Not To Be Trusted With Knives

{August 24, 2008}   P.M.#23 – Dr. Stéphane Dion
Name Stéphane Maurice Dion
Born: September 28, 1955 in Quebec City, Quebec
Died: not
Party: Liberal Party of Canada
Best known for:
  • he was named Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs by Chretien in January 1996, before he was elected to Parliament. He was elected two months later in a by-election.
  • Dion presented the Clarity Act to the Parliament; the Act stated that a referendum on separation needs to use a “clearly” stated question (where “clear” is in the judgement of the Canadian House of Commons) and the separatists would need a “clear majority” (not “50% plus one” majority) in order to separate.
  • he was dropped from Cabinet when Paul Martin took power, but was later brought back into Cabinet by Martin as Minister of the Environment
  • he became the leader of the Liberal Party, running a campaign on the issues of social justice, economic prosperity, and environmental sustainability
Some Things I Didn’t Know About This P.M.
  • His father, Léon Dion, co-founded the department of Political Science at Laval University in Quebec, where Stéphane Dion got his B.A. and M.A. degrees
  • His father’s name is Léon Dion… tee hee.
  • As a teenager & university student, he was a Quebec separatist activist, but his support of separatism “ended during a five-hour, rum-and-Coke fuelled discussion with a federalist household while he was going door-to-door” for the Parti Québécois.
  • He received his doctorate degree in Sociology from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris and then taught public administration & organizational ansalysis and theory at the Université de Montréal (1984 to January 1996).
  • He has a pet dog named “Kyoto.”

If you are just dying to read more about P.M. Stéphane Dion, check these out:

Image credits:

  • Photo was accessed from Wikipedia and is used under a Creative Commons license.

{August 17, 2008}   P.M.#22 – Bush Lite
Name Stephen Joseph Harper
Born: April 30, 1959 in Toronto, Ontario,
Died: not
Party: Currently the “Conservative Party of Canada”

  • Canadian Alliance (2002-2003)
  • Reform (1987-1997)
  • Progressive Conservative (1985-1986)
  • Young Liberals (c.1974-early 1980s)1
Held Office: Feb 6, 2006– present
Best known for:
  • he was a key player in the Reform Party: gave a speech at their founding convention, became the party’s Chief Policy Officer, ran unsuccessfully for Parliament in 1988 as a Reform Candidate, and then ran successfully in 1993
  • he defeated Stockwell Day for the leadership of the Canadian Alliance party (what the Reform Party turned into) – during the campaign he said he wouldn’t work with the Progressive Conservatives as long as they were led by Joe Clark, he supported parents being allowed to hit their kids and he said his potential support base was “similar to what George Bush tapped” (hence the nickname of “Bush Lite”)
  • he merged the Canadian Alliance with the Progressive Conservative Party (then being led by Peter McKay2 to create the “Conservative Party of Canada” (notice that this party likes to keep changing its name).
  • recent reports suggest that Harper gave approval of an attempt to bribe Independent MP Chuck Cadman to vote with the Conservatives on a May 2005 attempt to bring down the Liberal government; Harper is suing the Liberal Party of Canada for libel in relation to this accusation
  • he became the P.M. when the “Conservative Party”3 won the Jan 2006 federal election
  • shortly after the election, while dropping his kids off at school, he shook the hands of his then 9-year-old son and 7-year old daughter.  Shook their hands?  No hug?  “Wtf?!” cried the nation!
  • since becoming P.M., he’s not been very forthcoming with the press – often telling the media at the 11th hour about his trips so that media can’t be there to cover it, and insisting on hand picking which journalists get to ask questions at press conferences
  • he’s a closet Leafs fan
Some Things I Didn’t Know About This P.M.
  • he’s the first P.M. since Pearson to not have gone to law school
  • he’s the first P.M. since Pearson that isn’t Catholic (he’s an evangelical Prostestant)
  • he resigned from Parliament in Jan 1997 to take the VP position (later Prez) of the National Citizens Coalition (NCC), a conservative think-tank and advocacy group.
If you are just dying to read more about P.M. S.H., check these out:

1This is from Wikipedia, listed as “citation needed,” so I have no idea if it’s true or not.
2McKay had made a deal with PC leadership opponent David Orchard that he would not merge the PC Party with the Alliance if Orchard agreed to step down in the leadership race. Then McKay merged the PC Party with the Alliance. Nice.
3I have trouble referring to this party as the “Conservative Party” as such without the quotations marks. To me, the “Conservative Party” was really the Progressive Conservatives, whereas this party is just the Reform-Party-turned-Canadian-Alliance in sheep’s clothing.

{August 10, 2008}   P.M.#21 – P.M. P.M.
Name Paul Edgar Philippe Martin
Born: August 28, 1938 in Windsor, Ontario
Died: not
Party: Liberal
Held Office: December 12, 2003 – February 6, 2006
Best known for:
  • although he was P.M., I think he was actually much more influential in his role as the Finance Minister under Jean Chrétien from 1993 to 2002, during which time he
    • erased a $42 billion deficit
    • had 5 consecutive budget surpluses
    • paid off $36 billion of national debt
    • decreased the debt-to-GDP ratio from 70% to 50%
    • overhauled the Canadian Pension Plan

    the flip side of this, however, was that he made big cuts to transfer payments to the provinces, which meant cuts in a number of social services, especially health care.

