Not To Be Trusted With Knives

This is why I’ve spent so much time lately explaining to dozens of people what a “constitional monarchy” and a “Parliamentary democracy” are.  A recent survey shows that:

Canadians don’t understand political system: survey

Only 24% of those surveyed knew that the Queen of England is Canada’s head of state (not the Prime Minister and not the Governor General [GG]).

A majority (59%) knew that the Canadian government is a “constitutional monarchy,” but that still means that 41% didn’t know that. (The survey doesn’t appear to have asked them if they know what “constitutional monarchy” means, which seems to me like it should be important!)

On the bright side, most people surveyed (90%) knew that the GG can refuse a Prime Minister’s request for a new election.

But then 51% thought that we directly elect the Prime Minister, which, of course, we do not.  This is kind of funny for two reasons.  First, 90% know that the GG can refuse a PM’s request for a new election, but only 49% knew that we don’t elect a PM directly.  So how, exactly, do the other 41%1 think we get a new PM without an election?  Second, how can people really think we directly elect the PM as, when you get your ballot on election day, you see a list of candidates for Member of Parliament in your riding, not a list of candidates for Prime Minister. And even if you are in, say, Stephen Harper’s riding, you aren’t going to see Stéphane Dion’s, Jack Layton’s, Gilles Duceppe’s or Elizabeth May’s name on the ballot, since they all run in different ridings.  So you can’t elect the PM directly since you aren’t given that option on your ballot!

But then, how can we expect the average Canadian to understand our system of government when the Prime Minister himself doesn’t.  He continues to say that the Liberal-NDP coaltion is trying to “”overthrow” the government” and that the NDP and the Bloc have been “planning to overturn the results of the election ever since election night.” (Source).  Unless the NDP and the Bloc were trying to remove the MPs who were elected (which even Stephen Harper isn’t actually saying), they weren’t trying to overturn the election results.  The election results only give you your 308 MPs – after that, those 308 MPs get to determine in whom they have confidence to run the government.  Sorry, Mr. Harper. You weren’t elected as Prime Minister by the people of Canada, because the people of Canada don’t directly elect a PM!

1i.e., the 41% who know that the GG can refuse the PM’s request for a new election but also think we directly elect our PM.

Good news for the federal Liberals – Ujjal Dosanjh1 retained his Vancouver South riding, which he has held since June 2004, following a recount. A former Premier of BC, Donsanjh won his federal riding in this month’s election by a mere 33 votes, prompting a recount. After the dust settled, he still won but with a vote margin of only 22 votes!

Donsanjh retaining his seat makes me happy for a few reasons (1) if he’d lost the recount, the seat would have gone to the Conservative* (and you know how I feel about the Conservatives*), (2) had the Conservative* won the recount, this would have given an urban Vancouver seat to them (and one of the small consolations of this election had been that the Conservatives were yet again shut out the 3 major cities), and (3) I like Ujjal2.

I also noticed in the CBC article about the recount that Donsanjh has “not ruled out a run for the party leadership.”  And as I read that, it kind of hit me – we’ve never had a Prime Minister who wasn’t white. I mean, you hear so much about the issues of race and gender in the US presidential election (what with the US being on the verge of electing a black president who beat out a women for the Democratic nomination). But what about us? Aren’t we supposed to be this great multicultural country? We’ve had one token female Prime Minister – who wasn’t elected as such but became PM very briefly when the rat left the sinking shipBrain Mulroney resigned and Campbell won the Tory party leadership. And we’ve NEVER HAD A PRIME MINISTER WHO WASN’T WHITE. In this election, there wasn’t a single party Leader who wasn’t white3. Same goes for last election – all white party leaders. What is up with that Canada?

It made me wonder if we’ve *ever* had a federal party leader – like one with a real shot of becoming the PM – who wasn’t white. I couldn’t think of anyone off hand. I even consulted with my Resident Historian, Sarah – and she didn’t know of any either, at least in recent history.  Does anyone out there know of any?  And if not, why not?  What gives, Canada?

1I don’t think he has enough Js in his name.
2At least what I know of him. I’m hesitant to say I really *like* a politician for fear that they will just let me down later (John Edwards, I’m looking in your direction.)
3I’m talking about the five big parties here. I suppose it’s possible that the leaders of the Marxist-Leninist Party or (formerly the Rhinoceros Party) weren’t white, but I’m only talking about people with even a remote chance of becoming a PM.

