King of the World
A Case for King
Not only was he Canada's longest serving PM, but he is the longest serving PM in commonwealth history. Yeah, longevity doesn't equal greatness, but obviously Canadians at the time thought he was doing a good job when they kept re-electing him.
King was, without a doubt, the greatest politician in Canada's history. He made minced meat of Arthur Meighen during the King/Byng affair and deked left or right, depending on who he perceived to be the larger threat of ending his God given right to rule. He inherited a party decimated during WW1 but is one of the few PMs to see his successor win a majority.
He managed the country through World War 2 and was a valuable player in the allied war effort. He accomplished what Borden failed to do, by keeping the country united through a very divisive time, an event that has spawned the most often used essay question in freshman university history classes across Canada: "Compare and contrast the two conscription crises". He also deserves some credit for laying the groundwork for Canada's post war economic boom by recruiting a plethora of talented Canadians to his Cabinet and to the civil service.
But are there any legacy items? After X years, he must surely have accomplished something besides re-election, right? Here's a partial list:
-Relief programs during the depression and unemployment insurance
-CBC, the National Film Board, and Trans-Canada Airlines
-Old Age Pensions
-Child Allowances (probably the first major step towards the welfare state)
It may not be as earth shaking a resume as some of the other PMs have but King was Prime Minister after the country had been sewn together and before the era of big government. Quick Quiz: Name 5 accomplishments of Wilfrid Laurier. Or Robert Borden. Or RB Bennett. One wonders how bold Pierre Trudeau or Lester Pearson would have been as Canadian Prime Minister circa 1928...or 1942...or 1950...
King also advanced Canadian autonomy dramatically. Maybe not as much as Macdonald or Trudeau, but at least as much as Pearson or Borden. At the Balfour conference he argued for, and received, equal status of all the Commonwealth countries. In 1931 he signed the Statute of Westminster which made the Supreme Court of Canada the final court of appeal. This was likely a larger step towards Canadian independence than the Maple Leaf flag since it led to a concrete, rather than a symbolic, independence.
And I hate to go negative against a politician everyone admires, but Laurier's record is based on dignified leadership and sunny compromises (two things King delivered as well). Are there any real accomplishments to his name? Whenever he tackled a big issue like free trade or conscription, he lost. His success is based on saying one thing in Quebec and a different thing in Ontario. Plus, he was one of the most decentralizing PMs in Canada's history.
Yes, in his personal life King wasn't a model citizen. But John A was a drunk and PET was an arrogant prick. If his dead dog gave him good advice on running the country, then he shouldn't be penalized for it. He gave this country 22 years of Peace, Order and Good Government - that must be worth something.