Thursday, July 27, 2006

What If Politics: Party like it's 1899

While everyone is probably familiar with John Manley and Preston Manning, politicians who made their mark a hundred years ago are at quite a disadvantage in a tournament like this. History is written about the winners, after all. In last year's contest, the final match was between John A. MacDonald and Wilfrid Laurier so, clearly, there were some good Prime Ministers back in the day. It should therefore stand to reason that a few other 19th century politicians would have made fine leaders for this country too.

Joseph Howe
Appears to have Scott Brison’s vote in this tournament. Howe was a strong believer in freedom of the press and his influence could be felt on the Nova Scotian government over many years. Howe was a vicious opponent to confederation and after he failed to prevent it, he led a temporary ad hoc rainbow coalition of MPs from Nova Scotia who opposed the agreement.

George Henry Murray
The Cal Ripken of provincial politics with a record 27 year consecutive Premier streak. Clearly he did something right. Or maybe he just sold out to the big money potato lobby. Of note, George Murray lost five elections before finally being elected to the provincial legislature (so he's really Tony Clement's role model).

Samuel Tilly
Tilly was New Brunswick Premier and a strong supporter of confederation. It was Tilly’s suggestion to use “from sea to sea” as our motto, so he's the one to blame for the 30 letters to the editor in the Globe I see every day about changing our motto to "sea to sea to sea". Tilly entered federal politics in 1867 and served for over 7 years as Minister of Finance (never once running a balanced budget – shame!).

Henri Bourassa
Bourassa is certainly not a member of the Michael Ignatieff school of foreign policy and he resigned as a federal Liberal in 1899 because of a disagreement over Laurier's decision to send troops to the Boer War (he felt it was a snap vote with no real time for debate). Bourassa founded Le Devoir and used it as a vehicle to criticize many of Laurier's pro-British decisions and helped contribute to Laurier's defeat in 1911 (leading to the election of a pro-British Tory government – d’oh!). Bourassa, not surprisinglym fought hard against conscription in the first world war and developed a reputation as the defender of the French Canadian people.

George Etienne Cartier
This is an individual who I really feel is worthy of a final 4 appearance in this tournament and he’d certainly make for a worthy winner. Carter was MacDonald's right hand man in the pre-Confederation Parliament and helped set up the grand coalition with George Brown. He was a fierce advocate of confederation and deserves much of the credit for bringing Quebec onside with the idea (or, “most of the blame”, if you prefer). According to my good friends at wikipedia, he also:

played a leading role in pushing through legislative reform that effectively abolished the semi-feudal seigneurial system of land ownership in Lower Canada, turning its legislative council into an elected body of representatives, and pushed successfully for the adoption of the Civil Code within the province.

Cartier was one of MacDonald's most trusted Ministers and he often sat in for the PM when John A. was “under the weather”. In other words, he was the Prime Minister of Canada. He negotiated the deals to bring Manitoba and BC into Canada, as well as the construction of the trans-Canada railway.

Edward Blake
Edward Blake is the only federal Liberal leader to never become Prime Minister. So, consider him the Liberal counterpart to Stanfield…or Drew…or Bracken…or Manion…or, well, you get the picture. Blake became Ontario Premier in 1871 and led the original Mad as Hell tour against John A. MacDonald’s pacific scandal, helping to bring down the PM. He became Liberal leader in 1880 and “never lost his Clear Grit style and ability to bore an audience for hours on end with pedantics”.

George Brown
Founder of the Toronto Globe (1851 headline: “LIBERAL-CONSERVATIVES SURGE AHEAD IN SOUTHERN ONTARIO!”). Brown wrote often in opposition of slavery in the US south and in support of representation by population in Canada. As the leader of the clear grit party, he supported the separation of church and state and the annexation of the north west territories. His joining of the Great Coallition was also instrumental in the coming into being of confederation. He was the unofficial leader of the federal Liberals from 1867 to 1873.

Oliver Mowat
Mowat was an ally of George Brown’s and a member of the Great coalition. As Ontario Premier for 24 years, he fought hard for provincial power and decentralization, often complaining about the “$23,000 gap.” He also oversaw a lot of democratizing measures in Ontario and tried to ease tensions between Catholics and Protestants. Mowat was the equivalent of Laurier’s running mate in the 1896 election, helping the Liberals break through and form government.

