By Brian Bethune - Friday, November 23, 2012 - 0 Comments
When the Second World War ended, the future of Newfoundland was not only an…
When the Second World War ended, the future of Newfoundland was not only an issue for its people, it was also a matter of considerable significance for the victorious English-speaking nations at the heart of what would be called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Newfoundland, in the British phrase, had had a very good war, taking a front-row place in the crucial Battle of the Atlantic, hosting large numbers of Allied (particularly American) servicemen and economically emerging out of the Great Depression that had seen it lose its self-rule in 1933 and become again a colony governed directly from London.
Now, a broke Britain wanted out of what it saw as a burden. Canada wanted—in its lukewarm, Mackenzie King way—to complete its 80-year-old Atlantic-to-Pacific dream and, more determinedly, to prevent outright American control of Newfoundland. And the U.S. was amenable, as long as American air bases there—as important in the nascent Cold War as they were against the Nazis—were untroubled. As far as the larger nations were concerned, then, a deal practically made itself. Trouble is, as Malone—an actor and political activist best known for the Codco TV series—points out, not only did no one really ask the Newfoundlanders what they wanted, no one wanted to take the democratic gamble of giving them a fair chance to decide. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 2:14 PM - 0 Comments
Whatever the impact of the attack ads run against him, one historical note on the challenge facing Thomas Mulcair. He will be attempting in 2015 to do something that most leaders of the opposition fail to do: lead their parties to a general election victory on their first try.
By my count, between 1921 and 2011, 15 opposition leaders* who had not previously been prime minister led their parties into elections. Ten of those leaders failed to lead their parties to government on that first try: Michael Ignatieff, Stephane Dion, Stephen Harper, Stockwell Day, Preston Manning, Robert Stanfield, Lester B. Pearson, George Drew, John Bracken and Robert Manion. Only two of those ten went on to become prime minister after losing the first time: Messrs Harper and Pearson.
On the other hand, the five who won were Jean Chretien (1993), Brian Mulroney (1984), Joe Clark (1979), John Diefenbaker (1957) and Mackenzie King (1921) and all of those five defeated governments that had been in power for at least two terms.
When Mr. Chretien become prime minister, the Progressive Conservatives had been in power for nine years. When Mr. Mulroney became prime minister, the Liberals had been in power for 20 of the previous 21 years and won six of the previous seven elections. When Mr. Clark became prime minister, the Liberals had been in power for 16 years covering five elections. When Mr. Diefenbaker became prime minister, the Liberals had been in power for 22 years covering five elections. When Mr. King became prime minister, the Conservatives (on their own and then as a coalition) had been in power for 10 years covering two elections.
When Mr. Mulcair faces the Conservatives in 2015, the Conservatives will be at the end of their third mandate and been in power for nine years.
*Preston Manning was not technically the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in 1997. Officially that title belonged to Gilles Duceppe, but the Bloc Quebecois had no chance of forming government and at dissolution the Bloc and Reform Party had the same number of seats.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 7, 2012 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
Repeating that war settles nothing, Mr. Woodsworth declared: “I rejoice that it is possible to say these things in a Canadian Parliament under British institutions. It would not be possible in Germany, I recognize that … and I want to maintain the very essence of our British institutions of real liberty. I believe that the only way to do it is by an appeal to the moral forces which are still resident among our people, and not by another resort to brute force.”
… In the end, addressing his own historic motion for war, the prime minister said: “There are few men in this Parliament for whom I have greater respect than the leader of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. I admire him in my heart, because time and again he has had the courage to say what lays on his conscience, regardless of what the world might think of him. A man of that calibre is an ornament to any Parliament.”
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, August 24, 2011 at 6:55 PM - 106 Comments
Here lay Jack Layton. Here where he basked in the warm glow of the television lights and held forth each afternoon. Here before the grand door to our grandest room. Here where you can turn your gaze just slightly upward and see the Prime Minister’s office. Here a few flights of stairs below the ornate office that Mr. Layton was to occupy for the next four years. Here between the portraits of Borden and King, surrounded by carved sandstone, underneath a ceiling of decorated glass. Here wrapped in our beautiful flag.
Down the hall and around the rotunda and down another flight of stairs and then outside and along the path that leads to the magnificent Centre Block, a thousand people made their way to his casket. In Toronto, a thousand words written in chalk in a public square. On the lawn of Parliament Hill, probably several thousand millilitres of orange soda mixed in among the flowers and notes and balloons.
