Stanfield versus Cartier
"Frank McKenna decided to run for Liberal leadership in 2006. He won."
Far more interesting are the other two members of the final four - George Etienne Cartier and Robert Stanfield. Both men came exceedingly close to holding the top office so their alternative histories were fairly easy to write - in fact, their "what if" histories come across as a lot more plausible than the events which actually happened to keep them out of the Prime Minister's seat.
George Etienne Cartier
The Man: It's almost unfair to put Cartier in this contest sine, once could argue, he was a Prime Minister we did have. Before Confederation, he served briefly on the top end of the Cartier-Macdonald coalition. After confederation, he pinch hit for John A. Macdonald whenever John A. was too sick or too drunk to lead the country. Needless to say, he was in charge a lot. So while Macdonald gets his face on the money, it was Cartier who negotiated the entry of Manitoba and BC into Canada and it was Cartier who was the force behind the CPR. And, while I don't want to unduly influence anyone, of the four men left, he's got my vote.
Why he never became PM: John A Macdonald's popularity and an early grave made job advancement impossible.
The Biography that Never was: George Etienne Cartier is best remembered as Canada's first francophone Prime Minister and this country's third leader. However, even had Cartier never become Prime Minister, he would still have an impressive biography to his name.
As a young man, he was involved in the Papineau rebellions and composed several patriotic songs including: "Avant tout je suis Canadien", and "O Canada, mon pays, mes amours". After a career in law and business, Cartier ran for office in 1848 by-election and would sit in Parliament until his death. As an MP, Cartier argued in favour of railway expansion and against the annexation of Canada to the United States. As his career progressed, Cartier's following in Parliament grew and in 1857, he became the Lower Canada half the Macdonald-Cartier government (sometimes called the Cartier-Macdonald government) as attorney general.
In the pre-confederation years, this partnership led to several key advances such as the selection of Ottawa as Canada's capital, the organization of Canada's school system, and the codification of civil law. From 1864 to 1867, Cartier was a key member of the Grand Coalition and one the biggest advocates of Confederation in lower Canada. His support was key in ensuring Quebec was willing to enter the Canadian federation.
During the first years of the Macdonald government, Cartier was, for all intents and purposes, the co-Prime Minister. As Minister of Militia, he set in place the military system which would be used in Canada until World War 1. Given John A Macdonald's frequent illnesses and disappearances, Cartier was often forced to act as the head of government for crucial negotiations. As a result, Cartier was in charge of negotiations which brought Manitoba and British Columbia into Canada. It was also Cartier who led the government in Parliament when the vote to create a national railway passed.
While Cartier's health remained strong, Macdonald's did not. Following his party's defeat in 1873, Macdonald was attacked by a bear after stumbling into the countryside in a drunken stupor. He would never fully recover and the Conservative Party turned to the only logical alternative to lead them: George Etienne Cartier.
It was Cartier who led the Conservatives back to power in the 1878 elections and, at the age of 64, Cartier finally assumed the title of Prime Minister he had long held in all but name. On October 17th, 1878, it became official and George Etienne Cartier became Canada's first French Prime Minister. As Prime Minister, Cartier...
The Man: Stanfield unofficially holds the title of "Best Prime Minister Canada Never Had". So this contest is really about him trying to hang on to that title and, so far, the voters haven't given any indication that he won't keep it. And for good reason. Stanfield was intelligent, universally respected, and a good polisuccessfule was a succesfsuccessfulr and a succesful opposition leader. One imagines that had he caught the freaking football, Canadian history might have been dramatically different.
Why he Never Became PM: Had the misfortune of running against Pierre Trudeau three times, and losing by a mere 2 seats in 1972.
The Biography that Never was: Robert Stanfield's rise to the highest office in Canada was a veritable roller coaster ride which culminated in a razor thin win in the 1972 election. Stanfield was born into wealth and graduated from Harvard near the top of his class. While professional success would never be a problem for Stanfield, he had to endure personal tragedy over the years, twice widowed.
While he considered himself a socialist in his college days, it was with the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservatives that Stanfield first entered politics (he did, after all, have money). He inherited a party without a single seat in 1948 and within a decade, swept to power with a convincing majority government. Stanfield was regarded as a successful Premier and during his time leading Nova Scotia, made connections to fellow red Tory Dalton Camp who would play a key role in orchestrating Stanfield's rise to power at the national level.
At Camp's urging, Stanfield reluctantly tossed his name into an eclectic 11 candidate field and a barn burner of a speech at the convention made him the front runner in the eyes of most delegates. On the fifth ballot, Stanfield beat Duff Roblin. But the Liberals had a new leader too and Trudeaumania made the 1968 general election a no contest.
The 1972 election campaign was rude awakening for Trudeau. The honeymoon had ended and the Liberals ran an inept campaign under the often ridiculed "the land is strong" slogan. The Tories didn't agree, promising concrete tax cuts any policies to fix the economic problems of the day. Stanfield came across as an honest man with integrity while Trudeau at times sounded arrogant throughout the campaign. He also successfully copied the youthful excitement Trudeau generated during the '68 campaign when photos of Stanfield's athletic football catches graced the front pages of dailies across Canada during the campaign.
Election night was a nail biter, and the results could not be officially validated until the recounts had finished. But once they were, Stanfield's Conservatives had a 2 seat win. On November 20th, 1972, Robert Stanfield was sworn in as Canada's 16th Prime Minister. During his time in that office, Prime Minister Stanfield...