Posts Tagged ‘Alexander Mackenzie’

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.


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apr091874: The House of Commons votes to formally expel Louis Riel, the leader of the Red River temporary government of 1869-70 who has been in hiding since Canada took over. Despite his status, the people of Provencher riding voted him to Parliament — twice.

The censure vote was prompted by the fact that, just last week, he quietly entered the Parliament Buildings and signed the MPs’ roll then slipped away before being detected. Prime Minister Alexander Mackenzie is not amused when Provencher re-elects Riel five months later for a third time.

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feb191877: Prayers are included in the House of Commons routine for the first time.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that the initiative occurs during the government of Alexander Mackenzie, a devout Baptist. The Leader of the Opposition Sir John A. Macdonald, on the other hand, is an occasional Presbyterian – unless he attends church  with his Anglican wife Agnes.

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MackenzieNewspaper editors among past PMs were Alexander Mackenzie (Lambton Shield), Mackenzie Bowell (Belleville Intelligencer), Charles Tupper (British Colonist), and Wilfrid Laurier (Le Défricheur).

John A. Macdonald founded the Toronto Mail, William Lyon Mackenzie King edited the government’s Labour Gazette, Pierre Trudeau was heavily involved with Cité libre, Joe Clark wrote for the Albertan and various other publications, and John Turner edited his high school and university papers.

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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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Twenty Prime Ministers in all have had their official portraits hung in the Centre Block. Only the two most recent — Paul Martin and Stephen Harper — await their turns.

There is no set schedule for determining when a Prime Minister will have his or her portrait painted and added to the collection. Two PMs — Sir John A. Macdonald and William Lyon Mackenzie King — had their portraits done while still in office. Two others — Sir John Abbott and Sir Mackenzie Bowell — waited more than 100 years for their canvases to be done. Both were unveiled in 2002.

Only two artists have more than one portrait in the collection. John Wycliffe Lowes Forster painted Alexander Mackenzie and Sir John Thompson, while Kenneth Keith Forbes painted Sir Robert Borden and R.B. Bennett.

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