Canadian Prime Ministers study guide

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Sir John A. Macdonald
Party: Liberal-Conservative Party
Lived: 1815-1891
1867-1873 and 1878-1891MP for Kingston, ON / MP for Victoria, BC / MP for Carleton, ON• Was leading figure in conferences following the Great Coalition that were to result in the British North American Act.
• Resigned over bribery practices during the tendering of the Railway charter, known as the Pacific Scandal.
• Put down the Red River Rebellion resulting in the execution of Louis Riel.
Alexander Mackenzie
Party: Liberal Party
Lived: 1815-1891
1873-1878MP for Lambton, ON• Was a stonemason before entering into politics — an unusually humble origin.
• He refused the offer of a knighthood three times, and was thus the only one of Canada’s first eight prime ministers not to be knighted.
• He supported creation of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Royal Military College of Canada and the creation of the Office of the Auditor General.
Sir John Abbott
Party: Liberal-Conservative Party
Lived: 1821-1893
1891-1892Senator for Quebec• He considered himself a caretaker prime minister for his seventeen months in office.
• Along with Bowell, one of just two Canadian prime ministers to have held the office while serving in the Senate rather than the House of Commons.
• He attempted to turn the office over to his eventual successor, but this was rejected due to anti-Catholic sentiment in the Tory caucus.
Sir John Thompson
Party: Liberal-Conservative Party
Lived: 1845-1894
1892-1894MP for Antigonish, NS• He had been prime minister of Canada for only two years when he died suddenly from a heart attack at the age of 49.
• He travelled to Paris, France as one of the judges on the tribunal to settle the Canada-US dispute over the seal harvest in the Bering Sea.
• Died at Windsor Castle while being honoured by Queen Victoria.
Sir Mackenzie Bowell
Party: Conservative Party
Lived: 1823-1917
1894-1896 Senator for Ontario• On the death of his predecessor in office, being the most senior cabinet minister, was appointed PM.
• The Manitoba Schools Question sharply divided the country and government. His inability to manage the crisis led to his cabinet forcing him to offer his resignation.
• A survey of Canadian historians ranked him #19 out of the 20 prime ministers up until then.
Sir Charles Tupper
Party: Democratic-Republican
Lived: 1821-1915
1896-1896Did not serve in Parliament while Prime Minister• As the Premier of Nova Scotia from 1864 to 1867, he led Nova Scotia into Confederation.
• Recalled by his party after Bowell’s resignation he became PM for a few months before losing the next election.
• After his short stay as PM, led the opposition as one of only two Conservatives MPs returned to office.
Sir Wilfrid Laurier
Party: Liberal Party
Lived: 1841-1919
1896-1911MP for Quebec East, QC• His 15 year tenure remains the longest unbroken term of office among prime ministers.
• Oversaw Saskatchewan and Alberta’s entry into Confederation.
• Deftly managed English/French relationships such as during the UK’s expectation for military support during the Boer War.
Sir Robert Borden
Party: Conservative Party / Unionist Party
Lived: 1854-1937
1911-1920MP for Halifax, NS / MP for Kings, NS• His commitment to provide half million soldiers in WWI led to the Military Service Act and the Conscription Crisis of 1917
• He introduced a bill in 1918 for extending the voting franchise to women.
• Introduced the first Canadian income tax, which at the time was meant to be temporary, but was never repealed.
Arthur Meighen
Party: National Liberal and Conservative Party
Lived: 1874-1960
1920-1921 and 1926-1926MP for Portage la Prairie, MB• He was the first prime minister born after Confederation.
• Took over as PM when predecessor resigned. During his first election as PM was personally defeated in Portage la Prairie, with his party nationally falling to third place.
• His second term as PM lasted just three months.
William Lyon Mackenzie King
Party: Liberal Party
Lived: 1874-1950
1921-1926 and 1926-1930 and 1935-1948MP for York North, ON / MP for Prince Albert, SK / MP for Glengarry, ON• Rebuffed UK PM Lloyd George during Chanak crisis by underlining Canadian policy independence, leading to downfall of George.
• Governor General Byng refused his request to dissolve government and call election, instead asking the Leader of the Oppostion to form government.
• Post-depression, his government created CBC, the precursor to Air Canada, National Film Board of Canada and made Bank of Canada a crown corporation.
R. B. Bennett
Party: Conservative Party
Lived: 1870-1947
1930-1935MP for Calgary West, AB• Took office during the Great Depression. His party's laissez-faire policies provided little relief.
• Enacted Section 98 of the Criminal Code of Canada in the aftermath of the Winnipeg General Strike, dispensing with the presumption of innocence in outlawing potential threats to the state.
• He introduced a Canadian version of the New Deal, involving unprecedented public spending and federal intervention in the economy.
Louis St. Laurent
Party: Liberal Party
Lived: 1882-1973
1948-1957MP for Quebec East, QC• He was an enthusiastic proponent of Canada
• s joining NATO in 1949 to fight Communist totalitarianism.
• His stated desire was for Canada to occupy a social, military and economic "middle power" role in the post-World War II world.