  • he was surrounded by controversy over his leadership role in Canadian Steamship Lines, which was given gobs of money from the government (in contracts, grants & loan) while he has Finance Minister, and which “reflagged” a number of its ships – ships that had been registered in Canada were registered in other countries that had more lenient (i.e., “business friendly”) safety & labour laws. He sold his interests in this company to his sons when he ran for the Liberal Party leadership because, you know, he’d have no vested interest in what happens to a company owned by his sons.
  • he lost the Liberal Party leadership to Chrétien in 1990 and apparently the two really didn’t like each other
  • Martin really wanted Chrétien’s job and campaigned hard to have him overthrown on a leadership review vote; seeing the writing on the wall1, Chrétien announced he would step down in spring 2004; Martin won the leadership in Nov 14, 2003, trouncing his only opponent, Sheila Copps, in the vote.  Other contenders Brian Tobin & Allan Rock didn’t even run, and John Manley stepped out of the race.
  • hurt by the Sponsorship Scandal and facing a newly re-united right (with the Canadian Alliance having taken over the Conservative Party), Martin’s Liberals squeaked out a minority government in the 2004 (at the start of that election, the polls were calling for a Conservative majority, so it was impressive that they came back from that)
  • despite having opposed same sex marriages in a vote in 1999, Martin changed his tune, agreeing that same sex marriage was a human rights issue (8 provincial & territorial courts had already ruled as much) and same sex marriages were legalized in 2005, making Canada the 5th country in the world to do so
  • he narrowly avoided a vote of non-confidence in May 2005 when Belinda Stronach crossed the floor from the Conservative Party (and was given the role of Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development), along with support from independent MP Chuck Cadman, plus the tie-breaking vote from the Speaker of the House.
  • he appointed3 Michaëlle Jean as Governor General in August 2005
  • the Conservatives put forth a motion of non confidence in Nov 2005 and thus the Liberals, who had lost support of the NDP by refusing to agree with conditions for the NDP’s support (including a ban on private health care), were brought down.  Notably, this was the first time Canadian government had been brought down by a non-confidence vote that wasn’t associated with a piece of legislation.
  • after losing the 2006 election, Martin stepped down as leader of the Liberal Party
  • he was often dubbed “Mr. Dithers”
  • his father, Paul Joseph James Martin, was a career politician, who served for 33 years in Parliament, and as a Cabinet Minister in 4 Liberal governments; he also ran for Liberal Party leadership but, unlike his son, he never won2.
Some Things I Didn’t Know About This P.M.
  • he’s the member of Parliament for LaSalle-Émard (my mom grew up in LaSalle)
  • he co-authored “The Red Book” – the extensive Liberal Party platform published for the 1993 election
  • when he left (or was kicked out of?) Cabinet in 2002, he no longer had to disclose his donors, which “was likely a boost to his campaign” (source: Wikpedia) to take over the leadership of the Liberal Party
Five former P.M.s: Right Hon. Pierre Elliott Trudeau,
Right Honourable John N. Turner, Right Honourable
Kim Campbell, Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, and
Right Honourable Joe Clark.
If you are just dying to read more about P.M. P.M., check these out:

Image credits:

1Or lack of writing, as it were: Chrétien couldn’t get more than have the caucus to sign a document saying they supported him.
2Not that it mattered all that much, given that Martin was something of a lackluster P.M.
3Well, technically he “recommended” to the Queen that she appoint Jean, but as if the Queen is going oppose stuff our government recommends.

Sorry this is a day late. I’m going to blame the holiday weekend (Happy BC Day, everyone!), as that seems like as good an excuse as any.

Chrétien Gets All the Girls at Vic by Joe Howell. Name Joseph Jacques Jean Chrétien
Born: January 11, 1934 in Shawinigan, Quebec
Died: not
Party: Liberal
Held Office: November 4, 1993 – December 12, 2003
Best known for:
  • he has the same birthday as me. And Sir John A. MacDonald
  • he used the nickname “the “little guy from Shawinigan,” referring to his humble origins
  • the left side of his face is paralyzed due to Bell’s Palsy (he would refer to this in his first Liberal leadership campaign, saying he was “One politician who didn’t talk out of both sides of his mouth.” The Conservatives would try to use it against him (by using unflattering photos) in the 1993 election, to disastrous results.
  • he held a number of Minister positions, including his stint at the first ever francophone Minister of Finance
  • he placed an important role in the patriation of the Canadian Constitution; he was the chief negotiator of the “Kitchen Accord1
  • Upon becoming P.M. in 1993, he had been in every single Liberal cabinet since 1965.
  • In order to clear the massive debt left behind by Mulroney, Chrétien’s government made deep cuts which, while they resulted in eliminating a $42 billion deficit & $36 billion in debt, results in significant cuts to government services, including health care.
  • Promising to scrap the GST2, but then not following through, saying that the state of Canada’s finances were worse than they had expected after they took over from Mulroney
  • He & his wife were at home at 24 Sussex Drive when an armed assailant broke in, and they locked themselves in the bedroom until security came; I’m not sure why everyone knows that Chrétien armed himself with an Inuit carving in case the assailant broke through the door, but we do.
  • After protesters at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit at the University of British Columbia were pepper sprayed, Chrétien famously said, “For me, pepper, I put it on my plate.”
  • He choked a protester in Hull, Quebec
  • The sponsorship scandal: a “sponsorship program” was created to raise awareness about the Government of Canada’s contributions to Quebec, in the face of the Parti Québécois promotion of separatism. Widespread corruption was discovered in this program in 2004 (e.g., ad firms being paid large sums of money, but not doing any actual work). The Gomery Commission cleared Chrétien himself of any wrong doing.
  • He was, shall we say, pressured to retire in 2003 so that Paul Martin”3, the heir apparent could take over as P.M.
Some Things I Didn’t Know About This P.M.
  • he was 18th of 19 children in his family (10 of 19 did not survive past infancy)
  • during the October Crisis, with respect to invoking the War Measures Act, he told Trudeau to, “act now, explain later.”
  • he retired from politics in the mid-80s, after losing the Liberal party leadership race to John Turner (and the subsequent Liberal loss of the 1984 election); he returned to political life in 1990 when he won the Liberal Party leadership after Turner resigned
  • one of my alma maters, McMaster University, granted him an honourary degree in 2005

