Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Greatest Prime Minister

If you've followed a link here, the final contest results can be found at http://calgarygrit.blogspot.com/2005/09/and-winner-is.html






As the summer winds down, and everyone gears up for the opening of Parliament, I thought it might be fun to take a look at Canadian history and some of the great, and not so great, Prime Ministers from our past. So I'm very pleased to be launched the "Greatest Prime Minister" contest - sort of March Madness meets the Greatest Canadian.

I’ve picked the fourteen 20th Century PMs plus Paul Martin and John A MacDonald. So, for any Mackenzie Bowell fans out there, you’re out of luck. I then bracketed the 16 in order of the time they held the office for, in March Madness style. This means there are 8 matchups this week, with the 8 winners advancing. Next week, we’ll vote to get down to a Final Four, then 2, then 1. Here's a look at the bracket:


Every Wednesday I'll post the new matchups and leave voting open until Tuesday when the results will be announced. I'll also write a bit about some of the Prime Ministers and link to anyone else doing likewise over the weekend.

So have fun with this! This isn't any more scientific than Canadian Idol, but I'll be very curious to see who comes out on top. Before we get to the actual poll, let's take a look at the first week matchups:


1 Mackenzie King (6-2, 22 years)
16 John Turner (0-1, 3 months)
We’ve looked into the crystal ball and all signs point to a King win.

8 Louis St.Laurent (2-1, 8 years 7 months)
9 John Diefenbaker (2-2, 5 years 10 months)
These polar opposites met in 1957 and Diefenbaker crushed his opponent then. Will the result be the same now?

4 Wilfrid Laurier (4-3, 15 years)
13 Arthur Meighen (1-3, 20 months)
Look for meighen to try and make this a one-issue campaign about conscription.

5 Jean Chretien (3-0, 10 years)
12 Paul Martin (1-0, 20 months)
I swear I didn't rig the matchups to get this one! Without a doubt, the most interesting first round matchup.

6 Robert Borden (2-3, 8 years 9 months)
11 Lester Pearson (2-2, 5 years)
This contest looks to be the trendy upset pick of the first round.

3 Pierre Trudeau (4-1, 16 years)
14 Joe Clark (1-1, 9 months)
Team Clark lost their luggage and may not have uniforms for the game. The two were 1-1 in previous contests.

7 Brian Mulroney (2-0, 8 years 9 months)
10 RB Bennett (1-1, 5 years 2 months)
Mulroney gets a lucky first round draw.

2 John A MacDonald (6-1, 19 years)
15 Kim Campbell (0-1, 5 months)
He created the Conservative Party…she killed it.


And, now the votes. One vote per computer.











Who Is The Greatest Prime Minister?


(1) Mackenzie King
(16) John Turner


(2) John A. MacDonald
(15) Kim Campbell


(3) Pierre Trudeau
(14) Joe Clark


(4) Wilfrid Laurier
(13) Arthur Meighen


(5) Jean Chretien
(12) Paul Martin Jr.


(6) Robert Borden
(11) Lester B. Pearson


(7) Brian Mulroney
(10) RB Bennett


(8) Louis St.Laurent
(9) John Diefenbaker









60 Comments:

  • What a great idea!

    I am not sure if you are being fair to Robert Borden though. He was Prime Minister during WWI had a tough go of it. Bringing together the Conservatives and Liberals to form a Unionist gov't was a big deal.

    No doubt that history has looked favourably on Pearson but he was uncerimoniously dumped by his party.

    This should be a closer race than you are making it out to be.

    By Blogger Greg Staples, at 2:57 PM  

  • Are you looking for "greatest impact" or greatest positive impact? There is little doubt (at least in my mind) that Jean Chretien had a larger impact than PMPM - but there are many who will debate which one contributed more (or subtracted less).

