Jean Chretien, Quebec referendum, 1995

The Parti Quebecois called a sovereignty referendum for October 1995, and polls indicated the PQ might win. Belatedly, Prime Minister Jean Chretien joined the fray, and on October 25 he made this televised address to Canadians. He played on love of country, and the serious economic consequences for Quebec if it chose to separate. Prime... Continue Reading →

Pierre Trudeau, October crisis, 1970

In October 1970, the Front de Libération du Quebec, a separatist group, kidnapped Pierre Laporte, the province’s labour minister, and James Cross, a British diplomat. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act. On 16 October 1970, a sombre Trudeau appeared on national television to explain and defend his decision to citizens of the... Continue Reading →

John Diefenbaker, a new national policy, 1957

John Diefenbaker, Canada’s 13th prime minister died this month in 1979. He was one of Canada’s finest political orators and election campaigners. He became leader of the Progressive Conservatives in 1956, and six months later the governing Liberals called an election. A young economist named Merril Menzies sent Diefenbaker a series of memos proposing a... Continue Reading →

Wilfrid Laurier, Canada’s century, 1904

Wilfrid  Laurier was campaigning for reelection when he made the following speech before a packed house in Toronto’s Massey Hall on 14 October 1904. The speech, while not one of his best, was vintage Laurier -- suave, playing to the audience, and discreetly undermining his political opponents. Near its end, he provided his grand vision... Continue Reading →

Richard Bedford Bennett, Great Depression, 1935

In January 1935 Prime Minister Richard Bedford Bennett delivered a series of dramatic radio addresses to the nation while Canada was in the grip of the Great Depression. Bennett had been staunchly conservative and anti-interventionist, but the country was in deep trouble. Bennett’s brother-in-law, W. D. Herridge, convinced him that he should follow the lead... Continue Reading →

W. L. Mackenzie King and war on Germany, September 1939

After Adolph Hitler came to power in 1933, he rearmed Germany and pursued an aggressive foreign policy which saw him annex both Austria and then the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia in 1938. Initially, Canada’s Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King supported British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in his decision to sacrifice Czechoslovakia by appeasing Hitler. But... Continue Reading →

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