Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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

I B in ur internets, writin’ abt ur Prime Ministrs.


Name William Lyon Mackenzie King
Born: December 17, 1874 in Berlin (now Kingston), ON
Died: July 22, 1950
Party: Liberal
Held Office: December 29, 1921 – June 28, 1926September 25, 1926 – August 6, 1930

October 23, 1935 – November 15, 1948

Best known for: -With more than 21 years as P.M., he was not only the longest serving Canadian Prime Minister, but the longest serving Prime Minister in the history of the British Commonwealth!-He led Canada through WWII.

-He was big into exerting Canadian autonomy – arguing for greater autonomy at the Imperial Conference of 1926, deciding that Parliament would vote before Canada went to war, and creating the idea of Canadian citizens (as opposed to British subjects) with the Citizenship Act of 1946.

-He held seances to talk to, among other people, his dead mother. Oh yeah, and his dead dogs.

-He’s on the $50 bill.

Some Things I Didn’t Know About This P.M. -Mackenize was one of his given names, not part of his last name (although it was his mother’s maiden name, so you can see where the confusion comes from)-his little brother’s name was Dougal MacDougall King. Who the hell names their kid Dougall MacDougall?

-he won the first ever Liberal Leadership Convention, which was held in 1919. All the Liberal Party leaders before that were chosen by the party caucus.

-he was never married and had no children… that he knows about.

-he led the first ever minority government in Canadian history.

-he introduced old age pensions

-in 1930, he appointed the first ever female senator, Cairine Wilson, in Canadian history

-he created the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in 1936 and the National Film Board (NFB) in 1938 (yay CBC & NFB!). He also created the precursor to Air Canada (called Trans-Canadian Airlines) in 1937. I’m pretty sure it’s not actually his fault that Air Canada sucks so bad.

-he expanded the National Research Council, mostly with nuclear research

-4 jackass things that Mackenzie King did:

  1. Investigating narcotics in Vancouver after riots in Vancouver’s Chinatown & Japantown led to claims for damages by opium manufacturers, King freaked out that white women, not just Chinese men, were using opium. He then started a process that led to the first anti-narcotic legislation in Canada. Now, I’m not saying that I think narcotics should be legal, but rather I’m calling Mackenzie King a jackass for this racist behaviour.
  2. Speaking of racists, he said this about Adolf Friggin Hilter “I believe the world will yet come to see a very great man – mystic in Hitler […] His dictatorship is a means to and end – much needed perhaps to make the Germans conscious of themselves – much I cannot abide in Nazism – the regimentation – cruelty – oppression of Jews – attitude towards religion, etc., but Hitler him, the peasant will rank some day with Joan of Arc among the deliverers of his people, & if he is careful may yet be the deliverer of Europe.”(right from his journal, March 27, 1938, p. 4). Awesome.
  3. The limitation of immigration of Jewish people trying to escape the Holocaust under his government. It was consistent with other governments of the day, but that doesn’t make it right.
  4. His government interned Japanese-Canadians on the west coast, giving Japanese-Canadians 24 hrs to pack and get out and then sold all their property & possessions.

You can read William Lyon Mackenzie King’s diaries online! God, I hope my journal never ends up online1.
If you are just dying to read more about W.L.M.K. written by people who have read his diaries, then check these out:

I like top hats.

And if you think that reading is for suckers, you can watch this.

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

1Yeah, I keep a journal, where I write all the juicy stuff that I don’t want y’all on the internets to read about!

After a short, hockey-related hiatus, our prime ministerial series is back in action! Back in action with the like the most boringest P.M. ever! Meet Arthur Meighen, the P.M. who appears to have done, to use a phrase of my mom’s, shit buggar all¹ during the very brief periods that he occupied the office of the P.M.

Arthur Meighen

Name Arthur Meighen
Born: Anderson, ON in June 16, 1874
Died: August 5, 1960
Party: Conservative, Unionist
Held Office: July 10, 1920 – Dec 29, 1921 andJune 19, 1926 – Sept 25, 1926
Best known for: -first P.M. born after Confederation-first & only P.M. to represent a riding in Manitoba (despite the fact that he was born and lived in Ontario for most of his life)
Some Things I Didn’t Know About This P.M. -he became rivals with William Lyon Mackenzie King when they were both at the University of Toronto, long before either became P.M.-as Minister of the Interior, he played an important role in the legislation that resulted in creating the Canadian National Railway

-as the Secretary of State for Canada, he was responsible for conscription in 1917 and in 1919 he helped to forceably quashed the Winnipeg General Strike (this guys so does not sound like my kind of guy)

-as P.M., he appears to have done jack squat.