    Dean

    By Blogger deaner, at 3:12 PM  

  • Jeez..the legacy of Brian. Imagine being in a horse race with someone as forgettable as "Buggy" Bennett?
    Can you imagine the huge outpouring of public grief when Brian dies? I hear his CPC card was renewed. Pass it on.
    Wpg-Guy

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:12 PM  

  • I think Abbott, Thompson, Bowell & Tupper should have been included. I mean, they were PMs after all.

    Both Thompson and Tupper were Premiers of Nova Scotia and Abbott and Bowell were the two PMs to serve as PMs from the Senate.

    Another idea would be to have the greatest Tory and Liberal leader contest.

    Could be fun to see who comes out on top, but my guess is Macdonald for the Tories and Trudeau for the Liberals (kinda sad the Tories have to go back to the late-19th century to find their best leader).

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:24 PM  

  • Kim! Kim! Kim! :-P

    By Blogger daveberta, at 3:28 PM  

  • QuebecHarpermaniac says:

    I can't believe there are four idiots who think PMPM is better than Chretien.

    Maybe that means the PMO checks CGs website every 30 seconds.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:35 PM  

  • Too bad Borden got stuck with Pearson as his opponent- Borden's very under-rated, while Pearson is one of the best.

    By Anonymous Jonathan W, at 3:53 PM  

  • Heh heh. MacDonald has a 37-1 lead over Kim Campbell...I take that to mean that Kim Campbell, or her mother, read this website.

    Greg; Actually, I like Borden a lot. Good guy, helped give Canada a bigger voice in the world, and gave women the vote. And I'll agree that Pearson is definitely overrated - horrible politician, even if he accomplished a lot as PM.

    anonymous; I would have liked to include the more obscure PMs, but I wanted to trim the field to 16. Thompson is generally very well regarded and Alexander Mackenzie even won an election so he's a step up on Turner and Campbell.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 3:58 PM  

  • How depressing. MacDonald left office because of corruption scandal. Martin is about to do the same. Chretien shares that scandal. Kim Campbell, Turner, and Clark were all losers in the political sense - likely great people otherwise. Trudeau was interesting but not in a true statesman like way, more for his marriage to a flower child. Mulroney brings out the hate in Liberals. The rest are all forgetable except for King and Laurier. The really great politicans are ones that didn't make it to PM or were provincial - Rene Levesque, E. Manning, P. Manning, T Douglas, Stanfeild, Lougheed, and Klien to name a few.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:06 PM  

  • Pearson over-rated? As a politician perhaps. Pearson never was much of a politician (60 Days of decision come to mind), but he was an extraordinary policy guy (by which I mean he stole the best ideas from everyone around and implemented them). He was a statesman more than a politician.

    By Anonymous Jonathan W, at 4:10 PM  

  • Once this little project is done you could run a "The Greatest Canadian Politician who never became PM" contest. Stanfield, Joe Green, Duff Roblin, Bob Winters, Paul Helyer (comody), George Brown (only liberal leader not to be a PM) come to mind.
    Wpg-Guy

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:21 PM  

  • "Heh heh. MacDonald has a 37-1 lead over Kim Campbell...I take that to mean that Kim Campbell, or her mother, read this website."

    Actually... that was me...

    By Blogger daveberta, at 4:23 PM  

  • great poll! it's a pity thompson wasn't included, though. i would've voted for him just for his middle name...sparrow. if he hadn't died so young, i think he probably would've turned out to be a great pm, and maybe even defeated laurier in 1896.

    the second round should be a lot more interesting...and hopefully it'll have diefenbaker in it. i mean, what was st. laurent other than paul martin with a slightly smarter campaign team?

    By Anonymous matthew, at 5:17 PM  

  • Wow,

    Looks like Louis St.Laurent and John Diefenbaker are starting off toward a virtual dead heat. Which one of them cancelled the Avro Arrow again?

    I voted for Turner, because everybody needs to get over that whole Mackenzie King episode. He was a kook. His face should be transplanted from the fifty dollar bill, and then dishonourably affixed to the nickle.