Photo credit: Photo by Roland Tanglao, posted on Flickr with a Creative Commons license.

… goes to Jack Layton for saying to Stephen Harper: “Where’s the platform, under the sweater1?”

Is anyone else dismayed by the fact that Harper has not issued his party platform?

How, exactly, can you run an election campaign without letting the public know what your plan is?  Even more mind-boggling than that is: polls show the platform-less Harper is in the lead!

1The “sweater” comments refers to the fact that Harper is wearing sweaters in his campaign ads to “soften his image.” You know, his image as a compassionate-less robot would would ignore someone who just fainted.

As the election1 approaches, I’m starting to get a little frightened. Polls are suggesting we may end up with a Conservative* majority.

George Strombo invited all the party leaders to be interviewed on his show, The Hour.  Not surprisingly, Stephen Harper has REFUSED to go on the show.  Harper appears to be frightened by the thought of people hearing what he or his party members say unless it’s under very tightly controlled circumstances. He avoids talking to the media (other than handpicked reporters who will ask the questions Harper tells them to) and the public as much as possible.  Strombo is an excellent interviewer – he cuts through the bullshit and asks some really direct questions – and I’m sure Harper would be way too terrified to be asked real questions.

If you are at all interested in the federal election, be sure to check out the interviews with each of the leaders EXCEPT scaredy cat Harper (and possibly not Gilles Duceppe):

And you definitely have to check out this clip of Strombo inviting Harper to come on to The Hour:

A few random interesting things I learned from these interviews:

  • Jack Layton’s great granduncle was a Father of Confederation and his dad was Conservative minister under Brian Mulroney.
  • Elizabeth May was an adviser to Brian Mulroney’s government!2
  • Elizabeth May is working on a degree in Theology.
  • I’ve heard this before from a number of sources, and Elizabeth May and Stéphane Dion both allude to it in their interviews – Stephen Harper is a micro-managing control freak.  In response to Conservatives’* accusation that the Liberals plan to raise the GST, Dion said: “Mr. Harper wants to control everything, to the point that he would like to write the Liberal platform.” Dion states that the Liberals won’t raise the GST, nor will they go into deficit.  Their plan is to lower income tax and replace the difference with a tax on pollution.

Also worth watching is this video showing Stephen Harper giving a speech that was plagiarized from Australian Prime Minister John Howard, and comparing it to Howard giving the speech:


Another interesting site worth checking out is Vote for the Environment.  As shown there, if people were willing to vote strategically, we could avoid a Harper government at all (let alone a Harper majority):

If those of us who care about the environment don’t work together across party lines, the pro-environment vote will be split as it was in the last election and Harper will be re-elected.

We are the majority. But our electoral system hasn’t kept up with Canada’s changing political landscape.” (Vote for the Environment)

The site will show you “which candidate in your riding supports action against global warning AND has the best chance of winning”3

Rebecca recently posted a summary of the candidates in her riding, Vancouver Centre, and has inspired me to do the same.  So look forward to a summary of the Vancouver Quadra candidates here, probably on Monday.  In the meantime, what are your thoughts on the Canadian federal election?  Are you going to be voting strategically?

1The Canadian federal one. The US presidential one, Vancouver municipal one and then, not too far after those, the BC provincial one, are all also approaching, of course, but first up is the Canadian feds.
2What’s with all the lefties having ties to Mulroney?
3There’s a video on the site explaining “how it works” and this quotation is taken from that video. To watch the video, go to their site and click on “Vote smart so the majority wins – FIND OUT HOW HERE.”

The * is there in recognition of the fact that Stephen Harper’s “Conservative” party is not the real “Conservative” party… it’s the Reform-Party-cum-Canadian-Alliance-in-Tory-clothing.

Watch as someone on stage with Stephen Harper faints and Harper shows no compassion, no human emotion whatsoever:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Stephen Harper is a Dick – SPIKE“, posted with vodpod


Robot, much?

And why didn’t I see this in the news?

UPDATE: VodPod FAIL!!! Using VodPod to embed the Harper clip isn’t working – it keeps embedding some random weatherman! For the real clip, go here.

{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.

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?”