And here is my favourite Jean Chrétien quotation, in response to a reporter’s question about what type of proof Canada would require before joining the US war on Iraq:

“A proof is a proof. What kind of a proof? It’s a proof. A proof is a proof, and when you have a good proof, it’s because it’s proven.”

Some people mocked this statement saying that Chrétien wasn’t saying anything at all, but I personally thought this rocked. There was no proof of WMDs, and Chrétien was pointing out that, hey, if they can prove it, well, go ahead and prove it already!

My second fav quotation, on the decriminalization of marijuane: “I don’t know what is marijuana. Perhaps I will try it when it will no longer be criminal. I will have my money for my fine and a joint in the other hand,”

If you are just dying to read more about The Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, check these out:

Five former P.M.s: Right Hon. Pierre Elliott Trudeau,
Right Honourable John N. Turner, Right Honourable
Kim Campbell, Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, and
Right Honourable Joe Clark.


Signing of the constitution
, 17 April 1982 in
Ottawa, ON. (In the photo, left to right) Gerald Regan,
then Minister of Labour; Jean Chrétien, then Minister
of Justice; The Right Honourable Pierre E. Trudeau,
then Prime Minister of Canada; André Ouellet, the
Registrar General; Her Majesty the Queen; Michael
Pitfield, then Clerk of the Privy Council

Jean Chrétien – the Member of
Parliament for Shawinigan
, then
Minister without portfolio. (Look
how young he is!) Apr. 1967

Image credits: Photo of Chrétien at the University of Toronto, surrounded by women, reproduced under a Creative Commons license, posted by Joe Howell on Flickr. Image of the 5 PMs is from the Library and Archives Canada, no restrictions on use. The “Signing of the Constitution” photo is also from the Library and Archives Canada, no restrictions on use, credit: Robert Cooper / Library and Archives Canada / PA-140706. Photo of a young Chrétien has its “copyright assigned to Library and Archives Canada by copyright owner Duncan Cameron;” Credit: Duncan Cameron/Library and Archives Canada/PA-115289.

1Basically, negotiations on the Constitution which, as the name suggests, took place in a kitchen. Quebec premier Rene Lévesque wasn’t in this kitchen, so he walked into the premiers breakfast the next morning and was told a deal was done without him; Quebec nationalists refer to this as the “Night of the Long Knives,” with their feeling that they had been stabbed in the back)
2Although Wikipedia assures me that he didn’t actually promise to scrap the GST, but rather that the Red Book (a 112-page document outlining the Liberals platform) promised “to replace the GST “with a system that generates equivalent revenues, is fairer to consumers and to small business, minimizes disruption to small business, and promotes federal-provincial fiscal cooperation and harmonization.” Does anyone remember reading the Red Book? Is this true??
3For how well this worked out for Martin, you’ll have to wait ’til next week’s entry on P.M. P.M.

After much delay, I’m finally bringing you the latest installment of my Prime Ministerial series. In fairness, I was on vacation for both three Sundays ago (Sun Peaks) and two Sundays ago (San Fran) and this past Sunday (i.e., yesterday) was hockey playoffs. It’s summertime, so one must expect some delays and disruptions. But now, on to P.M. #19.

The Right Honourable Kim Campbell was our, as of yet, one and only female Prime Minister. She wasn’t elected as the P.M., but took over when the aforementioned rat left the aforementioned sinking ship that was the Progressive Conservative government of 1993.

Five former P.M.s: Right Hon. Pierre Elliott Trudeau,
Right Honourable John N. Turner, Right Honourable Kim Campbell, Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, and Right Honourable Joe Clark.
Name Avril Phaedra Douglas “Kim” Campbell
Born: March 10, 1947 (1947-03-10) in Port Alberni, British Columbia
Died: not
Party: Progressive Conservative
Held Office: June 25, 1993 – November 4, 1993
Best known for:
  • being the first female Prime Minister of Canada
  • being the second female Head of State in the G8 (after Margaret Thatcher of England)
  • in the Mulroney government, she was the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (1989-1990), then Minister of Justice (Canada’s first female in this role) and Attorney-General (1990-1993), then appointed the Minister of National Defence (again, Canada’s first female in this role) in 1993.
  • She became the Prime Minister in June 1993 after Mulroney announced his retirement from politics, beating out Jean Charest for the party leadership. The election in fall 1993 was disastrous for the Progressive Conservatives, with the party winning only 2 seats3; Campbell lost her seat to Liberal Hedy Fry. There was probably not a single person who could have taken over the reigns after Mulroney and managed to win an election mere months later, but there was also a big ruckus caused by the Tories running attack ads against Liberal leader Jean Chretien, including an ad that appeared to make fun of his Bell’s Palsy.
Some Things I Didn’t Know About This P.M.
  • Canada’s first baby boomer P.M.
  • her name isn’t actually Kim, it’s Avril. She gave herself the nickname “Kim.”
  • She started a doctorate degree at the London School of Economics, studying Soviet Government, but didn’t finish it. Instead, she went to the University of British Columbia Law School and obtained her L.L.B.
  • She currently lives in Paris, France, with her common law husband
  • She was unsuccessful running for a seat in the provincial legislature with the BC Social Credit Party1 (the “Socreds”) in ’83, then unsuccessfully ran for the leadership of the Socreds in ’86, then won the Vancouver Point-Grey riding2