    Arthur Meighen sure had some stiff competition in Willy Laurier. Although I doubt he would have faired any better against any of these other bozos. But he was still a better man than W. L. Mackenzie King. No doubt about that.

    And RB Bennett should be smoking the pants off Brian Mulroney. (I reckon some of the explanation here can be chalked up to sympathy votes.)

    By Blogger Senator Catalyst, at 5:28 PM  

  • You should have given a few days before voting started so that someone else could have opened up a "CG-best PM" pool. (I know, I know, I had my own opportunity to suggest that idea earlier).


    Borden v. Pearson is certainly the match up of the first round. I would definitely choose Pearson.

    Borden gets some credit for war-time leadership but the Union government nearly destroyed the country. A government entirely of Anglophones v. an opposition entirely of Quebecers? No Canadian PM should ever allow that to happen. Its a typically Canadian problem though: international stature vs. national unity.


    My prediction is that the biggest match-up will be Macdonald v. Trudeau in the semi-final on the right hand side. It doesn't really matter though, because whoever wins is going to come out too bruised to contend against WLMK.

    By Blogger Matthew, at 5:30 PM  

  • TUPPER! TUPPER!

    I'd say a Tupper-Chretien showdown would be great to see. At least Canada didn't have to suffer through three terms of Tupper.

    Brevity is the soul of leadership?

    By Blogger Optimus, at 6:34 PM  

  • Just to correct a previous anonymous posting, the only Liberal leader to never become PM was Edward Blake.

    George Brown was never officially leader of the Liberal Party, though he was its titular head at one point.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:53 PM  

  • CG,

    I voted for Kim Campbell, despite the fact she didn't do all that much or was in office all that long, she was Canada's first female PM. So I thought I'd give her a vote for being a pioneer.

    -Socialist Swine

    By Blogger Socialist Swine, at 12:36 AM  

  • P.S. I'm not Kim Campbell or her mom....

    By Blogger Socialist Swine, at 12:38 AM  

  • if she was such a pioneer, why am i not inspired. youd think as a fellow vancouver gal, id care. or something.

    theres got to be some normative difference between 'first' and 'pioneer'

    By Blogger angela, at 2:09 AM  

  • It's a good polling idea. Mind you, Turner, Meighen and Campbell have just as much business being on it as the 19th-century people you left out.

    By Blogger VW, at 10:38 AM  

  • As a matter of principle, I will not vote in Martin v. Chretien. There is no way to know yet what Martin will be like in the long run.

    As this point, I also have to say I am shocked that Diefenbaker is getting so many votes. Don't people know that he told the British that a Commonwealth Conference date should depend on a water deviner in the prairies?

    By Blogger Jason Cherniak, at 12:06 PM  

  • Jason:

    Martin is in the last legs of his "long run" - so make up your mind.

    77 people think he's better than Chretien... do 77 people work in the PMO?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:25 PM  

  • Martin should not be on that list, being the only PM on the list whose term has not ended. The current PM is always the lightening rod for every complaint of the day. And he hasn't had the chance to show us whether his minority government is a Diefenbaker minority (turned his into a majority), a Pearson string of minorities (got more done in fewer years than anyone on the list) or a Meighen minority(nothing accomplished but a bunch of blustering).

    But, to fairly compare Chretien and Martin, maybe readers should take a ratio approach: legacy accomplishment per year in power. Even if you don't count the big successes of Chretien's years (balanced budgets, surpluses, debt paydown, CPP fix) as both Chretien and Martin successes, I think it is pretty much a blowout for Martin on the legacy accomplishments per year. In one year, Martin passed SSM; in 11 years with no one to stop him, what did Chretien leave us?

    ~TB

    By Blogger Cerberus, at 1:31 PM  

  • Well,

    I'm shocked that the Chief is doing so well. For me, the Arrow/Bomark thing alone is enough to want to kick him out in the first round, regardless of who he is up against. And there was also great controversy when his Minister of National defence was forced to put the military on high alert during the Cuban missle crisis without Diefenbaker's approval, because the Chief didn't trust Kennedy, and didn't think things were all that serious (!!!).

