Lester Pearson on a new flag, 1964

Canada's new maple leaf flag was adopted in late 1964 after months of bitter political debate between Prime Minister Lester Pearson and Opposition leader John Diefenbaker. Here is Pearson's speech to launch the flag debate in June 1964.

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Tommy Douglas, Mouseland, circa 1930s

CCF politician Tommy Douglas was masterful orator. One of his classic speeches is Mouseland, a drama in which mice keep voting against their better interests for either black or white cats. Douglas says that mice should vote for mice rather than fat cats.

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Agnes Macphail on women’s equality, 1925, 1930

Agnes Macphail, in 1921, was the first woman elected to Canada’s House of Commons. She was a progressive and a renowned orator. These are brief excerpts from speeches Macphail made in the House of Commons regarding divorce laws.

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Preston Manning, farewell, January 2001

Preston Manning founded the Reform Party of Canada in 1987. The party was reorganized as the Canadian Alliance in 2000. Manning lost the leadership contest to Stockwell Day but remained in parliament until his retirement in January 2002. This is his farewell speech.

Henri Bourassa, Francophone rights, 1905

Quebec politician Henri Bourassa was angered in 1905 when when it was proposed that existing French language rights should not be applied to the new provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. He made this speech in the House of Commons.

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 →

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