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.

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.

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.

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 →

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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