If you are just dying to read more about The Right Honourable Kim Campbell, check these out:

Image credits: Image of the 5 PMs is from the Library and Archives Canada, no restrictions on use. I was unable to find any other photos of Campbell that were free to use.

1Don’t let the word “social” in their name fool you – the Socreds were conservatives.
2That’s the riding where *I* live!
3I remember this joke going around after that election: What did the waiter say when Campbell entered the restaurant? “Kim Campbell, party of 2?”

After last week’s Canada Day break, we return today with installment #18 of my Prime Ministerial series:

Milabrianmulroney.jpg Name Martin Brian Mulroney
Born: March 20, 1939 in Baie-Comeau, Quebec
Died: not
Party: Progressive Conservative
Held Office: September 17, 1984 – June 25, 1993
Best known for: -winning the largest majority government in Canadian history in September 1984, with 211 seats

-despite this vast majority, he had to juggle a number of different types of conservatives: social conversatives from the west, nationalists from Quebec, and fiscal conservatives from Ontario & the Atlantic provinces. As well, he had to contend with a Liberal controlled Senate and his own desire to cut the spending, which hampered his ability to deliver on promises he had made.

-he really, really wanted to have Quebec included in a national agreement, as they were the only province not to sign on to the Canadian constitution negoitated by Trudeau; Mulroney negoitated the Meech Lake Accord (constitutional amendments to let Quebec get the recongition as a “distinct society” that they wanted) with the premiers, but Manitoba and Newfoundland did not ratify it; his second attempt was the Charlottetown Accord, which also did not go through, as it was defeated in a referendum in 1992

-he sold off 23 of Canada’s 61 crown corporations

-after the Air India bombing in 1985, Mulroney sent his condolences to the Prime Minister of India, which was pretty stupid considering that the majority of passengers on the flight were Canadian. Many people felt that this showed that Mulroney did not consider Indo-Canadians to be “real” Canadians. In addition, warnings from the Indian government to Mulroney’s government about terrorist threats to Air India flights and there are questions as to why these warnings were not taken more seriously.

-signed the Free Trade Agreement with the US in 1988

-introducing the Goods & Services Tax (G.S.T.) in 1991

-a worldwide recession, coupled with an attempt by the Bank of Canada (and sanctioned by Mulroney) to create zero inflation, did disasterous things to the Canadian economy; this, along with the public hating the G.S.T., the failure of the Meech Lake & Charlottetown Accords, leading to a serious downturn in support for Mulroney; Mulroney stepped down in advance of the 1993 – references were made to rats and sinking ships

-during the 1993 election, the PCs in the west broke off as the Reform Party

-the Schreiber affair

Some Things I Didn’t Know About This P.M. -he is yet another P.M. that goes by his second name.

-after falling ill, he flunked out of Dalhousie Law School in his first year; he went to Université Laval the next year.

-he failed the bar exam twice; after passing on his third try, he worked as a labour lawyer

-after losing the 1976 Progressive Conservative party leadership race, he battled depression and alcoholism; he credits his wife Mila with helping him to recover and he quit drinking in 1979

-in 1991 a magainze ran a “satirical” ad for contest to “deflower Caroline Mulroney” (Brian’s daughter)… The magazine claims it was a comment on Mulroney’s tendency to “use his daughter as a prop.” All I can say is: WTF?

-he used an “emergency clause” in the Constitution which allowed him to ask the Queen to let him appoint 8 new Senators in an “emergency” situation; many people were not happy with this interpretation of “emergency”

If you are just dying to read more about M.B.M, check these out:

Mulroney DF-SC-85-12406.jpg

Image credits: Photo of Mila & Brian greeting Pierre Trudeau is a photo in the public domain, from the Library and Archives Canada (PA-152416). The photo of Mila & Brian Mulroney at Andrew’s Air Force base in Maryland, USA is in the public domain, credit: US Department of Defenese.

