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Archive for the ‘Laurier’ Category

feb021917: The Great War has put federal elections on hold, but Sir Robert Borden can’t put off the exercise indefinitely. What is really needed, he tells cabinet, is a wartime coalition government bringing together his Conservatives and Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s Liberals.

It is a radical concept that many in his cabinet can’t easily embrace, so no decision is made. By the spring, Borden is able to unveil the bold idea. But Laurier isn’t buying it. Some Liberals do and Borden creates a Unionist Party that wins the election held later that year.

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As of today, only eight Prime Ministers have served longer than Stephen Harper as the country’s leader. He passed John Diefenbaker‘s record of 5 years, 10 months, 1 day in the role. Earlier this year he passed Lester Pearson, Alexander Mackenzie and then R.B. Bennett to reach the top 10 on the longevity list.

But the streak is over for the next few years. He won’t pass Louis St. Laurent‘s term of 8 years, 7 months, 6 days until 2014. Should he be looking to overtake William Lyon Mackenzie King, with his more than 21 years in power, it won’t happen until 2027. Of course, King did that in three separate terms of office. Harper could best Sir Wilfrid Laurier‘s record for the longest continuous term (15 years, 2 months, 25 days) in 2021.

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Five Prime Ministers died while sitting as Members of Parliament. Two of them were still Prime Minister at the time: Sir John A. Macdonald in 1891 and Sir John Thompson in 1894. The second PM, Alexander Mackenzie died in 1892 while serving as MP for York East. Sir Wilfrid Laurier was Leader of the Opposition when he died in 1919. John Diefenbaker died on the job, doing constituency work in his Ottawa study in 1979.

In all, 317 Members of the House of Commons have died in office since 1867. The first one, in 1868, was Thomas D’Arcy McGee — Canada’s first political assassination. The most recent was Jack Layton, Leader of the Opposition, on August 22.

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Until 1930, any MP appointed to cabinet was required by law to seek re-election in a by-election. Only one Prime Minister failed to win such a by-election. Wilfrid Laurier was appointed Inland Revenue minister in 1877 by Alexander Mackenzie and lost his attempt to retain his seat for Drummond-Arthabaska. The riding of Quebec East was made available to him and he won that by-election — holding the seat until his death in 1919.

The cabinet by-election necessity proved to a be a major headache for Arthur Meighen in 1926. Asked by Governor-General Lord Byng to form a government, he avoided the risk of losing any by-elections by appointing ‘acting’ ministers. A few days later, the Liberals under William Lyon Mackenzie King passed a motion in the House, by one vote, censuring the gambit. So, Meighen decided to call an election — which he lost.

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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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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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Five of the seven Prime Ministers still living are Roman Catholics. Although, historically, most Catholic leaders tended to be French Canadians, that profile began to disappear by the late 1970s. Of the five living Catholic PMs — Joe Clark, John Turner, Brian Mulroney, Jean Chretien and Paul Martin — only one is French Canadian.

For the record, we have had 9 Roman Catholics (the others are Thompson, Laurier, St. Laurent, Trudeau), 4 Anglicans (Abbott, Tupper, Borden, Campbell), 3 Presbyterians (Macdonald, Meighen, King), 3 Methodists/Uniteds (Bowell, Bennett, Pearson), 2 Baptists (Mackenzie, Diefenbaker), and 1 Christian & Missionary Alliance (Harper) in the Prime Minister’s office.

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