-at the end of both of his terms as P.M., not only was Meighen’s party defeated, but he was lost his own seat in the both elections (ha ha!)

Well, I was as bored writing that as I’m sure you were reading it. But if, for some inexpicable reason, you are just dying to read more about Arthur Meighen, you can go to these places:


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

¹”Shit buggar all” means “absolutely nothing.”

I am so ridiculously tired.  I don’t think that I have recovered from the sleep deprivation that is Las Vegas.  But I just wanted to say that this week’s installment of my prime ministerial series was preempted by all the exciting hockey action.  And I’m just too freaking busy to write up the next P.M. during this week (because those postings, unlike ones such as this one where I just ramble off the top of my head, actually take some time to research and write up), so I’ve made the executive decision to skip this week and then resume the series next Sunday.  Because it’s my blog, dammit, and I make the rules!  Also, this gives the opposition parties one extra week to force an election so that when I get to the last Prime Minister in the series, it will a new and un-sucky one!  Are you listening, Stephane Dion??

{April 7, 2008}   Hockey Tournament Recap

This is our goalie, Megs, at dinner on our first night in Vegas. Her shirt (and she had those shirts made up for everyone on the team because she *totally friggin’ rocks*!) pretty much sums up our weekend at the Lady Luck Cup hockey tournament in Las Vegas.

Highlights of the trip:

  • the U.S. border guard who asked us to explain what a “hockey tournament” is. Seriously.
  • these randoms from Ottawa who met some of our team on the Thursday night showed up to watch our game on Saturday morning. Apparently when it’s 6 a.m. and you are still in the casino after a night of drinking and gambling an idea like “hey, we should go watch those girls play hockey!” sounds like such a good idea that you wake your friends up and drag them off to the arena. Unfortunately, these dudes ended up at the wrong arena¹ and after a $100+ cab ride trying to find the arena, they showed up after our game had ended. We let them ride back to the Strip on the bus with us² and I’m sure that at this very moment, they are bragging to all their friends “… and then we were on the bus with a hockey team full of hot chicks!”
  • Speaking of $100+ cab rides, one of our players accidentally paid $109 for a $10 cab ride by mistaking a $100 for a $1 bill³. She more than made up for it, though, by winning $2300 on friggin’ slot machines!
  • The buffet at Paris was so ridiculously awesome. Crème brûlée4 to die for!
  • Picture this: there’s about 2 minutes left in our first game, we are down like 9-0 and our one an only fan yells out at the top of his lungs, “There’s plenty of time left!”
  • Apparently the other teams in the tournament, all of whom were from Canada btw5, went to Vegas to actually play hockey. We, however, thought the competition had more to do with maximizing the consumption of alcohol containing beverages while minimizing the number of hours slept. Thus, things like going to the arena, putting on our gear or moving in such a way as would result in skating-like motions/stick handling/shooting pucks anywhere near the opposing team’s net were not among our favourite events of the weekend. Some of our more stellar moves in the tournament included:
    • when our two defenceman were fighting over who had to go and get the puck: “No, you go and get it.” “No, YOU go and get it.”
    • the defenceman who would just stand and wave at the other team as they went by on a breakaway. Buh-bye!
    • the way the goalie would break out into laughter every time the other team scored. She was to explain later that her thought process was something like this: “Oh hey, there goes a puck. Wait, I was supposed to stop that, wasn’t I?”
  • At the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay5 they let me touch a stingray!

Lowlights of the trip:

  • Nuh uh! What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, so you aren’t getting any of the good dirt from me here!

I’m relatively certain that I’m forgetting a tonne of other things (some of which I’m not even intentionally leaving out to protect the, uh, innocent), but I’m way exhausted and must go to sleep RIGHT NOW! If I remember anything else of note, I’ll post an update. Srsly, must sleep now!