This is how we mourn and remember and mark and honour. Continue…
By Norman Hillmer and Stephen Azzi - Friday, June 10, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 62 Comments
Maclean’s second survey of our greatest leaders shows a new number one, and some big surprises.
Stephen Harper has his majority government. The Liberal party is in tatters, and the Bloc Québécois is devastated. The NDP, inexperienced in the limelight and leaning to the left, is a reliable target. No one now doubts the Prime Minister’s capacity for raw politics, or his staying power.
Harper is one of a select few Canadian leaders to have won three consecutive federal elections. When his current term ends, he will have been in office longer than many past titans, including Brian Mulroney, John Diefenbaker, and Lester Pearson.
All that remains, and it is a great deal, is to discover what Harper will make of his new lease on parliamentary life, and what history will make of him. To set a benchmark, we’ve undertaken Maclean’s second rankings survey on Canadian prime ministers, to determine the greats, near greats, and also-rans, as well as the ingredients of success and the reasons for failure.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, April 20, 2011 at 5:04 PM - 70 Comments
John Duffy recalls what preceded the King-Byng Affair.
That said, I certainly agree that Mr. Harper knows his Mackenzie King … He’ll know, then, that King actually did govern from below a plurality from 1925 until 1926. So there are federal as well as provincial precedents for non-plurality governments.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 3:23 PM - 25 Comments
In his first news conference as a minister of state, Ted Menzies is asked to explain why the ministry is so much larger than it was when the current government first took office and proceeds to offer a number of words in response. For the sake of saving readers some time, I’ll bold the words that seem most relevant to the question.
Well, first of all, I’m honored to be part of this cabinet. Many of us have played a role, a pivotal role, many parliamentary secretaries that don’t have a seat at the cabinet table. We are in some very unique and challenging times right now and the more shoulders behind the wheel that we have, I think, will help us. There has been some many – many challenges we faced. We feel that we have done a good job. We need to stay the course and keep moving towards what Canadians have asked us to do and that is get back to balanced budgets and whether, you know, the numbers at the cabinet table — we have seen more historically in the past. I don’t think that is as big an issue as the quality that we have there, the strength in this cabinet that are working in unison, as recognized by some of the papers in the U.S. just in the last couple of days. Canada is the envy at getting our fiscal house in order, encouraging new businesses to invest. That is the important thing. We are talking about jobs here today. The more we can do to encourage jobs in Canada, I think the better off we will all be.
Our Andrew Coyne notes that Mackenzie King made it through his challenging times with a ministry of 17. More recently, when Mr. Harper became Prime Minister he named a 27-member ministry (with 26 parliamentary secretaries). He now has a 38-member ministry (with 25 parliamentary secretaries).
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, August 23, 2010 at 1:17 PM - 0 Comments
The Ottawa Citizen considers the anti-semitism of some Canada’s more honoured public servants, including a prime minister, a cabinet minister and a governor general.
All these figures, including Whitton, were “very prominent and important in their day,” said Robert Bothwell, an eminent Canadian historian at the University of Toronto. If their recognition is meant to represent what Canada was, Bothwell said in an e-mail to the Citizen, “then all these people should be commemorated.
“As the war museum controversy some years back should have demonstrated, history is not a series of pleasant bedtime stories, pre-sanitized so that only the worthy appear in order to make our hearts thump with a patriotic pit-a-pat.”
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, August 28, 2009 at 5:01 PM - 31 Comments
On those notes, some math. Namely, the mandates of each government in our history, expressed not as a percentage of seats won or votes cast, but as the percentage of possible votes. In other words, what percentage of eligible voters actually chose to support the government that governs them. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, June 14, 2009 at 10:42 PM - 10 Comments
Canada has suffered through nine elections in June, five of which might’ve technically counted as summer votes. But if you follow the school year definition, there’s been three summer elections—July 1930, August 1953 and July 1974.
In two of those, turnout was down from the previous election, but in 1930 it actually went up, from 67.7 in 1926 to 73.5.
In 1930, King’s Liberal government was thrown from office in favour of RB Bennett’s Conservatives. In 1953, St. Laurent’s Liberal government lost 22 seats but maintained a large majority. In 1974, Trudeau’s Liberal government won 32 more seats to go from a minority to a majority.
Historical precedent then is probably of very little use.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 24, 2009 at 12:56 AM - 11 Comments
Andrew Steele considers Michael Ignatieff and elitism.
