Wednesday, September 07, 2005


The Greatest PM contest is down to four - and it's hard to argue with the four that are left (though many have tried!). The rules are the same as before - you can vote once each day up until noon Mountain next Tuesday when the poll will be closed and the finalists will be announced. I'll try and put up some background material on the semi-finalists on Friday since I'm heading out of town this weekend.

Here are the matchups (with their previous two winning percentages in brackets):

(4) Laurier (74.6, 75.8)
(1) King (61.9, 89.5)
It's the mentor versus the pupil. They led the Liberal Party for the first half of the 20th Century and will now go head to head.

(3) Trudeau (50.8, 50.1)
(2) Macdonald (72.5, 92.0)
Macdonald has steamrolled through a pair of modern era Tories in the first two rounds while Trudeau has had to fight and claw for his two wins. This match-up will come down to how effective the right and left are at mobilizing the vote.

Greatest Prime Minister (Round 3)
Semi-Final Matchup 1
(1) Mackenzie King
(4) Wilfrid Laurier
Semi-Final Matchup 2
(2) John A. MacDonald
(3) Pierre Trudeau

(view results)


  • CG, who puts these voting booths together for you?

    By Blogger Michael Fox, at 7:35 p.m.  

  • TorontoTory: Darren LaRose did.

    By Blogger geoff, at 3:22 a.m.  

  • The Canadian history buff in me is loving this poll, CG. Thanks. Maybe next on your list should be one on the most popular Canadian bloggers! That would generate even more interest.

    In my never too humble opinion, and apologies for the long post here (but it's been edited, there is even more over at Cerberus), these 4 are probably the 4 who deserve most to be in the next round because more than any other they profoundly defined what we are as a sovereign nation today. Others who might made or almost made may have had a significant impact on the nation, but do not compare to these four in the establishment of sovereign nationhood.

    Since CalgaryGrit’s aim was part history lesson, here's some unedited (but abridged) excerpts from the online Encyclopaedia Britannica on each:



    The first prime minister of the Dominion of Canada, Sir John A. Macdonald held that office from 1867 to 1873 and again from 1878 to 1891. He had a genius for leadership and was guided throughout his life by his loyalty to the British Commonwealth and his wish to maintain his country's independence from the United States. He expressed his feelings in the words, “A British subject I was born; a British subject I will die.”

    By 1864 the union of Upper and Lower Canada, formed in 1841, was fast drifting into chaos because of party warfare and petty jealousies. Macdonald's political tact made him the leader in the negotiations that in 1867 brought about the establishment of the Dominion of Canada. He also was largely responsible for the adoption of the principle of centralization, whereby all powers not specifically conferred on the provinces are reserved to the central government.

    Under Macdonald's leadership, the dominion quickly expanded to include the provinces of Manitoba (1870), British Columbia (1871), and Prince Edward Island (1873). The Pacific Scandal of 1873, in which the government was accused of taking bribes in regard to the Pacific railway contract, forced Macdonald to resign.



    The first French-Canadian prime minister of the Dominion of Canada (1896–1911), noted especially for his attempts to define the role of French Canada in the federal state and to define Canada's relations to Great Britain. He was knighted in 1897

    He infused new life into his party, for instance, by campaigning vigorously for unrestricted reciprocity, the grant of mutual commercial privileges, with the United States. His “national policy” consisted of protection for Canadian industries, the settlement of the west, and the building of an effective transportation system. The years between 1896 and 1911 became a boom period for which the Prime Minister himself provided the slogan: “The Twentieth Century belongs to Canada.” The budget of 1897 lowered tariffs but established a protection policy that lasted until 1911. Laurier's land and emigration policy remains as perhaps the basic achievement of his government. During 15 years more than 1,000,000 people moved into Manitoba and into the western territories, which in 1905 became the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. Wheat became the major product of the new Prairie Provinces; towns and ports sprang up; railroads flourished; and in 1903 Laurier announced that a second transcontinental rail system would be built: the Canadian west had become the granary of the world.

    Meanwhile, the Prime Minister's attention had been diverted to external affairs. In 1897, 1902, 1907, and 1911 he attended Imperial Conferences at which he steadily resisted British proposals for closer ties that might commit Canada to defense responsibilities. He sincerely admired the institutions and liberal policies of Great Britain—he accepted a knighthood (1897) and once declared that he would be proud to see a Canadian of French descent affirming the principles of freedom in the British Parliament—yet he would never agree to any dilution of Canadian autonomy. Thus, from his policies there began to emerge the modern concept of a British Commonwealth of independent states.

    To his faithful followers, especially in Quebec, where his surname is used as a first name by many other Canadians, Laurier is a charismatic hero whose term of office was a happy time in Canadian history. He worked all his life for cooperation between French- and English-speaking Canadians while he strove to keep Canada as independent as possible from Britain. His personal charm and dignity, his great skill as an orator, and his great gifts of intellect won the admiration of all Canadians and non-Canadians alike



    Prime minister of Canada (1921–26, 1926–30, 1935–48) and leader of the Liberal Party, who helped preserve the unity of the English and French populations of Canada.Late in 1926, at the Imperial Conference in London, King's was probably the determining voice in securing the declaration of equality of status of the self-governing nations of the empire, thereafter styled the Commonwealth.