¹Who knew that Vegas had more than one arena. Or, as they like to call them, “ice centres.”
²Which may or may not have been because they bought us a couple of cases of beer.
³Stupid American money that all looks the same!
4No relation to Gilbert.
5Seriously, we went to Vegas to play teams from BC and Alberta. There was a team from Saskatchewan in the women’s division, but we didn’t play them.
6Check out my photos from the Aquarium, including some person dipping their 5-year-old into the tank to touch the sting rays, here.

What could be more Canadian than watching a hockey game while you write a blog post about the Prime Minister who led Canada through the First World War?


Name Sir Robert Laird Borden
Born: June 26, 1854 in Grand Pre, Nova Scotia
Died: June 10, 1937
Party: Conservative, Unionist
Held Office: October 10, 1911 – July 10, 1920
Best known for: – led Canada through WWI, and introduced the War Measures Act1 in 1914-introduced Income Tax as a “temporary measure”2-believing that Canada had earned its stripes as a nation on the battlefields of WWI, he demanded (and got) a seat for Canada at the Paris Peace Conference, the right to sign the Treaty of Versailles and membership in the League of Nations

-his face is on the Canadian $100 bill

Some Things I Didn’t Know About This P.M. -he was the last Canadian P.M. born before Confederation-he was the last Canadian P.M. to be knighted-he was a Freemason

-for the election of 1917, he create the “Unionist” party, which was essentially some Conservatives and some Liberals who supported conscription (i.e., a military draft)

-between 1914 & 1917, 8500+ Eastern Europeans were interned in concentration camps in Canada. So not cool.

-the National Research Council of Canada was created during his first term3

If you are just dying to read more about the last of the Sirs, check out these links:


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

1I remember learning about the War Measures Act in high school history class when we learned about the October Crisis.
2I joke about Income Tax but, honestly, I’m perfectly happy to pay it. In exchange, I get health care, education, and all sorts of other nifty things.
3As a researcher, I’m partial to this kind of thing.
4The Office of the Prime Minister site has very little information on each P.M. Also, I hate going to that site because I have to look at the ugly mug of the current P.M.

So, Dave pointed out that if you click on any of my tags at the bottom on my posts, it doesn’t take you to just the things that I’ve tagged with that word or term, but to anything that any WordPress user has tagged with that word or term. Boo-urns! Do any of my geek readers know how to fix this (aside from telling me to buy a Mac… which seems to be my geek friends’ answer to any computer-related question)? You can click on the words in my “Category Cloud” on the side bar on the right side of the screen and that will take you to just the things that I’ve used that tag on, but since the “Category Cloud” doesn’t have all my tags (I’m assuming it only has the ones I’ve used the most), that doesn’t help me get to all my Prime Minister series postings.

Well, all that to say, I’ve created a page that will have links to all of my successful P.M. postings. You can find it here. It’s also on my vastly overloaded sidebar. You’re welcome, fans of Canadian Prime Ministers.

So, to review, since the whole point of this series is for me to memorize the list of all the Prime Ministers in Canadian history (because you just never know when that type of information will come in handy, right?) and since I’ve been bored to tears by the last few, making it hard to remember who all they were, we’ve now covered Sir John A. Macdonald, Alexander Mackenzie, Sir John Abbott, Sir John Thompson, Sir Mackenzie Bowell and Sir Charles Tupper. Three out of six named John and two out of six with Alexander in their name (the “A” in John A is for Alexander) and two out of six with Mackenzie in their name – no wonder if so hard to keep them straight!

OK, now, onto the 7th Prime Minister of Canada, Sir Wilfrid Laurier.


Name Sir Henri-Charles-Wilfrid Laurier
Born: November 20, 1841 in Saint-Lin, Canada East (now: Saint-Lin-Laurentides, Quebec)
Died: February 17, 1919
Party: Liberal
Held Office: November 20, 1841 – February 17, 1919
Best known for: -He’s like the Energizer bunny of P.M.s:
-longest unbroken term of office for a PM: 15 years, 87 days
-most consecutive federal elections won: 4
-longest serving Canadian politian EVER: 45 years in the House of Commons
-longest serving leader of a major Canadain political party: 31 years, 8 months-his face is on the $5 bill , which happens to be my favourite bill as it has people playing hockey on it-he seems to be big on compromise – finding a way to appease people on the Manitoba Schools Question (MB had eliminated public Catholic schools, and Catholics were pissed & wanted the feds to force MB to reverse this; Laurier proposed a compromise where there could be Catholic schools where numbers warranted, on a school-by-school basis) and and the Second Boer War (English Canada wanted to support the UK, French Canada did not; Laurier sent a voluntary force rather than the miliatary response the UK had asked for)

