projects were concluded. He was also responsible for much of the planning of the South Saskatchewan River project, which, combined with the others in Alberta would, in his words, "put a green belt from the Rocky Mountains to the Lake District in Manitoba".
His early experience as acting chairman of the Better Farming Commission in 1920 provided him with a vast understanding of the problems of dryland farmers, especially those in the arid southwest corner of the province. The Commissionís findings led to the establishment of the Swift Current Research Station, where such problems have been intensively studied since 1921. The findings of the Commission tied in closely with the ultimate objectives of PFRA.
Following his retirement from PFRA in 1947, George Spence served for ten years on the International Joint Commission, the authority which deals with the allocation of water from sources shared by Canada and the United States. Among many awards and recognitions, he was made a Commander of the British Empire in 1946; in 1948 he received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Saskatchewan. He was author of a book "Survival of a Vision", published in 1967, also of a treatise on the growing of tender roses. Following a brief illness, George Spence died in Regina in March, 1975.