    It was his leadership of the country through six years of war and three years of postwar reconstruction that gave King a commanding place in Canadian history. During those years, he led a country, long divided over external policy, unitedly into war in 1939; surmounted two political crises over conscription, one nearly fatal to his government; and won the postwar election. The government he led organized a tremendous military, industrial, and financial contribution to the war and at the same time prepared for a smooth and rapid advance in economic development and social welfare afterward. When King retired, his successor, Louis St. Laurent, took over a strong government, a united and effective political party, and a rapidly growing and self-confident country.

    This remarkable record was achieved by a lonely bachelor, lacking in popular appeal, political eloquence, or the trappings of strong leadership. His success was a compound of acute intuitions of the public mood and a superb capacity for the management of men.



    Liberal politician and prime minister of Canada (1968–79; 1980–84). His terms in office were marked by the establishment of diplomatic relations with China (1970) and improved relations with France, the defeat of the French separatist movement, independence from the British parliament, and the formation of a new Canadian constitution with the principal additions of a bill of rights and an amending formula.

    As minister of justice, Trudeau won passage of three unpopular social welfare measures—stricter gun-control legislation and reform of the laws regarding abortion and homosexuality.

    As a determined antiseparatist, Trudeau in 1970 took a strong stand against terrorists from the Front de Libération du Québec. The proposal of French separatism in Quebec was defeated in a provincial referendum on May 20, 1980. On December 2, 1981, the Canadian House of Commons approved Trudeau's constitutional reform resolution with a vote of 246 to 24 (only the representatives from Quebec dissented), and on April 4, 1982, Queen Elizabeth II declared Canada's independence from the British Parliament. With these major political aims realized, Trudeau spent his final years in office seeking greater economic independence for Canada, forming better trade relations between industrialized democracies and Third World nations, and urging further international disarmament talks.

    [Ed: The article doesn’t mention some of the negatives/more controversial policies that had profound effects on Canada such as NEP, wage and price controls, restrictions on foreign ownership.]


    One of the most interesting things about this poll has been the observance that 100-120 years, it was Macdonald and his Conservatives who were the strong advocates of a centralised confederation with more power to the federal government and it was Laurier and his Liberals who had the complete backing of the Western voters and made free trade (“reciprocity”) a central tenet of his platform. I like them both, but ultimately Laurier had, to me, a more inspiring view of Canada as a separate and independently sovereign nation with a strong central government and national policies.

    My predictions and votes: Macdonald over Trudeau and Laurier over King, and then Laurier over Macdonald.


    By Blogger Ted Betts, at 7:09 a.m.  

  • I know that Liberals don't watch CPAC much but there was a good series on PMs there. I was impressed with the Laurier episode

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:04 p.m.  

  • You know what's probably not a coincidence?

    King, Laurier, Trudeau an Macdonald are, far and away, the longest-serving PMs in the history of the country. The one who served for the least time (Laurier) is ahead of the next-longest serving (Chretien) by a full five years.

    King - 21 years an 5 months (total)
    Macdonald - 19 years (total)
    Trueau - 15 years and 6 months (total)
    Laurier - 15 years and 3 months

    By Blogger Ryan Ringer, at 1:14 p.m.  

  • I'm a bit disappointed with the matchup (not laying blame, just saying). Laurier and Trudeau are both favourites of left-leaning people while King and MacDonald tend to the right. Against each other, I think that the contest would have been more interesting.

    That said, I want to give a shoutout to King. Mackenzie King really and truly made Canada the country that it is. When he took over, Canada was a colony where the government forced Conscription and determined the franchise on the basis of who would vote Conservative. When he left, we were an independant, powerful world player where the government delayed conscription as long as humanly possible in order to keep French-Canadians part of Canada. Without Mackenzie King as PM, a guy like Trudeau wouldn't have had a chance.

    By Blogger Jason Cherniak, at 5:40 p.m.  

  • I think I'd still put Pearson in the final four in place of Trudeau.

    By Blogger Michael Fox, at 6:47 p.m.  

  • How is Laurier a favourite of the left while King is a favourite of the right?

    King instituted many parts of the modern welfare state. Laurier supported trade reciprocity and continentalism.

    Out of these four, Laurier is my choice for top spot. While I have tremendous respect for the man who founded the country and had massive electoral success, he was a tad too protectionist and scandalous for my likings.

    The meaning of being "Liberal" or "Conservative" has changed drastically since the 19th and early 20th century.

    I consider myself more conservative in the current context, but would have been more of a liberal in the era of Macdonald and Laurier. I hope Macdonald knocks off Trudeau, but in the end it' Laurier all the way out of the top four!


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:49 p.m.  

  • I'm with the classic liberals on this one, I don't see how modern conservatives could support King, the champion of the welfare state.

    I bought Michael Bliss' book "Right Honourable Men" today and he ranks our PM's thusly:

    1) Mackenzie King
    2) tie b/w Sir John A. Macdonald and Pierre Elliott Trudeau
    4) Sir Robert Borden
    5) Sir Wilfrid Laurier
    6) Lester Pearson
    7) Louis St. Laurent
    8) tie b/w Brian Mulroney and Jean Chretien
    10) Alexander Mackenzie
    11) John Diefenbaker

    By Blogger Ryan Ringer, at 12:06 a.m.  

  • Mackenzie "Concentration Camp" King can eat it.

    By Blogger RP., at 2:00 p.m.  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Ryan Ringer, at 7:33 p.m.  

  • GO KING>>

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:57 a.m.  

  • GO Lyon King!
    1:mackenzie king

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:36 p.m.  

  • why did john alexander McDonold kill louis riel?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:38 p.m.  

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