-he was my grade 8 teacher Mrs. Foss’ favourite P.M. I have no idea why I remember this all these years later. She said she went to the university named after her fav P.M., which turned out to be Wilfrid Laurier University

Some Things I Didn’t Know About This P.M. -he oversaw the entry of Saskatchewan & Alberta (carved out from the then much larger Northwest Territories) into Confederation (1905)-he wanted to support trade reciprocity with the US, but the Conservatives didn’t, so Laurier called an election to settle it. The votes sided with the Conservatives and that was the end of Laurier’s PMship

If you are just dying to read more about Sir W.L.? Check out:


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

Today’s (three day late) installment of my prime ministerial series brings us the last of the boring PMs of the 1890s, at least according to Sarah, our resident Canadian historian here at NTBTWK.

Sir charles tupper.jpg

Name Sir Charles Tupper
Born: July 2, 1821 in Amherst, Nova Scotia
Died: October 30, 1915
Party: Conservative
Held Office: May 1, 1896 – July 8, 1896
Best known for: -at 69 days (snicker… 69), his was the shortest reign ever as a Canadian Prime Minister. Also, since he took office after the House of Commons dissolved, he’s the only P.M. who never faced a Parliament. Can anyone say “lame”?-he was a Father of Confederation, having led Nova Scotia into Confederation as the then-Premier-he has a school in Vancouver named after him (that makes him famous to me). I believe I once judged a science fair there.-railroads. This dude was all about the railroads.
Some Things I Didn’t Know About This P.M. -his son-in-law was held hostage by Louis Riel and the rebels during the Red River Rebellion in 1869 (yeesh, again with the 69!)
Are just dying to read on and on an on about railroads? Check out some Sir C.T. bios:

Next week we will be back on track with our regular Sunday spot for the next P.M., Wilfred Laurier. He has a university named after him AND his face on money, so he must have done something important.

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

{March 17, 2008}   I have been remiss!

March 16 was my grandpa’s 85th birthday and I neglected to blog it!

Just think about celebrating an 85th birthday- 85 years is a long, long time! Born in 1923, he’s seen 14 of the 22 Canadian Prime Ministers¹ in his lifetime. He’s had 6 kids, 9 grandkids, 10 great grandkids and 1 great, great grandkid. And counting. When I was born, my grandpa was only 52 years old, a full 10 years *younger* than my dad is now. And am one of the youngest of his grandkids (7th of the 9). Stuff like that just blows my mind. Especially since I live so far away from my family and only get to see them every few years, I forget how much everyone has aged. When I think of my family, I picture my parents in their 40s and my grandparents in their 60s. They were considerably older than that when I left Ontario, so I have no idea why these are the ages that have stuck in my mind.

Some fun random things about my grandpa (if you can believe his tall tales and my shoddy memory):

  • one of my fondest memories from my childhood is tobogganing with my grandpa on my birthday (although it might have been my cousin’s birthday… or possibly some random, non-birthday day). He got me and all of my cousins these orange Howard Johnson toques (he worked at the HoJo at the time)
  • Grandpa is blind in one eye from bovine tuberculous, which he contracted when he was young. He wanted to fight in WWII and so he memorized the eye chart in order to pass the eye exam part of the physical. It worked, but his dad, who had fought in WWI, including at Vimy Ridge, ratted him out and so he never went to war.
  • Grandpa tells the same jokes, repeatedly. Apparently this trait is genetic, as a number of his children and grandchildren do the same thing.
  • Fortunately, longevity runs in my family. My Great Granny (my grandpa’s mom) lived to 98 years old². So I look forward to celebrating my grandpa’s birthday for at least another 13 years =)

¹Speaking of which, I haven’t forgotten this week’s installment of my prime ministerial series. It just got preempted by hockey playoff action. It will run in tomorrow’s blog and then will resume its regularly scheduled Sunday spot this weekend.
²Or was it 99?

Today’s installment of “who wants to be bored by a vain 90+ year old” brings us the 5th Canadian Prime Minister, Sir Mackenzie Bowell.

