Archive for November, 2010

Realistically, there were eight. Four of them were francophones: Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Louis St. Laurent, Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien. Four were English: Joe Clark, Brian Mulroney, Paul Martin and Stephen Harper.

The PM with the broadest facility for languages was English-speaking Sir Robert Borden who had a working knowledge of French, German, Greek and Latin.


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There were three — or four if one includes Macdonald who was contesting more than one seat.

Prime Minister Arthur Meighen lost his seat in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba as well as his majority government in 1921. He subsequently won a by-election in Grenville, Ontario, and in 1926 again became PM. Calling an election that year, he decided to recapture his former Portage La Prairie. Unfortunately, he once again lost the election locally and power federally.

In 1925, William Lyon Mackenzie King held on to power even thoughhe lost his seat in North York, Ontario, and  the Conservatives ended up with more seats . He won the Prince Albert, Saskatchewan seat in a by-election and soldiered on until Governor-General Byng insisted the Conservatives form a government. At the end of the Second World War, King lost his Prince Albert seat but won the most seats in the election. This time he continued in power, winning a by-election in Glengarry, Ontario. He retired three years later.

In 1993, Prime Minister Kim Campbell was defeated in Vancouver Centre. With only two Conservatives elected, she skipped the by-election process and resigned as leader.

Sir John A. Macdonald was actually the first PM to be unseated — in Kingston, Ontario, in 1878. However, it was common practice for high profile politicians at the time to seek election in more than one riding. Macdonald was also running in Marquette, Manitoba, and Victoria, British Columbia. He won both contests and decided to keep the Victoria seat.

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Not surprisingly, it was William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canada’s longest-serving Prime Minister. He represented three different ridings while head of government: York North in Ontario (1921-1925), Prince Albert in Saskatchewan (1926-1945) and Glengarry in Ontario (1945-1949).

He was MP for two other ridings before becoming PM: Waterloo North in Ontario (1908-1911), and Prince in Prince Edward Island (1919-1921). Part of the reason for representing so many ridings was his unfortunate habit of losing elections and needing to find a safe riding to contest in a by-election.

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The nod likely goes to John Diefenbaker who met Sir Wilfrid Laurier, while peddling newspapers as a university student in Saskatoon. Arthur Meighen was his party leader when he first became an MP; William Lyon Mackenzie King sat on the benches across the aisle, as did Louis St. Laurent, Lester Pearson, John Turner, Jean Chretien and Pierre Trudeau later on. On a dare, law student Brian Mulroney talked him into speaking to his class. Diefenbaker died while his colleague Joe Clark was PM. That’s 10 in all, but it’s probable he also met R.B. Bennett and Paul Martin, and possibly Sir Robert Borden, Kim Campbell — and maybe even Stephen Harper.

Laurier served in the cabinet of Alexander Mackenzie, and sat across the House from Sir John A. Macdonald, Sir John Abbott, Sir Mackenzie Bowell, Sir Charles Tupper, Sir John Thompson, Borden, Meighen and Bennett. King was a member of his cabinet. And, of course, there was that newapaper he bought from Diefenbaker. That’s 11 PMs — ahead of Diefenbaker. But the only addition to Laurier’s list is a possible encounter with St. Laurent.

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When Prime Minister Sir John Thompson died suddenly of a heart attack at the luncheon table of Queen Victoria in 1894, the High Commissioner to Britain, Sir Charles Tupper, made arrangements for his body to be sent back to Canada on the HMS Blenheim British armoured ship that was painted black for the occasion.

Twenty-one years later, the Blenheim was pressed into similar duty again, to return the body of former Prime Minister Sir Charles Tupper who had retired to England. Arrangements to return Tupper were made by High Commissioner Sir George Perley (who died in Canada, 11 years after the Blenheim was scrapped).

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