Tommy Douglas, Mouseland, circa 1930s

CCF politician Tommy Douglas was masterful orator who combined humour, sarcasm, irony, anecdote, and self-deprecation in ways that allowed him to become the country’s most effective popularizer of socialist ideas. Fellow MP Clarence Gillis first told the story of Mouseland and Douglas picked it up. It is a drama in which mice keep voting against... Continue Reading →

Henri Bourassa, Francophone rights, 1905

Henri Bourassa was a journalist and intellectual in turn-of-the-century Quebec. He was for a time a Liberal MP in Laurier’s caucus, but was increasingly bitter about compromises over French language rights. Bourassa made this speech in the House of Commons 1905, when it was proposed that existing French language rights should not be applied to... Continue Reading →

Irene Parlby, agrarian populism, 1921

Following the First World War, drought, low prices, and a general distrust of old line politicians gave rise to agrarian populist parties. They were anti-politician, agitating against rigid party discipline and patronage. They argued against protective tariffs, which they believed pampered Canadian industries, and in favour of free trade, which they said would benefit farmers.... Continue Reading →

Woodrow Lloyd on Medicare, 1962

Woodrow Lloyd was premier when Saskatchewan introduced North America’s first public, tax-funded health insurance program in July 1962. Saskatchewan’s doctors resisted, saying it was state medicine and would interfere with their relationships with patients. The tension reached a fever pitch by May 1962, when the doctors held their annual meeting in Regina. Lloyd walked into... Continue Reading →

Joseph Howe on press freedom, 1835

Joseph Howe was a self-taught printer and journalist in the colony of Nova Scotia. He used his newspaper, the Novascotian, to criticize the British colonial administration, a tightly managed club controlled by the governor and his friends. As a result of his criticisms, Howe was indicted in 1835 for criminal libel, and made this eloquent... Continue Reading →

Pierre Trudeau, no to Quebec sovereignty, 1980

Early in 1980, Premier René Lévesque and the Parti Quebecois launched a referendum on sovereignty association. Lévesque wanted voters to say yes to a sovereign Quebec that would form a commercial and trade association with the rest of Canada. Trudeau made only three campaign appearances, his last in the crowded, steaming Paul Sauvé arena in... Continue Reading →

Stephen Lewis and HIV/AIDS, 2002

Stephen Lewis is a consummate speaker who rarely uses scripts or even notes. A politician earlier in life, he later served as Canada’s ambassador to the UN, and later still as the UN’s unofficial ambassador to combat the spread of HIV/Aids in Africa. He gave this speech to a citizens’ forum in Calgary during the... Continue Reading →

Joe Clark, community of communities, 1979

Joe Clark had been involved in Progressive Conservative politics since childhood, and he won party leadership in 1976. He proposed a federation much more decentralized than that of Pierre Trudeau. Clark defined his concept of Canada as a “community of communities” in this speech during the federal election campaign in April 1979. “We are fundamentally... Continue Reading →

René Lévesque, Quebec sovereignty, 1980

The separatist Parti Quebecois won the 1976 election on a platform of Quebec sovereignty. Premier René Lévesque soon announced that there would be a referendum on sovereignty association in May 1980. He made this major speech in the Quebec Assembly on March 4, 1980. “The time has come to choose the path to our future”... Continue Reading →

Agnes Macphail, agrarian populism, 1928

In 1921, Agnes Macphail became the first woman elected to the House of Commons. She represented the United Farmers of Ontario, an agrarian populist group which refused to become a political party or to ally with any of the existing ones. Macphail believed that agriculture was the economic bedrock of the country but that farmers... Continue Reading →

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