Sir Mackenzie Bowell

Name Sir Mackenzie Bowell
Born: 23-12-27)December 27, 1823 in Rickinghall, England
Died: December 10, 1917
Party: Conservative
Held Office: December 21, 1894 – April 27, 1896
Best known for: -was a prominent Orangeman-played an important role in expelling Louis Riel from the House-became P.M. when Thompson died-was one of only 2 people to be P.M. while not in the House (he was leader of the Senate at the time)

-his government imploded over the Manitoba Schools Question (the Manitoba provincial government had stopped funding its Catholic schools in 1890, even though it was required to under the Manitoba Act of 1870. This pissed people off and it seems there was lots of fighting in the federal government over what to do about it.)

Some Things I Didn’t Know About This P.M. -died 17 days short of his 94th birthday-the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online makes many references to him being very vain, including being really proud of not looking his age when he was in his 90s and not being able to believe that the cabinet ministers who resigned might not have liked him

If you are just dying to read more about Sir M.B., with long-winded notes about his time at Minister of Customs (I’m looking at you, National Archives!)? Check out:

Sir Mackenzie Bowell

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

{March 2, 2008}   P.M. #4

The trailer for this week’s installment of “Who Wants to Learn About a Canadian Prime Minister” was brought to you courtesy of Sarah, who I told you was going to have much to say on this series once she returned from Down Under.

Name Sir John Sparrow David Thompson
Born: November 10, 1845 in Halifax, Nova Scotia
Died: December 12, 1894
Party: Conservative
Held Office: December 5, 1892 – December 12, 1894
Best known for: -being the first Catholic P.M.-being the Justice Minister when Louis Riel was hanged (although he was off sick with kidney stones when the execution happened, afterwards he gave a speech in support of it)

-dying at lunch with the Queen, right after she had sworn him into the Privy Council

Some Things I Didn’t Know About This P.M. -he converted to Catholicism about a year after marrying Annie Affleck (no relation to Ben… probably)

If you are just dying to read more about Sir J.S.D.T? Check out:

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

So, the third Canadian P.M. was some dude named Sir John Abbott. Seriously, why does that name not ring a bell to me? I swear I’ve never heard that name before in my life2.


Name Sir John Joseph Caldwell Abbott
Born: March 12, 1821 in St. Andrews, Lower Canada
Died: October 30, 1893
Party: Liberal-Conservative
Held Office: June 16, 1891 – November 24, 1892
Best known for: -seeing as I don’t recognize his name at all, he’s not “best known for” anything to me-but according to my extensive research, he was a Senator, not a member of the House of Commons, while he was the Prime Minister. Weird!
Some Things I Didn’t Know About This P.M. Acto Wikipedia: “His “most memorable”political comment is “I hate politics.””

If you are just dying to read more about Sir J.J.C.A.? Check out:

Image credit: From the Wikimedia Commons. Originally from the Library and Archives Canada, copyright is expired.

1For the record, I’m not actually in bed with Sir John A. I’m in my bed, with my laptop writing about him. Because it’s late and although I’m tired, I *must* post this today. *Must!* (It appears that WordPress does not want to put a superscript into my title. Bah!)

2Well, other than the character on the Young & the Restless. And that’s just sad. Clearly, I need to be doing this little exercise in Canadian history!

And now in part 2 of my 23 part series, I give you the 2nd Prime Minister of Canada, Alexander Mackenzie. Who I always mix up with William Lyon Mackenzie King, although my extensive research1 suggests they are in no way related.


Name Alexander Mackenzie
Born: January 28, 1822 in Logierait, Scotland
Died: April 17, 1892
Party: Liberal
Held Office: November 7, 1873 – October 9, 1878
Best known for: -creating the Royal Military College & the Supreme Court of Canada-he took power after Sir John A’s government fell in 1873, and then got knocked out by Sir John A who won a majority in 1878
Some Things I Didn’t Know About This P.M. Being very proud of his working class origins, he thrice refused the offer of knighthood and was the only Canadian P.M. not be knighted until Arthur Meighen in took office in 1920. Apparently it was customary to knight Canadian P.M.s

If you are just dying to read more about Alex M.? Check out:

1My “extensive research” may or may not have been me typing “Are Alexander Mackenzie and William Lyon Mackenzie related?” into Google.

Image credit: This image was obtained from the National Archives of Canada, PA-026308 and is in the public domain. Yay public domain!

et cetera