Feeds:
Posts
Comments

July41873: Several Canadian newspapers publish a telegram sent by Sir John A. Macdonald during last year’s election campaign to CPR solicitor (and future Prime Minister) John Abbott begging for more campaign funds. “I must have another ten thousand,” urged Macdonald. “Will be the last time of calling. Do not fail me.”

It isn’t a plea that can be misconstrued and turns out to be the smoking gun the Liberals have been looking for since the Pacific Scandal broke three months ago. The pressure will build and by year’s end Macdonald will avoid a non-confidence vote by resigning — the only Prime Minister ever to do so.

July11983: The first Canada Day is celebrated on Parliament Hill with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau there as an observer with his three sons including Justin Trudeau. The holiday was renamed Canada Day in legislation passed October 27, 1982.

Although Canada’s birthday was often observed municipally in the early years, it didn’t become a statutory holiday with the name Dominion Day until 1879. Even then, it didn’t get much official support except for major milestones like the 50th and 60th anniversaries. A private member’s bill in 1946 attempted to rename it to Canada Day, but died in the Senate. It wasn’t until 1958 that an official celebration — this one attended by John Diefenbaker — became an annual ritual.

MacdonaldIn 2004, three of Canada’s Prime Ministers made the 50 Most Important Leaders in History listed in the annual National Geographic Almanac of World History. Quite an achievement in a list that starts with the mythological first Chinese Emperor Fuxi (anywhere from 29,000 BCE to 12,000 BCE) and ends with South Africa’s Nelson Mandella.

The three Canadian leaders: Sir John A. Macdonald, William Lyon Mackenzie King and — are you ready? — Kim Campbell. See the whole list here.

may241879: For the second time, former prime minister Alexander Mackenzie refuses a knighthood offered by Queen Victoria. And just in case you think he wasn’t serious about rejecting a peerage offered by Britain, he’ll turn down the offer a third time in two years.

Not all politicians feel the same about the honour. On this very same day, the ‘Sir’ designation is gratefully received by Charles Tupper, Minister of Railways & Canals. In 1895, he’ll become Prime Minister for two months.

ChretienIt helps to have thick skin if you’re contemplating serving as Prime Minister of Canada. One only has to look at the many books about recent leaders that take a negative — even hostile — stance. In fact, in the past 50 years the number of diatribes about PMs has kept pace with the number of dispassionate biographies.

Here’s a sampling:

  • His Pride, Our Fall: Recovering from the Trudeau Revolution 
  • Breaking Faith: The Mulroney Legacy of Deceit, Destruction and Disunity
  • Jean Chretien: A Legacy of Scandal
  • Paul Martin: CEO for Canada?
  • Rogue in Power: Why Stephen Harper is Remaking Canada by Stealth

may211964: The cabinet of Lester Pearson approves his favoured design for a Canadian national flag. It’s three red maple leaves flanked by blue vertical bars. But his proposed flag is about to get a very rough ride.

The opposition leader, John Diefenbaker, is adamantly against it, as are many members of the Canadian Legion. By the fall, the flag design will have morphed into one red leaf between two red bars. A marathon flag debate in the House of Commons in December will result in the revised flag’s adoption.

PearsonPennant

may191909: The federal departments of the Postmaster General and Labour become separate jurisdictions. In making the change, Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier needs a new minister responsible for labour. He taps MP William Lyon Mackenzie King for the post.

Of course, it is all by design. Knowing the previous fall that the department would acquire stand-alone status, Mackenzie King stepped down as Deputy Minister of Labour and ran successfully as a Liberal candidate in the federal election of October 26, 1908.