Despite the fact that I was actually alive when he was Prime Minister, I don’t know much about John Turner. This is probably explained by the fact that he was the P.M. for 2.5 months when I was 7 years old.a152412.jpg

Name John Napier Wyndham Turner
Born: June 7, 1929 in Richmond, Surrey, England
Died: hasn’t
Party: Liberal
Held Office: June 30, 1984 – September 17, 1984
Best known for: -having the second shortest tenure as a P.M. (after Charles Tupper). In fact, he called an election just 4 days after being sworn into office. The party was decimated in the election, with the Liberal only winning 40 seats (their lowest number ever). In that election, Turner won the seat in Vancouver Quadra (which is *my* riding, btw) and became the leader of the (very small) opposition.-he ran for the Liberal party leadership in 1968 and said, “My time is now,” and that he was “not here for some vague, future convention in say, 1984.” Trudeau won the 1968 leadership convention handily and guess what year it was when the next leadership convention, which Turner won, was held?
Some Things I Didn’t Know About This P.M. -one of his middle names is “Napier,” making him “John Napier” and, as we all1 know, John Napier invented logarithms. John Turner, however, did not invent logarithms.-his wife, Geills McCrae Kilgour is the great-niece of John McCrae, who wrote In Flanders Fields

-in 1965 he rescued former P.M. Diefenbaker who was struggling with the undertow will swimming in Barbados

-he is in the UBC Sports Hall of Fame, having been one of the three fastest men in Canada between 1947-1949

If you are just dying to read more about J.T., check out:

  • a152415.jpg

Image credits:(First photo: Robert Cooper/Library and Archives Canada/PA-152412; second photo: Robert Cooper/Library and Archives Canada/PA-152415; both photos: Restrictions on use: Nil; Copyright: Robert Cooper.

1Where “all” = me & Sarah

Name Charles Joseph Clark
Born: June 5, 1939 in High River, Alberta
Died: hasn’t
Party: Progressive Conservative
Held Office: June 4, 1979 – March 3, 1980
Best known for: – his very short tenure as PM. His minority government was taken down by a non-confidence vote after then-NDP-Finance Critic Bob Rae attached a rider to the budget: “”this House has lost confidence in the government.” Several Tory MPs were away and the Liberals ensured that all except one of their members were there, including two who were brought from hospital by ambulance to take part in the vote.-his wife, Maureen McTeer, caused scandal (SCANDAL!) by not taking Joe’s last name when they married. Scandal I tells ya!

-being a “Red Tory” – e.g., he was the first Canadian politician to call for decriminalization of pot

-declaring that he would govern his minority government as if he had a majority. Um, yeah.

-after the decimation of the Mulroney/Campbell government, Clark again became PC party leader, but could not rebuild the party in the face ot he splitting of the right with the Reform/Alliance

-he staunchly opposed merging with the Reform/Alliance and retired after the PCs did eventually merge with the R/A

Some Things I Didn’t Know About This P.M. -according to Wikipedia, he “unsuccessful pursued” first year law school at both Dalhousie University and one of my alma maters, UBC. I’m not sure if “unsucessfully pursued” means he tried to get in and couldn’t, or if he got in and then flunked out. Looks like I may have to do more reading than just the illustrious Wikipedia on this one. {pause} OK, found it1. He went to Dalhousie for a year, then transferred to UBC, then, <quote> “concluded that law was too dull for him” <unquote>.-was given the nickname “Joe Who?” after the Toronto Star newspaper used that as their headline when Clark, a relative unknown, became leader of the Progressive Conservative party in 1976

-he is the youngest person to become Canadian PM at 39 years (1 day before his 40th birthday)

-he is the only ex-PM to later go onto be a cabinet minister (he was Secretary of State for External Affairs and Minisiter of Constituional Affairs in the Mulroney government)

-he goes by his second name (Joe). So do I. Yet another sign that I’m destined to be PM someday

If you are just dying to read more about Joe Who?, check out:

Five former P.M.s: Right Hon. Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Right Honourable John N. Turner, Right Honourable Kim Campbell, Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, and Right Honourable Joe Clark.

Image credits: Image of Clark as the marshall for the Calgary Pride Parada in 2001 is by Grant Neufeld, published under a Creative Commons license. Go Creative Commons! Image of the 5 PMs is from the Library and Archives Canada, no restrictions on use.

And now we reach a Prime Minister that I know something about. In grade 10 history class, we had to pick a Prime Minister and write an essay about them. I picked Trudeau. I remember being really pissed off at the mark I got on the essay1 and I’m pretty sure I only got such a bad mark because I said nice things about Trudeau and my teacher didn’t like him. Anyhoo, the upshot of all this is that I actually learned some stuff about him, unlike all the rest of the P.M.s, who I’m sure the teacher lectured about, but I rarely remember anything I hear in a lecture beyond the final exam. As well, resident historian Sarah, of Dief guest blog posting fame, once taped the Trudeau movie starring Colm Feore, for me. Like on a VHS tape (we are old). And I saw a Brechtian-style play called something like “Trudeau & the FLQ,” part of a series of Brechtian plays on the history of Canada, with my first year Drama class when I was at McMaster. So I know a thing or two about ole’ Pierre.

Name Joseph Philippe Pierre Yves Elliott Trudeau
Born: October 18, 1919 in Montreal, Quebec
Died: September 28, 2000
Party: Liberal
Held Office: April 20, 1968 – June 4, 1979

March 3, 1980 – June 30, 1984

Best known for: -his charisma (Trudeaumania!)

-wearing a red rose on his lapel

-doing a pirouette behind the Queen

-as Minister of Justice, he introduced a bill that, among other things, decriminalized homosexuality, saying “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation”

-as P.M., he invoked the War Measures Act during the October Crisis of 1970 (in which the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) kidnapped British Trade Consul James Cross and Quebec Labour Minister Pierre Laporte); the War Measures Act gave the government powers to arrest & detain people without trial. Another one of his famous quotations came when he was asked by the media just how far he would go to stop the FLQ; he replied, “Just watch me.”