While working on my Prime Ministerial Series, I’ve noticed that several of our Prime Ministers go by something other than their real first name:

  • Wilfrid Laurier’s name was Henri-Charles-Wilfred
  • Lester B. Pearson went by the nickname “Mike”
  • Pierre Trudeau’s name was really Joseph Philippe Pierre Yves Elliott
  • Joe Clark’s first name is Charles
  • Brian Mulroney’s first name is Martin
  • Kim Campbell’s first name is Avril (she gave herself the nickname “Kim”)
  • Jean Chrétien’s name is Joseph Jacques Jean

That’s 7 of 22.  Or 32% for you mathophiles.  Is it just me, or does that seem unusually high?  What percentage of the general population goes by something other than their real first name?

I’m particularly aware of people not going by their own first names because I’m one of them.  My name, as many of you know, is Mary Elizabeth, but I’ve been referred to as “Beth” since the day I was born.  I think I was in kindergarten by the time I found out that Beth wasn’t actually my name.  My parents named me “Mary” after both my grandmothers, but then thought it would be too confusing to have a third “Mary” running around, so decided to refer to me as Beth.  Because, you know, having documents say your name is “Mary” when everyone knows you as “Beth” isn’t confusing at all. </sarcasm>.

My ex-husband also goes by his second name, as he shares his first name with his dad and his parents had the same “it would be confusing to have two Williams” excuse.  My grandpa is Charles Desmond and goes by Des, one of my cousins is Desmond Andrew and goes by Andy1. My good friend Therese also goes by her second name and, to further complicate things, both she and her sister share the same first name (Grace Therese and Grace Elaine). When my sister was pregnant, I told her that I didn’t care what they named their baby, so long as they called her whatever her name actually was2.

So, the questions are: Do you go by your first name?  If not, why not?  Would you give you kid one name and then call them something else?  If yes, why oh why would you do that?

1I also have three cousins named Robert, but that is neither here nor there.
2For a little while after she was born, we actually referred to my niece Madeline as “Meg” as her initials are “M.H.Z.” or “MHz” – megahertz, hence the short-form, “Meg.” But then my sister decided she better start actually referring to her as “Madeline” so she would know what her real name is!

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.

While writing my Lester B. Pearson posting on the weekend, a line in the Pearson biography in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online stuck out to me: “[L.B. Pearson’s wife] Maryon is one of the most interesting of the Canadian prime ministerial wives.” Apparently she was known for such barbed comments as “Behind every successful man there is a surprised woman.”

This is something that I’ve noticed before – in Canada, we don’t tend to focus on Prime Ministerial (or PM candidate’s) wives the way that they do with presidential wives in the US. Hell, they are even given a title – “First Lady” – in the US. Honestly, the only ones whose name I can even think of off the top of my head are Margaret Trudeau and Mila Mulroney. I have a sneaking suspicion that Paul Martin’s wife was named Sheila, and Jean Chrétien‘s wife, Alene¹, but other than that, I couldn’t tell you. I haven’t the faintest idea what Harper’s wife’s name is. Conversely, I know of Laura Bush, Lynn Cheney, Hiliary Clinton (obviously), Tipper Gore, Barbara Bush, Nancy Reagan, Marilyn Qualye, Jackie Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt and Martha Washington²… and those are just off the top of my head!

I rather like that politicians’ wives aren’t focussed on here because, really, women are more than just an appendage of their husbands³ and should be free to do their own thing even if their husband happens to be the PM.  I mean, of course they are going to be involved, but focusing on a candidate’s/president’s wife to the extent that they do in the US (I’m remember the cookie bake off between Hilliary Clinton & Barbara Bush during the 1992 US presidential election) just rubs me the wrong way.

OK, now that I’ve been thinking about this (but clearly don’t have anything all that coherent to say on the matter), I’ve been tooling around through Wikipedia and have learned the following things:

  • you can’t call the wife of a Prime Minister the “First Lady” because technically the “First Lady” would be the Queen or queen consort
  • the wife of the Vice President is known as the “Second Lady”
  • the mirror term for “First Lady” used when the spouse of the President is male is “First Gentleman”
  • the Wikipedia entry on “Spouses of the Prime Ministers of Canada” is fairly short, but did answer two of my previous questions4

There, don’t you feel so well informed now?

¹no idea on the spelling of that one
²not to mention Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton (again, obviously), Cindy McCain, Teresa Heinz Kerry, Elizabeth Edwards… well, you get the point!
³should they chose to have one
4The spelling of Chrétien’s wife’s name is “Aline” and Harper’s wife is Laureen.

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.

et cetera