Saturday, August 19, 2006

Stanfield versus Cartier

I've already run an alternative history of Preston Manning, and Frank McKenna's alternative history can be summed up in about a line:

"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...

Robert Stanfield

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...

Greatest Prime Minister We Never Had - Round 3
Matchup 1
Robert Stanfield
George Etienne Cartier
Matchup 2
Frank McKenna
Preston Manning

(view results)


  • "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".

    Was this intended as sarcasm? Stanfield's lack of youthfulness and, in particular, a widely distributed photo of him awkwardly dropping a football is the reason given by many for his loss to Trudeau in 1972. It is ironic because Mr. Stanfield was actually quite a good athlete.

    By Blogger Devin Maxwell, at 11:47 a.m.  

  • I got to hand it to you, bud, the work and research you put into this little project is impressive.

    Keep up the great work.


    By Blogger TDH Strategies, at 1:55 p.m.  

  • What in SAM HELL is Frank McKenna doing BEHIND Preston Manning??

    Come on people somethin is up in this country if Mannin is beating McKenna 3-1 on this poll!

    VOTE MCKENNA for petes sake... Manning was a LOSER!

    No matter what, Frank McKenna is still #1 to me!

    By Blogger Forward Looking Canadian, at 1:59 p.m.  

  • I have to agree with Riley here. Preston Manning and his western alienated, socially conservative, populist politics would have been dreadful for Canada. I won't call him a loser, but I am certainly relieved I never had to call him Prime Minister.

    By Blogger Omar, at 3:23 p.m.  

  • Er, Devin -- didn't you sort of kinda miss the whole actual point of Bart's Stanfield bio?

    Bart - man, you have really opened my eyes to Cartier - I actually didn't realize he was so accomplished in the creation of Canada, and I'm a mite bit embarrassed to admit it. Thanks for this greatest of all mini-bio.

    Manning would have been a good, effective, honest leader as PM, no doubt about it - smart and focused and full up to his ears of integrity. But - Best? No way. (That said, he'd be a better PM today, in 2006, than if he'd won back then. I wish he'd've gone for Premier in Alberta. Hope he considers a federal run again one day)

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 3:53 p.m.  

  • grizzly bears in alternate are all on notice!

    By Blogger bza, at 5:31 p.m.  

  • What did I miss?

    By Blogger Devin Maxwell, at 6:04 p.m.  

  • Jason:

    I think Robert Stanfield is one of the greatest politicians in Canadian history and think he should win this competition hands down. I am from the same town, Truro, and met him on more than one occasion. His nephew was also my father's roommate in university.

    By Blogger Devin Maxwell, at 6:07 p.m.  

  • Okay...I AM dense. I just re-read the bio. I was confused because there actually were a number of photos of Mr. Stanfield engaged in athletic activities during the 1972 campaign -- it was the one of him dropping the football that killed him. As I said, Mr. Stanfield was a very good athlete and the ill fated photo was not indicative of his abilities.

    By Blogger Devin Maxwell, at 6:13 p.m.  

  • Actually, reading about that football story was one of the first experiences that opened my eyes to how evil and selective the media really is, and that journalists were not these heroic figures after the truth no matter what.

    I hate that story, it still makes me ill in my belly.

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 7:14 p.m.  

  • I'm with Riley and Omar, McKenna should be leading. Too bad.

    By Blogger Zac, at 7:55 p.m.  

  • Hey CG. You wrote: Following his party's defeat in 1973, MacDonald was attacked by a bear... I'm assuming you meant 1873 here.

    By Blogger Léo Bourdon, at 1:35 a.m.  

  • Ok... can SOMEONE explain to me why mcKenna is losing so bad to Manning?

    There's got to be something wrong with the meter....I just can't imagine that A.) manning would be at 75% and B.) that so few liberals would come to this site and NOT vote for McKenna?

    Someone explain why he is losing!

    By Blogger Forward Looking Canadian, at 4:22 p.m.  

  • CG: great research, although it looks like there are a bunch of text errors in the first Stanfield para:

    "tanfield hunofficialld the unnoficial 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."

    Unless, perhaps, this is some sort of newspeak I've never heard of....

    As for me: McKenna & Stanfield get my votes. Though I'm still angry Broadbent is out.

    By Blogger C. LaRoche, at 6:41 p.m.  

  • Those curious about Preston's performance might want to read the Blogging Tories' blogroll.

    If there's one think Tories are good at, it's doing the same thing in large, lockstep groups ;)

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 9:50 p.m.  

  • Thanks for the feedback - I think I've corrected most of the typos.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 11:54 p.m.  

  • "If there's one think Tories are good at, it's doing the same thing in large, lockstep groups ;) "

    At least you left out the obligatory "whories" comment. ;)

    By Blogger Michael Fox, at 11:59 a.m.  

  • Perhaps the Liberal visitors just know a better thing than a good thing when they see it.

    Preston would have been a good PM... a lot of hard decisions we constantly avoid as nation would have been brought forward and in some fashion dealt with by Manning.

    I liked Stanfield too... I think the Nation took a hit at his loss.

    By Blogger Joe Calgary, at 3:01 p.m.  

  • Someone explain why he is losing!


    From what I've seen, Kate from Small Dead Animals is encouraging her readers to come over en masse and vote for Preston.

    By Blogger Zac, at 4:28 p.m.  

  • My goodness someone trying to sway the results of an internet poll along partisan lines - clearly that's a distinctly tory underhanded ploy. Although at this point I think CG snide suggestion that Tories had been "winning internet polls not elections since 1993" is a dated.

    McKenna is losing because he always was a paper tiger. Look how wonderful Liberals thought Paul Martin was going to be, he was going to be the Wayne Gretzsky of Canadian politics and be in government forever. He turned out to be more of an Alexander Daigle.

    By Blogger Chris, at 5:05 p.m.  

  • Though I'm still angry Broadbent is out.

    Same here!

    I like Stanfield but am also inclined to vote for Cartier. There is a tendency for our memories of Canadian history to not go further back than WWII and it would be deserving to give the honour of "Greatest Prime Minister that never was" to a Father of Confederation.

    By Blogger Harrap, at 9:57 p.m.  

  • Preston beating Frank 3-1?

    I am a strong Preston fan, but I always thought McKenna was one of the few Liberals I had a lot of respect for, and am very surprised that he does not have a better showing against Manning. BTW, I voted Manning!

    As for the folks who are whinning (a stereotypical Liberal trait... grin) about Blogging Tories causing this trend, may I remind you... THIS IS A LIBERAL BLOGGING SITE!

    One would think that it attracts its share of liberals, who one would think also vote, would one not?

    By Blogger Andy, at 5:02 p.m.  

  • I think it looks like there has been some vote-tampering, given that so many more people have voted in the second race than the first. Freedominion is SURELY uninvolved.

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 10:07 p.m.  

  • And now to bash Frank McKenna... why do Liberals love somebody who implemented deep cuts to social services, fought Morgenthaler for years, and is a member of the Carlyle group?

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 10:10 p.m.  

  • I should point out that the final two were actually the top 2 seeds, and the seeding was decided before the Blogging Tories started sending people this way.

    By Blogger Michael Fox, at 5:42 p.m.  

  • I wish there were more Tories like Stanfield!

    By Blogger Harrap, at 10:20 p.m.  

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