-starting his tenure as P.M. as a bachelor, Trudeau married Margaret Sinclair, who was 30 years younger than him, in 1971; they would have three sons while Pierre was in office – Justin, Alexandre (Sasha) and Michel – and later divorce. During the eve of the 1979 election when Trudeau’s government was defeated, Margaret was seen dancing at Studio 54. If memory serves me, Margaret also ran off with the Rolling Stones at one point

-the defeat of the 1980 Quebec referendum on separation

-patriating the Canadian Constitution – before this, the Canadian Constitution was a British law and amending it required an act of the British parliament; patriation meant that Canada could now amend its own Constitution2. Also, the Charter of Rights & Freedoms was established within the Constitution at this time.

-after retiring, he continued to influence the country – e.g., he spoke out against both the Charlottetown & Meech Lake accords (attempts to amend the Constitution), both of which failed

-he is regarded by many as the father of “Western alienation” due to what the west saw as his favouring Ontario & Quebec, implementing a National Energy Program that many felt deprived the west of the benefits of their oil & gas (so mainly Alberta was pissed at this) and he gave the finger to some protesters in Salmon Arm, BC.

Some Things I Didn’t Know About This P.M. -in the 1950s he was banned from the U.S. for his lefty tendencies, a ban that he appeal and had rescinded

-His full name was Joseph Philippe Pierre Yves Elliott Trudeau (do you think he has enough names??) Usually he’s referred to as “Pierre Elliot Trudeau”)

-up until his funeral in 2000, I didn’t know that Trudeau had a daughter, with fellow lawyer Deborah Coyne

-yeah, there’s not much about Trudeau that I hadn’t already heard.

Five former P.M.s: Right Hon. Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Right Honourable John N. Turner, Right Honourable Kim Campbell, Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, and Right Honourable Joe Clark.

If you are just dying to read more about Trudeau, check out

Margaret & Pierre Trudeau, 1972

“Just watch me”: I think my favourite part is the part where he says “bleeding hearts.”

1It was an 80%. And I didn’t get 80%s back then, so I was not impressed.
2The whole story behind the patriation of the Constitution could be a blog posting in and of itself. And I’m sure there’s been eleventy billion books written on the topic, so if you are interested, go read one of those.

Image credits: Trudeau in the crowd and Margaret & Pierre photos are from the Library and Archives Canada, copyright was assigned to Library & Archives Canada by copyright owner Duncan Cameron and there are no restrictions on the use of these photos. The picture of the 5 P.M.s is also from the Library & Archives Canada, no restrictions on use.

Today’s installment of my prime ministerial series brings us to Lester B. Pearson. I also didn’t have a guest writer on this one, so it’s back to me ripping off Wikipedia and the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.

Lester B. Pearson with a pencil.jpg

Name Lester Bowles “Mike” Pearson
Born: April 23, 1897 in Newtonbrook, Ontario
Died: December 27, 1972
Party: Liberal
Held Office: April 22, 1963 – April 20, 1968
Best known for: – won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for “for his role in defusing the Suez Crisis through the United Nations”1-he is considered the creator of the concept of peacekeeping

-the Toronto aiport is named after him

-the most outstanding player in the regular season of the NHL, as voted by the NHL Players Association, is awarded the Lester B. Pearson Award. Won by such notables as Wayne Gretsky, Phil Esposito, Bobby Orr, Steve Yzerman and Mario Lemieux, the award this year went to the young and talented Sidney Crosby.

-he was the Prime Minister during Canada’s Centennial

-3 of his cabinet ministers (Trudeau, Turner and Chrétien) and the son of one of his other cabinet ministers (Martin) would go on to become PMs themselves

Some Things I Didn’t Know About This P.M. -despite holding only minority government, his governments were able to introduce:

-universal health care (which I (and other Canadians) am (are) very fortunate to be able to access)

-student loans (which I was very glad to have access to….grants would have been better, but student loans did make it possible for me to go to school, which I would not have been able to do without them).

-the Canada Pension Plan (which I will some day be living on)

– the current Canadian flag (which I happen to quite like)

-the Order of Canada (which I plan to be awarded with one day, for my sheer awesomeness)

-he was a frat boy

-he married his student who he was apparently engaged to *before* the end of the term in which he was teaching her!

-he played (and coached) a whole bunch of sports, including hockey (hence the whole NHL trophy being named after him and all)

-he was given the nickname “Mike” when he was a pilot in “Royal Flying Corps” (apparently we didn’t yet have the “Royal Canadian Air Force”); his flight instructor thought the name “Lester” was “too mild” for a pilot

-as a public servent, he dissented to King’s “rejoicing” over the 1938 Munich agreement2 between Hitler and Brit PM Chamberlain (as well as Italy & France); he felt that Hitler’s Germany “does indeed stand for savagery and barbarism” and “I have a feeling they’re going to do a lot of mischief before they are exorcised.”

-he started Royal Commissions on the Status of Women and on Bilingualism (both of which he was not)

-he unified the Air Force, Navy and Army into a single service: the Canadian Armed Forces

-he created the “world’s first race-free immigration system,” getting rid of previous systems that had discriminated against, for example, Jewish and Chinese people

If you are just dying to read more about Pearson, check out:

Ice hockey 1922.jpg

That’s Pearson at front right, playing hockey for
Oxford University (vs. Switzerland) in 1922. According to Wikipedia,
the Swiss referred to him as “Herr Zig-Zag”)

2The Munich Agreement, signed by Nazi Germany, Britian, France and Italy, allowed Germany to annex Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland. Notice that Czechoslovakia is not on the list of people signing the agreement – they weren’t even invited to the table! The majority of the people in Sudetenland were ethnic German, but the area had become part of Czechoslovakia after WWI and Czechoslovakia had much of its border defences in that area.