You would be hard-pressed to identify a single Canadian prime minister who was a populist either in appeal or policy. If Canadians want hockey players and lumberjacks in top office, they certainly don’t show it with their voting behaviour.
While there have been successful populist parties at the provincial level, the few attempts at populism at a federal level have never broken through to the broader public. Social Credit was never more than a protest party. Their Quebec variant was short-lived. The Reform Party was far less successful than it’s more disciplined and elite-driven Conservative successor. In fact, the biggest mistake Mr. Ignatieff could make would be a sudden and jarring turn to token populism.
By Rachel Mendleson - Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 7:27 PM - 1 Comment
Presidential stopovers in Ottawa have included fishing trips, protests and back-breaking labour
Since Barack Obama will be in Ottawa this week, we thought it timely to look back at some previous presidential visits to our nation’s capital.
Franklin D. Roosevelt: August 1943
The city proclaimed a half-day holiday to mark the first-ever U.S. presidential visit to Ottawa. About 27,000 people jammed Parliament Hill to hear FDR’s public address. During his car tour of Ottawa, spectators held up black Scottie dogs as a show of support for his dog Fala.
Harry S. Truman: June 1947
While in Ottawa, Truman met with Mackenzie King and Governor General Alexander. During his parliamentary address, Truman praised Canada for achieving internal unity. When he was finished, politicians thumped their desks in approval. Truman’s trip to the capital included lunch at the Chateau Laurier, a tree-planting and a state dinner at Rideau Hall. He also traveled to Montebello, where he fished for trout. It was his second trip abroad after the Second World War.
Dwight D. Eisenhower: November 1953, July 1958
Both visits to the capital included a parliamentary address. In 1953, more tickets were sold to the House of Commons gallery than there were seats, and some spectators had to be turned away. In 1958, Ike drew fire for his virulent defence of U.S. trade interests in his speech. It was during his second visit that he and PM John Diefenbaker agreed to set up the Canada-United States Committee on Joint Defense. While in Ottawa, Ike played a round of golf at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club and took a trip to Gatineau Park.
John F. Kennedy: May 1961
When JFK and Jackie arrived on Parliament Hill, there were reportedly 50,000 people there to greet them. It was their first post-inauguration trip. Jackie looked on from the visitors’ gallery during the President’s Parliamentary address, during which he famously said: “Geography has made us neighbours. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners. And necessity has made us allies.” He even tried to articulate a few sentences in French — albeit poorly. And he hurt his back while planting a tree on Parliament Hill.
Lyndon B. Johnson: May 1967
While in Canada for Expo 67, Johnson spent some time at the prime minister’s official retreat on Harrington Lake, where he met with Lester B. Pearson. As the story goes, a security stopped PM Pearson on his way to the bathroom to ask him who he was and where he was headed. “I’m the Prime Minister of Canada and I’m about to go and have a leak,” he reportedly answered.
Richard Nixon: April 1972
Vietnam War protestors greeted Nixon when he arrived in Canada. Despite his infamously acrimonious relationship with Pierre Trudeau, he opened speech to the House of Commons with a joke about Ottawa’s weather, and cheered Canada for being a fine neighbour. “The Canadian-American example is an example for all the world to see,” he said. The Great Lakes Pollution clean-up agreement was inked during his visit.
Ronald Reagan: March 1981, April 1987
During Reagan’s address to Parliament in 1981, NDP MPs sported black armbands to indicate their opposition of the U.S. involvement in El Salvador. Though his relationship with Brian Mulroney was much warmer than it had been with Trudeau, Reagan only visited Ottawa once while Mulroney was in office. When Reagan spoke in the House of Commons in 1987, he was interrupted by MP Svend Robinson, who implored the president to “Stop Star Wars now.” During their time in Canada, Nancy Reagan urged students at Ottawa’s Brookfield High School to “say no to drugs.”
George H. W. Bush: February 1989, March 1991
George and Barbara traveled to Ottawa less than a month after Bush’s inauguration. While the President met with Mulroney, Barbara read to local students at a nursery school in Fern Hill. Among the pupils was the PM’s son, Nicholas.
Bill Clinton: February 1995, October 1999
Jean Chrétien, with whom Clinton had a close relationship, took the President on a tour of the Centre Block while Hillary skated on the Rideau Canal. During his first address, Clinton touted Canada as an example “of how people of different cultures can live and work together in peace, prosperity and respect,” and spoke of the “ties that bind the United States and Canada.” In 1999, he came to Ottawa to dedicate a new Embassy building.