John Diefenbaker
Party: Progressive Conservative
Lived: 1895-1979
1957-1963MP for Prince Albert, SK• He appointed the first female minister in Canadian history to his Cabinet.
• Quote: "This is the vision: One Canada. One Canada, where Canadians will have preserved to them the control of their own economic and political destiny. Sir John A. Macdonald saw a Canada from east to west: he opened the west. I see a new Canada — a Canada of the North. This is the vision!"
• His "One Canada" policy, seeking equality of all Canadians included an unwillness to make special concessions to Quebec’s francophones.
Lester B. Pearson
Party: Liberal Party
Lived: 1897-1972
1963-1968MP for Algoma East, ON• Won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1957 for organizing the United Nations Emergency Force to resolve the Suez Canal Crisis.
• His governments introduced universal health care, student loans, the Canada Pension Plan, the Order of Canada, and the new Flag of Canada.
• Enraged by DeGaulle’s "Vive le Québec libre" speech he made it clear that "Canadians do not need to be liberated" and indicated that de Gaulle was no longer welcome in Canada.
Pierre Trudeau
Party: Liberal Party
Lived: 1919-2000
1968-1979 and 1980-1984MP for Mount Royal, QC• His energetic campaign attracted massive media attention and mobilized many young people, who saw him as a symbol of generational change.
• He responded to the October Crisis by invoking the War Measures Act, which gave the government sweeping powers of arrest and detention without trial.
• A staunch Federalist, he defeated René Lévesque̱s referendum on Quebec Sovereignty. During debates he promised a new constitutional agreement wiht Quebec.
Joe Clark
Party: Progressive Conservative
Lived: b. 1939
1979-1980MP for Yellowhead, AB• Taking office the day before his 40th birthday, he is the youngest person to become prime minister.
• His short-lived government introduced Bill C-15, the Freedom of Information Act.
• His Finance Minister, John Crosbie famously described their short government term as "Long enough to conceive, just not long enough to deliver."
John Turner
Party: Liberal Party
Lived: 1929-2020
1984-1984 Did not serve in Parliament while Prime Minister• Held the office of Prime Minister for 79 days (the second shortest tenure in Canadian history).
• Defeated Jean Chrétien, his successor as finance minister, on the second ballot of the June 1984 Liberal leadership convention.
• Was misled by polling data to call early election and lost in a landslide to Mulroney, partially over Trudeau patronage appointments.
Brian Mulroney
Party: Progressive Conservative
Lived: 1939-2024
1984-1993MP for Manicouagan, QC / MP for Charlevoix, QC• His government introduced major economic reforms, such as the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and the Goods and Services Tax.
• Quote: "You had an option, sir. You could have said, ‘I am not going to do it.’"
• Widespread public resentment of the GST, an economic slump, the demise of his political coalition, and his lack of results regarding the Quebec situation caused his popularity to decline considerably during his second term.
Kim Campbell
Party: Progressive Conservative
Lived: b. 1947
1993-1993MP for Vancouver Centre, BC• Defeated Jean Charest at the Progressive Conservative leadership convention that June, and was appointed PM later that month.
• Her party's ads, appearing to mock Chrétien's facial paralysis, generated a severe backlash from all sides.
• Quote after the worst defeat ever suffered by a Canadian governing party at the federal level: "Gee, I’m glad I didn’t sell my car."
Jean Chrétien
Party: Liberal Party
Lived: b. 1934
1993-2003MP for Saint-Maurice, QC• Sacked the very unpopular Bank of Canada governor John Crow, keeping an election "Red Book" promise.
• During his tenure as prime minister, a $42 billion deficit was eliminated, five consecutive budget surpluses were recorded, $36 billion in debt was paid down, and taxes were cut by $100 billion (cumulatively) over five years.
• Though he had reluctantly promised to enshrine recognition of Quebec as a "distinct society" in the constitution in order to win the referendum, this promise was watered down to a symbolic resolution.
Paul Martin
Party: Liberal Party
Lived: b. 1938
2003-2006MP for LaSalle-Émard, QC• Took over the PM job after his leader and bitter rival retired.
• His government was adversely affected by a report from Auditor General, indicating that sponsorship contracts designed to increase the federal government’s status in Quebec resulted in little to no work done.
• He opposed same-sex marriage in a 1999 vote on the issue, but changed his stance on the issue in 2004 ushering in Canada as the 4th country to recognize them.
Stephen Harper
Party: Conservative Party of Canada
Lived: b. 1959
2006-2015MP for Calgary Southwest, AB• He asked Governor General Michaëlle Jean to prorogue Parliament in order to avoid a vote of confidence, becoming the only Canadian PM ever to do so.
• His Cabinet was defeated in a no-confidence vote on March 25, 2011, after being found in contempt of Parliament, thus triggering a general election.
• In 2007, his government announced it had finalized free trade negotiations with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).
Justin Trudeau
Party: Liberal Party
Lived: b. 1971
2015-incumbentMP for Papineau, QC• Led his party to a majority victory, moving the third-placed Liberals from 36 seats to 184 seats, the largest-ever numerical increase by a party in a Canadian election.
• First prime minister born in Ottawa
• First prime minister who is the offspring of a former prime minister.
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