Image credits: The pictures are from the Library and Archives Canada, copyright is expired.

Today’s installment of my prime ministerial series was generously written by guest blog writer and our resident Canadian historian here on Not To Be Trusted With Knives, Sarah. Which explains why, unlike the ones I write, this posting contains more than just a rip-off of the Wikipedia entry. Thanks, Sar!

John George DiefenbakerCommons.jpg

13th Prime Minister of Canada

Born: September 18, 1895 in Neustadt, ON

Died: August 16, 1979 in Ottawa, ON (buried in SK)

In office: June 21, 1957 to April 22, 1963

Nicknames: “The Chief”, “Dief”, “The Prairie Populist”

The Essential Dief

Previous Occupation: Criminal Defense Lawyer

Federal Ridings: Lake Centre, SK (riding abolished in 1953) and Prince Albert, SK

Best Known For: Bombastic speeches (which MP Eugene Forsey likened to “loud detonations in a dense fog”); enormous jowls

Famous Quotes:

“I’ll have my place in history.”

My baby cows will soon know how to shit.” – delivered in French, while attempting to say “I hope my wishes will be well-received.”

Most Famous Quote:

“Canadians have an appointment with Destiny!” – said with great fanfare to cheering throngs. “What did it mean? No one knew, but it didn’t matter. It was Destiny! And we had an appointment!” – Will Ferguson.

Early Political Record, by the Numbers

Local politics

  • 1 win – alderman, 1920

  • 2 losses – alderman re-election, 1923; mayor of Prince Albert, 1933

Provincial Politics

  • 0 wins (though became leader of SK Conservatives in 1936)

  • 3 losses -1929, 1933 and 1938 as leader, where the Conservatives lost every single seat

Federal Politics

  • 1 win (finally, in 1940)

  • 2 losses (1925, 1926)

Overall Record over 20 years: 2-6, .250

Attempts to assume leadership roles with federal Conservatives

  • 1942, party leader – Loss

  • 1943, house leader – Loss

  • 1948, party leader – Loss

  • 1953, house leader – Loss

  • 1956, party leader – WIN

  • 1957 federal election – SURPRISE WIN (due to general displeasure at long-standing Liberal rule)

  • 1958 federal election – Largest majority in history (only surpassed by Brian Mulroney in 1984)

After 47 years in the wilderness, Dief had arrived. However, as Peter C. Newman wrote: “[He] came to the toughest job in the country without having worked for anyone but himself, without ever having hired or fired anyone, and without ever having administered anything more complicated than a walk-up law office.”

Prime Ministerial Career Highlights

  • Extended right to vote to First Nations (then known as “Status Indians”)

  • Appointed first francophone Governor General: Georges Vanier

  • Repealed discriminatory immigration barriers put in place by Mackenzie-King and maintained by St. Laurent

Prime Ministerial Career Lowlights

  • “15 % Promise” to Great Britain

Basking in the rosy glow of his first Commonwealth leaders’ meeting, Diefenbaker decreed, without consulting his advisors or his Cabinet, that Canada would divert 15% of its total trade to the UK. This 15%, apparently chosen on a whim, represented $625 million a year, and stood in direct violation of the 1947 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Even his supporters were aghast, and insisted he back down. To salvage something, the UK proposed a Free Trade Agreement. Diefenbaker’s Cabinet strongly recommended against it as well, and the 15% figure never came up again. Relations between the UK and Canada were strained for years.

  • Canadian “Bill of Rights”

Viewed by Diefenbaker as his crowing achievement, this bill was introduced in 1960. Though a noble idea, the bill was an ordinary federal statute (and not part of the yet-to-be-patriated Canadian Constitution), and was unenforceable in provincial courts. As one provincial official quipped: “It’s great, unless you live in one of the provinces.”

  • Canceling the Avro Arrow Project

The Avro Arrow, a super-sonic, Canadian-made fighter plane, was designed by A.V. Roe Canada of Malton, ON. Magnificent and expensive, it was intended to protect Canada from Soviet Missile attacks via the Arctic. Cancelled on Friday, February 20th, 1959 (“Black Friday” in the Canadian aviation industry), it led to a mass exodus of Canadian engineering ingenuity and signaled the end of home-grown military development.

  • Bomarc Missile Debacle (as per Will Ferguson in Bastards and Boneheads)

“[Diefenbaker] accepted nuclear weapons onto Canadian soil by accident. Having cancelled the Avro Arrow, Diefenbaker purchased American Bomarc surface-to-air missiles in its stead, without realizing that (a) Bomarcs were designed to carry nuclear warheads, and (b) he had vowed to keep Canada a nuclear-free zone. Once these simple facts were pointed out to him, Diefenbaker frantically tried to come up with a solution. He ended up stuffing the Bomarcs with sandbags of ballast, making them the world’s most expensive blanks: $685 million worth of duds. His defense minister quit in disgust, and in the ensuing election, Diefenbaker was defeated.”

Links: (most unflattering photo ever)

Image credit: From from the Library and Archives Canada, copyright is expired.  I could only seem to find copyright free photos of young Dief, so be sure to check out the “most unflattering photo ever” in the link above).