Greatest Prime Minister We Never Had - Seeding Round
Atlantic Canada
Dalton Camp
John Crosbie
Joe Ghiz
Joseph Howe
Allan MacEachen
Angus MacLean
Alexa Mcdonough
Frank McKenna
George Murray
Jack Pickersgill
Joey Smallwood
Robert Stanfield
Samuel Tilley
Robert Winters
Clyde Wells
Louise Arbour
Lucien Bouchard
Henri Bourassa
George Etienne Cartier
Maurice Duplesis
Adélard Godbout
Marc Lalonde
George-Émile Lapalme
Jean Lapierre
Ernest Lapointe
Pierre Laporte
Jean Lesage
Rene Levesque
Jean Marchand
D'Arcy McGee
Frank Scott
Edward Blake
Ed Broadbent
George Brown
Sheila Copps
Bill Davis
George Drew
Eddie Goldenberg
Mike Harris
Paul Hellyer
CD Howe
Warren Kinsella
David Lewis
Stephen Lewis
Donald "The Donald" MacDonald
Flora MacDonald
Barbara MacDougall
John Manley
Paul Martin Sr.
Agnes McPhail
Oliver Mowat
Allan Rock
Mitchell Sharp
OD Skelton
Western Canada
Bible Bill Aberhart
Izzy Asper
Lloyd Axworthy
Dave Barrett
WAC Bennett
John Bracken
John Brownlee
Iona Campagnolo
Larry Campbell
MJ Coldwell
Stockwell Day
Gary Doer
Tommy Douglas
Gary Filmon
James Gardiner
Deb Grey
Mike Harcourt
Elijah Harper
Ralph Klein
Peter Lougheed
Ernest Manning
Preston Manning
Don Mazankowski
Nellie McClung
Audrey Mclaughlin
"Duff Man" Duff Roblin
Roy Romanow
Ed Schreyer
Clifford Sifton
HH Stevens
Wilhelmus Nicholaas Theodore Marie Vander Zalm
JS Woodsworth

(view results)


  • More people have voted for John Crosbie than Louise Arbour or Flora MacDonald.

    To crib from "The Greatest Canadian", I'd sure like to hear reasons why.

    I'm not saying people are "stupid" or anything; heck, you might be able to change my vote, I'm all ears here.

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 11:36 a.m.  

  • I like the old style non-wikipedia bio links.

    I'm not sure why D'Arcy McGee is doing so well - did he really do anything appart from getting shot?

    Brown, Mowat, and Cartier all seem like worthwhile group of 16 choices from that list.

    By Blogger Jeff Thompson, at 12:40 p.m.  

  • Over on my blog I have a post up on Frank McKenna's speech last night at Bill Clinton's forum on American-Canadian relations.

    Frank McKenna spoke and acted like someone who wasn't ready to get out of the game. His speech was absolutely, positively electrifying and if people saw him in full campaign mode, he'd win the leadership race on the first ballot.

    By Blogger Forward Looking Canadian, at 1:21 p.m.  

  • Where's the BC rep in the old dude catgeory? What about Amour D'Cosmos?

    By Blogger The Rat, at 1:39 p.m.  

  • Mayhaps slightly short shrift for Joe Howe, a great Canadian even if he (quite reasonably) had a big gripe with Confederation; he did, notably, eventually join MacDonald to make the best of it.

    I also note that Robert Stanfield is in the lead; one of the few Tories on my list.

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 2:24 p.m.  

  • If you go to Parliament's East Block you can still see a recreation of Etienne Cartier's office. Unfortunately, none of it is original since his wife burned his possessions after he willed them to his mistress.

    You'll also learn that he was instrumental in bringing Manitoba into confederation. When he was defeated in his Quebec riding, Louis Riel actually gave his seat over to Cartier so he could continue to serve as Minister of Defence in MacDonald's cabinet.

    Moot point, maybe, since all Riel did was sign the register (apparently bounty hunters were trying to identify him when he first came to Ottawa. He was a wanted man, after all).

    The more you know, etc.

    By Blogger Darrell, at 2:30 p.m.  

  • Yeah, Amour de Cosmos is a glaring omission. Another clear example of Eastern bias.

