Posts Tagged ‘Robert Borden’

apr061910: Robert Borden hands his resignation as Conservative party leader to his caucus. He’s lost two elections to Laurier and has had enough. The Conservative MPs rally to his support, as they will do on several other occasions when he again threatens to resign.

Borden ends up staying, which turns out to be a wise decision. The following year, he wins election to become Prime Minister and serves for nearly nine years.


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BordenThe political leaders of Canada were typically referred to as Premier for the country’s first four decades. At the beginning of the 20th century, the title was used interchangeably with Prime Minister, but it wasn’t until Robert Borden that PM became the predominant term.

Meanwhile, most provincial leaders were Prime Ministers in 1867. Even though they are Premiers today, Quebec is the exception. Philippe Couillard is the Premier Ministre.

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feb041916: Fifteen hours after the Centre Block of the Parliament Building was largely gutted by fire, Robert Borden reconvenes the House of Commons in the Victoria Memorial Museum (now the Museum of Nature). It will be the MPs home for the next three years.

Borden crawled out of his office the previous evening to avoid smoke inhalation. In the middle of the night he held a cabinet meeting at the Chateau Laurier and decided to relocate the Parliamentary Session to the museum.

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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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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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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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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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