    I'll give him the Bill of Rights, but the fact that the Canadian dollar began to be referred to as "Diefenbucks" during his tenure (because it was the first time it had been worth LESS than the American dollar!) also rates him lowly in my books (though I realize this wasn't by any means entirely his fault, and he probably couldn't have done much to stop it, but still...).

    I think there are many reasons to vote against the Chief, but, as I said the whole Avro thing just really burns my britches. Imagine the aerospace/space exploration/defence industry infrastructure Canada would have today if it weren't for the Chief. We'd probably have a much greater presence in space exploration, and maybe the Americans would be buying some of those fancy jets they love so from us.

    GRRRRR.....

    By Blogger Lord Kitchener's Own, at 2:55 PM  

  • I love what has become the myth of the Avro Arrow. It will still be the best plane today. We would be flying commercially to the moon on it. We would be transporting our legendary peacekeepers all over the world with them.

    By Blogger Greg Staples, at 3:00 PM  

  • I think it's absolutely obscene to see people stacking the deck against Trudeau. I mean, Joe F***ing Clark? You've gotta be kidding me. The man was PM for all of 9 months and didn't face parliament for most of that time. Then he comes to Ottawa and loses his government on the first vote, and there are actualy people that think he was a better Prime Minister than the man who gave us a Charter of Rights. Wow.

    -- Matt O

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:02 PM  

  • Jason - Even if that were true about Dief, it seems to a petty critizism compared to Martin/Chrietien corruption.

    Dief was a vetran from the WWI trenches. He is the PM that brought in the Canadian bill of rights. He is the PM who stopped South Africa's being readmitted to the Commonwealth because of apartheid.

    From the history I have read, blaming Dief for the Avro Arrow is unfounded. St Laurent would have done the same, the Avro Arrow was just too expensive is the conclusion of the factual historians. Also the Docu-DRAMA that the CBC put on is based on half truths.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:07 PM  

  • Cerebus, I think you have to count SSM as a joint Cotler/Martin accomplishment, anything else would just be unfair. Therefore, Martin has yet to accomplish anything on his own.

    Chretien also put in the Clarity bill, something I call Kyoto, he kept Canada out of Iraq, he actually was the one to start SSM and pot decriminalization, biggest tax cuts in recent memory, Millenium Scholarship, Niska Treaty, other than that he really did jack sweet all.

    By Blogger iloveLaP, at 3:43 PM  

  • For those wondering how some Conservative Prime mInisters are doing so well (ie Joe Clark winning narrowly against Trudeau), the poll is getting (to use a term from the US) "freeped" by sites like these who are encouraging people to mass vote Trudeau and Pearson out of the first round.

    By Blogger Scott Tribe, at 4:04 PM  

  • ilovelap:

    Cotler's not PM so, yeah he gets credit for passing it but not in this poll. I will give Chretien credit for the Clarity Act, forgot about that one and that is a legacy item. Kyoto: what did he sign into law? What did he implement? Nothing. Keeping us out of Iraq as a legacy item? Questionable but illustrative of my point: he had a full majority with a weak opposition for 11 years and his "successes" are reactive not pro-active or progressive. Even Kyoto and Clarity Act fall into that category.

    And I don't give him any credit for SSM or de-criminailizing marijuana. He had 11 years and he did not get these passed into law. We can wonder if Martin would have tried to pass it had it not been started, but then we'd be forced to question Pearson's whole legacy too wouldn't we.

    By Blogger Cerberus, at 4:14 PM  

  • Geez just because you have a grudge doesn't mean you can stack a poll. And even if you do, it doesn't reflect the true opinions of the populace. So congrats connies you score an A on propaganda and an F in honesty.

    By Blogger Paladiea, at 5:38 PM  

  • Did you have any idea the kind of furvor this little contest of yours would create CG? Over 600 votes in one day with no notice! Imagine what you could do with 5 weeks and national media exposure. I hereby nominate Calgary Grit as the new Cheif Electoral Officer for Canada, with a special emphasis on raising voter turnout.