    By Blogger Wrye, at 3:23 p.m.  

  • Darcy McGee was the most famous Canadian of his time, a noted author and speaker he was a passionate Canadian. He was a strong force in confederation and if he had lived he most certainly would have been Prime Minister.

    By Blogger Aristo, at 3:42 p.m.  

  • WHAT?!?!

    Louis Riel had a seat in Parliament???


    My history teacher in high school skipped that part... I had no idea.


    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 4:22 p.m.  

  • Baldwin would give em a good go. Not enough respect for the man.

    By Blogger live life, at 4:52 p.m.  

  • I don't understand how Tommy Douglas can get 3% here and win the Greatest Canadian honour.

    By Blogger Raphael Alexander, at 10:58 p.m.  

  • Adrian, 3% is actually incredibly good. Consider that most people vote for 16 different people, each time they vote.

    Even if 100% of people voted for Tommy Douglas, he would only have 1/16th of the vote - or 6.25% or the total. That he has over 3% suggests that about half of all people voting included Tommy Douglas on their ballot.

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 9:21 a.m.  

  • Although there are impressive candidates there are many who deserve to be left behind quickly. Unfortunately, posts and comments haven’t done much to reveal some of the less favourable aspects about candidates and offer a somewhat balanced look at people who were mere humans after all.

    Notes on some of the controversial things (abhorrent, important or maybe just interesting) things that jump out at me.

    Elijah Harper – Charges of refusing to take a breathalyzer test and leaving the scene of an accident led to his stepping down from his provincial cabinet position - Ottawa Citizen Friday, September 11, 1987. Don’t forget he and Clyde Wells (also on CG list) are the most controversial anti-Meech figures around.

    Wilhelmus Nicholaas Theodore Marie Vander Zalm – Also known as “Bill” and remembered out west as a less than heroic leader. Vander Zalm + Tan Yu + BC Supreme Court = A guy I’m glad was not Prime Minister.

    Mike Harcourt – Nice segway from Vander Zalm, the regional breakdown does require some BC representation which makes links to crime/scandal almost unavoidable going back for some time. For Harcourt see “Bingogate.” I know this one may seem unfair as his links to the bingo inquiry are not iron-clad by any stretch and it comes back to the leader being politically responsible. As for the sexual harassment claim against Harcourt cabinet minister Robin Blencoe you decide what to make of the whole thing. At least Glen Clark did not make the list.

    Maurice Duplessis – First and foremost the unconstitutional Padlock Law should say all that needs to be said, look it up. I would like to believe votes were misguidedly aimed at someone admirable named “Duplesis” but the link is indeed to the Wikipedia entry for Duplessis who is remembered for the “graft and corruption endemic in his government” and as being “contemptous of individual civil rights.” He also took a strong stance against conscription and Canadian involvement in World War II, and if you think patronage appointments are a problem now…

    René Lévesque – Bill 101, the P.Q and other controversies are obvious, so instead one of the craziest scandals in politics is worth mentionning. Unless Stephen Harper runs over a returned Afghanistan soldier or Jack Layton bicycles over a puppy in the next session Lévesque’s February 6, 1977 car accident killing a homeless man while driving with Corinne Côté (who he would later marry after divorcing his wife) is likely to remain the strangest political controversy in Canadian history.

    Nellie McClung - Like many early feminists she had some interesting views on eugenics, how can a view that some people are more fit than others to reproduce continue to be whitewashed from the history books? I know thanks to the “famous five” large advances were made for women but some of the grotesque speeches and cartoons that basically stated women should be empowered because they are better than immigrants, aboriginals etc. would hardly be considered inspiring or progressive by the people who admire these reformers. Thanks to her efforts and those of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, in which she was an active member, wonderful successes like prohibition and the forced sterilization of those “mentally unfit for reproduction” took place in Canada. A moment in Canadian history you won’t see in the commercials.

    Peter Lougheed/Frank McKenna – Considering these two are in the top ten with quite a few lefties I wonder what voters think about their ties to the Carlyle group (both members of Carlyle's Canadian advisory board and McKenna was chair). I’m just putting this out there you decide.

    There are obviously many more people on the list who ought to be looked at with a critical eye, hopefully during the knockout rounds this will occur.

    By Blogger Cynical Ben, at 12:42 p.m.  

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