After doing some research, I conclude that Louis St. Laurent rivals Sir Arthur Meighen for the title of “Captain Boring.” For example, unlike Richard Bedford Bennett, none of St. Laurent’s online biographies refer to his penis. Before writing today’s post, I had this vague notion that Louis St. Laurent was one of the more exciting Canadian Prime Ministers, but now I think I may have had him mixed up in my head with Louis Riel¹. So, apologies in advance for the boringosity. I’ll make it up to you next week, with my post on Dief.a125907.jpg

Name Louis-Étienne St. Laurent
Born: February 1, 1882 in Compton, Quebec
Died: July 25 1973
Party: Liberal
Held Office: November 15, 1948 – June 21, 1957
Best known for: -first PM to live at 24 Sussex Drive-as a post-war PM, he took the tax surplus that were no longer needed for war and paid down Canada’s debt from WWI, WWII and the Great Depression-the he put money into a bunch of social programs: the Canada Council (supports the arts), Hospital Insurance (prelude to Medicare), old age pensions, family allowances, support for postsecondary education

-oversaw Canada’s involvement in the Korean War

Some Things I Didn’t Know About This P.M. -didn’t enter politics until he was almost 60 years old-he seemed to be a big player in the conscription crisis of 1944 – King brought him into the government as the Minister of Justice and Attorney General and he support King’s introduction of conscription, which wasn’t popular with Quebec and so required a Quebecer like St. Laurent to help deal with it-he was one of the leaders in establishing NATO

-oversaw the entry of Newfound into Confederation in 1949

-his government introduced Equalization Payments (redistribution of taxes among provinces so the rich provinces help out the poorer ones)

-I always thought of St. Laurent as being from waaaay back in the long, long, long distant past. But my parents were alive when he became P.M. That’s really not that long ago.

If you are just dying to read more about L.S.L. (although I can’t imagine why you would), check out:


St. Laurent & Churchill

¹If there’s a special place in hell for people who don’t know their Canadian history, I’m totally going there.

Image credits: From from the Library and Archives Canada, copyright is expired.

{May 4, 2008}   P.M. #11 – The Viscount

OK, now that I’ve winnowed my 3 jobs down to just 1.3 jobs1, I have time again for such things as writing my “weekly” prime ministerial blog entry. Also, I’m in the process of suckering in Sarah, the resident Canadian historian here on NTBTWK, to spice up at least one entry in my P.M. series as a guest co-blogger, as opposed to just adding her comments, which are more informative & insightful than my actual postings, on these postings, as she is wont to do. Everyone tell Sarah how much we love and want to hear her info on Dief, and/or any other PMs, k?

And now, on to the 11th Prime Minister of Canada, The Right Honourable Viscount Richard Bedford Bennett.

RBBennett and sister.jpg

Name Richard Bedford2 Bennett
Born: July 3, 1870 in Hopewell Hill, New Brunswick
Died: June 26, 1947
Party: Conservative
Held Office: August 7, 1930 – October 23, 1935
Best known for: -he was the PM during the Great Depression. Sucks to be him.-he didn’t like Communists.-during the Depression, when people couldn’t afford gas for their cars, they had their cars pulled around by houseshorses. These were referred to as “Bennett Buggies.” With the current price of gas and people’s penchant for SUVs, I’m anticipating the debut of “Harper Hummers” any day now.

-he was filthy, stinking rich, but seemed to have given quite a bit to charity

-in the end, the Depression defeated him (politically)

Some Things I Didn’t Know About This P.M. -he was a high school principal at age 18

-he was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories in 1898 (this, mind you, was when the NWT made up much more of the country than it does today); when Alberta was carved out of the NWT to become a province, Bennett became the first leader of the Alberta Conservative Party

-he moved to federal politics in 1911… but led the Alberta Tories in a provincial election in 1913.. but he didn’t win so he just kept his seat in Ottawa instead

-he never married. Why not? According to his biography in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, “phimosis, a tight foreskin that could be very painful at erection.” Also, it is speculated that his penis problems kept him from joining the army, specifically: “a fibrous thickening of the penile shaft creating a distinct bend and at erection discomfort.” I’m not sure why this would keep one from military service, but there you have it.

-he retired to Britain and was made a Viscount, the first and only Canadian PM to do so. Be made a Viscount, I mean. I have no idea if any other PMs retired to Britain.

-he is the only Canadian PM not buried in Canada. Well, of the dad PMs, anyway.

In the Dictionary of Canadian Biography’s online entry about Bennett, I read this amusing quotation: “Bennett was that rare being, a successful Alberta Conservative…”3 Perhaps that was true of the day, but since I know little of Canadian history and am really only familiar with the present context in Alberta, I find it hilarious. Also, funny, is this quotation, which I take out of its context for comedic purposes: “. He was a wizard…”4 Seriously, folks, the Right Honourable Viscount Richard Bedford Bennett was a wizard. You heard it hear first.

If you are just dying to read more about the Viscount5


Um, what are you looking at, Mr. Bennett?

Image credits: From from the Library and Archives Canada, copyright is expired.

1Just to clarify, I haven’t lost any jobs, but rather had a few part-time jobs that had limited lifespans. Contracts, if you will. The 0.3 refers to my best estimates of the job equivalents of wrapping up the last bits of these jobs, if that makes any sense.
2Hey Jen, any relation?
3, paragraph #12
4, paragraph #17
5No relation to The Count

et cetera