    --Matt O

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:46 PM  

  • Sure. It's all great fun until one is expected to choose the best PM between Chretien and Martin.... That's nasty

    By Anonymous Rob, at 6:57 PM  

  • Outstanding! I may be a yank and not have all the facts, but I have linked to this at www.44southstreet.blogspot.com as well as a link to information on each PM so we American's can learn more about Canada. Too many of us down here don't know nearly enough about Canada, and it is shamefull. Hopefully I can enlighten some with the link.
    Thanks and good luck!

    By Blogger Alec, at 7:21 PM  

  • From the autobiography of Edward Heath, British PM from 1970 - 1974, p. 221:

    "At this moment, I thought it right to bring up the question of the Commonwealth Conference. I explained how Macmillan wanted to consult him, as the Prime Minister of the senior country in the Commonwealth, before inviting the others to London. 'Well,' said Diefenbaker, 'there are two possibilities. The first is July, and the second is September. Now there are complications about me being absent from here in July. On the first Monday we have some local elections; on the second Monday there is a visit from the Queen Mother; and on the third Monday there is a jazz festival. I need to be here for all of those. That only leaves the last week. But the really important thing is the state of the harvest and that, of course, will depend upon the rainfall. If we are dry in July the crop will be bad, and we shall lose support. If the rainfall is strong we shall get good crops in September and our position will be sound. So what I have to do is to find out what the rainfall will be. This I have arranged to do by sending a water diviner out to the plains, and he will be able to tell by the twitching of his stick whether it will be rain in July or rain in September.' I was rendered speechless by this exposition of the basis of Canadian policy."

    Unlike King, Diefenbaker actually allowed his craziness to affect public policy and foreign affairs. Add to that the Cuban Missile crisis, nukes, publicizing Presidential speaking notes, flying to Bermuda, etc...

    I have to say, though, that people should not be complaining about the Trudeau v. Clark thing. If Tories really hate Trudeau that much, then they are entitled to their opinion (Pearson is probably a different matter). It does not mean that they think Clark is the best ever, but that they hate Trudeau. I disagree, but I have only one vote.

    By Blogger Jason Cherniak, at 7:45 PM  

  • Sorry. That's Nassau and not Bermuda.

    By Blogger Jason Cherniak, at 7:54 PM  

  • it's kind of odd to consider that neo/paleo-conservatives are voting en masse for the man who introduced income tax to canada...

    as for clark/trudeau...i worked for clark during his comeback bid. i love the man. i think trudeau did a lot of horrible stuff as pm, and that in a few decades he'll look ordinary (at best) in retrospect. but as a pm? the fact trudeau is still so loathed by so many people should, by itself, give him a pass into the next round (where, hopefully, he'd get soundly defeated)...

    By Anonymous matthew, at 1:48 AM  

  • CG -- This an excellent idea you came up with. I have linked to it on my blog.

    And besides, we may get to see Pierre Trudeau knocked out in the first round. Life is good sometimes!

    By Blogger Right Ho, at 10:51 AM  

  • What kind of fraud is this? I tried to vote and your board comes up "You've already voted". Well, no, I bloody well haven't.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:07 PM  

  • To the previous Anonymous person who said their vote wasn't allowed, you probably are a Liberal, so you need to be educated. The voting works based on your IP address. 1 vote per IP address. Your IP address probably has been recorded as having a vote. Perhaps you share your internet connection and someone else used your IP address to vote.

    And to all the whinners that Tories are stacking the votes. Get a life, its just an internet poll. There is no way it could ever be fair or reliable, its just for "fun". Its no big deal! Its not like its a stacked contest like that state sponsored show "Greatest Canadian" garbage played on State/Liberal TV last year was. The only people that watch the CBC are Liberals and the NDP.

    If you ran a poll for the least liked PM, we all know PET would win.

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