Saturday, August 27, 2005

Profile: Borden vs. Pearson

Every weekend, I’ll also be looking at one of the more interesting matchups since one of the points of this contest is to learn a little more about Canadian history. A lot of the focus has been on the Trudeau/Clark matchup and you can read some comments on that here and here. The comments section of the Western Standard Shotgun also has the post of the week, which I’ll reprint here:

I never voted for that knock-kneed collaborator Clark and I won't start now...although Trudeau was honest enough to be openly hostile to the west, and no doubt burns in eternity for his treachery towards his fellow Canadians, there's a special place in hell for capitulating traitors like mittless Joe the western quisling.

We note the Clarks call California home when they aren't selling out Canadian conservatives to mushy red policy.

Posted by: WLMackenzie redux Aug 24, 2005 5:38:32 PM

But despite the strong feelings everyone has for Trudeau, and the strong feelings Mr. WL Mackenzie redux has for Joe Clark, the most intriguing first round matchup is certainly the Borden/Pearson one. Both Borden and Pearson were reluctant politicians and individuals you could admire. Neither were great politicians but both helped create Canada’s identity in the world. Before I give brief bios of Robert and Mike, I thought I’d include some of the comments from readers on the Borden/Pearson showdown:

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.
-Greg Staples

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 Jonathan W

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.

Robert Borden VS Lester Pearson
Canadians should know more about Borden and the great things that he did for Canada but they just don’t stack up to Pearson. Amazing to think of all he accomplished in only 5 years. Makes one almost hope for another 4 years of minority government.
-TB @ Cerberus

Robert Borden VS Lester Pearson
Pearson by a mile. Borden pitted French and English against each other in a bitter struggle over whether or not to send unwilling people to die in a pointless war the Europeans inflicted on themselves with their own stupidity. That alone pretty much makes him lose, but add in the fact that Pearson himself was a great leader and I think we have a winner.
-Blue Grit

Borden vs. Pearson: Pearson. Nobel Peace prize... But I give Borden credit for demanding that Canada have its own seat at the Paris Peace Conference. Margaret MacMillan even refers to his representation of the traditional Canadian sense of 'moral superiority' in her best-selling book, 'Paris 1919'. Chuckle.
-Bruce Lyth

Borden-Pearson: I must confess I dont know what Borden did other than lead us in World War I and kill his own party in Quebec with conscription. Pearson was about as ineffectual a leader as Martin and his government was plagued with a scandal that kept it in minority, again like Martin. Pearson's saving grace was that he was a leader when great ideas ruled the day and he took the best ideas that came from Quebec's quiet revolution and from the populist socialist west and made them his own.
-Jeremy Dawson

The Case For Pearson

Not only is he the only Prime Minister to ever fight in a war, he is one of only two Canadians to ever win a Nobel Prize. While he was only Prime Minister for five years, that makes his many accomplishments even more impressive. Pearson is almost single handedly responsible for bringing in the welfare state and the national health care program. He brought in the world’s first race free immigration policy, workplace reforms, the CPP, and student loans. He also said “no” to getting Canada into Vietnam and, of course, gave us the Canadian Flag over loud protests. On the National Unity front, he made French an official language, set up the bi and bi commission, sent Charles De Gaulle packing when he created a ruckus, and recruited the three wise men to give Quebec a louder voice in Ottawa.

The Case Against Pearson

It’s called “Greatest Prime Minister”, not “Greatest Diplomat” so giving Mike credit for the Nobel Prize would be like saying Paul Martin deserves to win because he ran a successful shipping line. Pearson was one of the worst politicians the Liberal Party has ever had as a leader, giving Diefenbaker the opening he needed for his 1958 romp when he challenged Dief to call an election in the House. He also stands alone with John Turner as the only 20th century Liberal leaders to never win a majority government. The accomplishments of his minority governments reflect policies he was forced into by the NDP, rather than visionary policy on his part.

The Case for Borden

Borden rebuilt a party that had been through five leaders in five years to the point where he did the unthinkable and defeated Wilfrid Laurier in 1911. In 1917, Borden put the country’s good above partisan politics by creating the Union government. In one of the most unselfish acts in Canadian history, he even offered leadership of the Union government to Laurier. Borden also showed himself to be progressive by giving the vote to women. He’s best remembered for increasing Canada’s role on the international stage – under his leadership, the Commonwealth became a group of equals, Canada was allowed to sign the Versailles treaty, and the country received its own seat on the League of Nations. Before he become Prime Minister, we were a British colony - when he left, we were a country. And, hey, under the “Canadian Mint Rankings”, Borden wins this contest on the basis of being on the 100$ bill.

The Case Against Borden

As anyone who has ever taken Canadian history knows, the conscription crisis of World War I is the closest Canada has ever come to civil war. By bringing in conscription and placing anti-french Orangemen in charge of recruiting in Quebec, Borden did irreparable damage to National Unity and poisoned the Conservative Party in the province for over a generation. He rigged the rules in 1917 to win the election and, most damning of all, he brought in income tax! Curses!


  • "Pearson is almost single handedly responsible for bringing in the welfare state and the national health care program."

    And you include that in the case for Mike?... ;)


    By Blogger deaner, at 3:15 p.m.  

  • Deaner stole me comment. :)

    Welfare state is a negative.

    By Blogger Michael Fox, at 9:31 p.m.  

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