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PearsonTwo former homes of Lester Pearson have a probable date with the wrecking ball. One is at 1984 Yonge Street in Toronto. It was the Davisville Methodist Church manse where he lived for three years shortly after he was born. The other is at 231 Cobourg Avenue in Ottawa, an apartment building that has served more recently as Uganda’s high commission office. Pearson lived there in the mid-1950s while serving as Canada’s External Affairs minister.

While there aren’t efforts to save the heavily renovated Toronto house — the local historical society feels a plaque on the site is sufficient — there is a more concerted effort to save the aging red brick apartment block in Ottawa.

When is it appropriate to turn former homes of past leaders into historical sites? Most Prime Ministers have lived in many places during their lifetimes. Sparing all the buildings or turning them into historical sites simply isn’t practical. The key is determining which homes have played a significant part in the life of the former Prime Minister — places like Macdonald‘s Bellevue or Laurier‘s & Mackenzie King‘s Laurier House — and not be too concerned about sites that just happened to be home addresses for relatively short periods of time.

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A shared birth date

jan11It’s the one day of the year that boasts birthdays of two Canadian Prime Ministers. The better known birthday observation belongs to Sir John A. Macdonald, but Jean Chrétien also celebrates his birthday on January 11. Chrétien is 84 today; Macdonald would have been 203.

MacdonaldThe majority of Canadian Prime Ministers have had schools named after them, but as some Canadians revise their assessment of our leaders through the prism of today’s mores, expect the clamour to expunge the names to continue. That’s because all of our leaders have a dark side. They did things in their day that they believed (and were seen by most of society at the time) to be the ‘right thing’.

Macdonald has lots of schools named after him; Laurier has a university; Abbott has a college. A few have had schools named after them that have since closed (Bowell and Bennett). Clark is the only living former PM with a school bearing his name, although Mulroney has a university institute named after him in the Maritimes.

jan311958: Prime Minister John Diefenbaker appointed Akay-na-muka (James Gladstone) of the Blackfoot nation as Canada’s first Indigenous Senator. It would be another two years before Status Indians would be given the right to vote in federal elections.

Gladstone served as an “independent Conservative” Senator until retiring in 1971.

trudeauPierre Trudeau always had a way of grabbing headlines. As the Unconventional Prime Minister, he attracted attention from the start of his political career, capturing his first Newsmaker of the Year nod in 1968, the year he became PM. He went on to win the designation 10 more times, being chosen an impressive eight years in row from 1968 to 1975, then again three years later. In 1999, he was picked again — as well as crowned Canadian Newsmaker of the Century. Trudeau received the title one last time in 2000, the year he died.

The PM with the second most Newsmaker titles is Lester Pearson, clocking in with nine wins. Interestingly, he received six of those while serving as a foreign affairs diplomat or minister, and just three as leader. Other PMs to be CP’s Newsmaker of the Year have been John Diefenbaker (5 times), Brian Mulroney (3), Jean Chrétien (2), Paul Martin (2), Stephen Harper (2), William Lyon Mackenzie King (1), Louis St. Laurent (1), Joe Clark (1), Kim Campbell (1) and Justin Trudeau (1).

nov301899: Born in Wawanesa, Manitoba, Edna Mae Brower grew up to be a school teacher in Langham, Saskatchewan. At age 29, she quietly married John Diefenbaker in Toronto. At the time, he was prairie lawyer attempting, without luck, to get into politics.

Edna proved to be major asset in helping Diefenbaker succeed at the polls, even though it took 11 more years and three more tries. Her support of his career, which often included sitting in House of Commons gallery to watch him perform, remained constant until she died of leukemia in 1951 at age 51.

TurnerNo, they haven’t. But two came very close. Lester Pearson enjoyed a prolific and competitive hockey career, particularly during his years studying at Oxford, playing for Switzerland in the European championships in 1922. The following year, he was approached to play for England’s hockey team in the 1924 Winter Olympic Games in Chamonix, France. He turned it down, having just accepted a job as a lecturer at the University of Toronto.

John Turner won the national 100-yard and 200-yard dashes in 1947, ultimately running the 100 in 9.7 seconds. Then, in February 1948, he injured his knee in a car accident. He trained hard to run in Canada’s Olympic trials that spring, but collapsed on the track, ending his chance to compete in the Summer Olympic Games in London.