George W. Bush: November 2004
Though George W. was scheduled to address Parliament in May 2003, he cancelled the trip, citing the war in Iraq. Others suggested that the President’s relationship with Chrétien, which had become strained, was to blame for the change in plans. When he did arrive in Ottawa in November 2004, some 5,000 protestors demonstrated against the Iraq war. The first couple visited a Gatineau archival presentation centre, where they reportedly set eyes on Shania Twain’s songbook, and one of the earliest baseball rule books.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 13, 2009 at 10:27 PM - 0 Comments
Life magazine and Google have cooperated to put several centuries of photos online, many of them previously unpublished.
For our purposes, there is an impressive collection of prime ministers, at least of a certain vintage—namely Trudeau, Diefenbaker, Pearson and St. Laurent. The Mackenzie King file would seem to mostly include pictures from his funeral. Elsewhere, there are photos of presidents Kennedy and Eisenhower addressing Parliament.
Then there are the random finds like this shot of former air minister Charles G. Power, grandfather of Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon.
Best find so far: The Queen square-dancing at Rideau. Nice poodle-skirt, your majesty.
By selley - Thursday, November 27, 2008 at 1:03 PM - 0 Comments
Must-reads: …Vaughn Palmer on cutting costs in Victoria; Christie Blatchford on the “S.M.” trial.
In the spirit of brotherhood, we will now destroy you
The Conservatives revoke the opposition’s allowance, and other random federal matters.
The Vancouver Sun’s Barbara Yaffe chooses an unfortunate day to marvel at the “surprising air of maturity and confidence” Stephen Harper is exhibiting as he attempts to deal with the economic crisis—“in sharp contrast to [his] past political demeanour, widely criticized as petty, nasty and excessively partisan.” We assume Harper decided to bankrupt the opposition parties after deadline. Bummer. (Also, Tony Clement is not one of Harper’s “strongest performers.” That’s a ridiculous thing to say anywhere, but it’s an especially ridiculous thing to say if, like Yaffe, you support the Insite safe injection project and if, also like Yaffe, you have just applauded the government for abandoning its opposition to Insite—which is news to us, incidentally.)
The National Post’s John Ivison looks at the potential effects of revoking public financing for political parties, and sees no way the Liberals can “meekly stand in the House of Commons and support the measure as its fair share of the economic plan.” It represents upwards of 60 per cent of their funding base! “The chances of another general election in the near future have always seemed remote, on the basis that none of the combatants could afford it,” Ivison notes. But “with this proposal, they can’t afford not to.” We’re sure they’ll work something out.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, August 6, 2008 at 1:40 AM - 850 Comments
Back, for a moment, to David Foster Wallace’s take on John McCain.
Near the end of that little book Foster Wallace arrives at his definitive division of political leadership—laying out a distinction between “leaders” and “salesmen.”
“A real leader,” he writes, “isn’t just somebody who has ideas you agree with, nor is it just somebody you happen to believe is a good guy. A real leader is somebody who, because of his own particular power and charisma and example, is able to inspire people, with ‘inspire’ being used here in a serious and non-cliche way. A real leader can somehow get us to do certain things that deep down we think we are good and want to be able to do but usually can’t get ourselves to do on our own … In other words, a real leader is somebody who can help us overcome the limitations of our own individual laziness and selfishness and weakness and fear and get us to do better, harder things than we can get ourselves to do on our own…
“There is a difference,” he continues later, “between a great leader and a great salesman. There are similarities, of course. A great salesman is usually charismatic and likable, and he can often get us to do things (buy things, agree to things that we might not go for on our own, and to feel good about it. Plus a lot of salesmen are basically decent people with plenty about them to admire. But even a truly great salesman isn’t a leader. This is because a salesman’s ultimate, overriding motivation is self-interest—if you buy what he’s selling, the salesman profits. So even though the salesman may have a very powerful, charismatic, admirable personality, and might even persuade you that buying is in your interests (and it really might be)—still, a little part of you always knows that what the salesman’s ultimately after is something for himself.”
This leads to a consideration of whether John McCain (circa 2000) could quite literally sell himself as a real leader, without, in the process, becoming a salesman. (see also, Barack Obama circa 2008).
But, for the moment, let’s consider something else. Namely, when was the last time Canada had a real leader? Continue…