Posts Tagged ‘John Thompson’

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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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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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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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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Interested in being the Canadian Prime Minister? Consider becoming a lawyer. That’s the exactly the kind of job training two-thirds of the country’s leaders had prior to their shift into politics. Prime Ministers called to the bar were Sir John A. Macdonald, Sir John Abbott, Sir John Thompson, Sir WIlfrid Laurier, Sir Robert Borden, Arthur Meighen, R.B. Bennett, Louis St. Laurent, John Diefenbaker, Pierre Trudeau, John Turner, Brian Mulroney, Kim Campbell, Jean Chretien, and Paul Martin.

All five Prime Ministers named John were lawyers.

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Sir John Thompson is the only Canadian Prime Minister to be a provincial premier. Ten years before becoming Canada’s leader, he spent less than a month as premier of Nova Scotia, taking the Conservatives into an election they didn’t win.

Two Prime Ministers served as pre-Confederation premiers: Sir John A. Macdonald in the Canadas and Sir Charles Tupper in Nova Scotia.

Five Leaders of the Opposition who never became PMs were provincial premiers: Edward Blake and George Drew in Ontario, John Bracken in Manitoba, Robert Stanfield in Nova Scotia, and Lucien Bouchard in Quebec. Blake was the first of many provincial premiers who went on to serve in a Canadian cabinet.

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The cabinet of Sir John A. Macdonald in 1987-88 included John Abbott (Without Portfolio), John Thompson (Justice), Mackenzie Bowell (Customs) and Sir Charles Tupper (Finance).

The next largest collection of PMs-to-be was in the cabinet of Lester Pearson in 1967-68. They were Pierre Trudeau (Justice), John Turner (Consumer & Corporate Affairs) and Jean Chrétien (Without Portfolio, then National Revenue).

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