PM Louis St Laurent on politics

  • Our nation was planned as a political partnership of two great races. It was planned by men of vision, of tolerance, as a partnership in which both of the partners would retain their essential characteristics, their religion, their culture.  
  • Today, we are a united people facing a world in search of unity, and what is most striking is that this world is wrestling with a problem of ethnic differences, linguistic differences and cultural differences, which is undoubtedly presented on a much more immense plane, but which, in essence, resembles the very same problem we were facing at the beginning of our life as a nation.
  • Sustainable peace and harmony between the nations can only be achieved if the nations of the world attain the same spirit of collaboration as that which unites the two groups of Canada.
  • Too few countries are as fortunate as ours; and I believe that we have all learned that our safety and our prosperity depend at least as much on what occurs on all sides of our borders as on what happens at home.
  • I didn’t know at first that there were two languages in Canada. I just thought that there was one way to speak to my father and another to speak to my mother.
  • Uncle Louis [a moniker picked up on account of his “common touch.”]
  • Patronage is the udder of democracy.
  • Public affairs are simply the affairs of the people  —  your affairs. And it is through general elections that the country’s people maintain control over its government and over the administration of its affairs.
  • But the military strength of Communist Russia and the policies of its masters in these post­war years have convinced all but the blindest among us that the only hope of immediate security for the rest of the world lies in building up armed strength sufficient to be an effective deterrent to the potential aggression of this latest military tyranny.
  • Socialists are Liberals in a hurry.

 

PM WL Mackenzie King on Politics

    

  • If some countries have too much history, we have too much geography. 
  • The promises of yesterday are the taxes of today.
  • Every hour of useful work is precious.
  • Once a nation parts with the control of its credit, it matters not who makes the laws. Usury, once in control, will wreck any nation.
  • Until the control of the issue of currency and credit is restored to government and recognised as its most sacred responsibility, all talk of the sovereignty of parliament and of democracy is idle and futile. 
  • Government, in the last analysis, is organized opinion. Where there is little or no public opinion, there is likely to be bad government, which sooner or later becomes autocratic government.
  • It is what we prevent, rather than what we do that counts most in Government.
  • Far more has been accomplished for the welfare and progress of mankind by preventing bad actions than by doing good ones.
  • I really believe my greatest service is in the many unwise steps I prevent.
  • The news of any action should not be allowed to destroy our sense of perspective of this world-wide conflict. We have reached one of the gravest hours in history.
  • Not necessarily conscription, but conscription if necessary.
  • Let it be remembered, too, that at a time of war, nearly every one is under great strain.
  • From the outset of the war, the Canadian people have clearly shown that it is their desire to help in every way to make Canada’s war effort as effective as possible.
  • If the military might of Germany and Japan are ultimately to be crushed, the United Nations, one and all, must definitely and urgently strive toward a total war effort.
  • Workers in industry are the partners in war of the fighting forces.
  • As to the advantages of temperance in the training of the armed forces and of its benefits to the members of the forces themselves, there can be no doubt in the world.
  • Regardless of what one’s attitude towards prohibition may be, temperance is something against which, at a time of war, no reasonable protest can be made.
  • Fortunately, the Canadian people in all their habits, are essentially a temperate people.
  • Only the man who disciplines himself strictly can stand for long the terrific pace of modern war.
  • Over the grave of one who had unnecessarily sought change, there is written ‘I was well, I wanted to be better, and here I am’.

 

Quotes of PMs Arthur Meighen and RB Bennett

          

Here are quotes from two Conservative Prime Ministers – Arthur Meighen serving from 1920-21, 1926 and R.B. Bennett 1930-1935, through the years of the Great Depression in North America

  • We have one neighbor and one only, and that one an industrial colossus. It lies for four thousand miles along our border, producing what we produce, and doing constant but legitimate battIe to forestall us in the world’s markets and in our own. There is the dominating fact that meets Canadians every morning. – Arthur Meighen
  • The one unpardonable sin in politics is lack of courage. As a Government we are in an impregnable position, in point both of policy and of record, and I do not propose to make apology either by act [or] word. – Arthur Meighen
  • Loyalty to the ballot box is not necessarily loyalty to the nation. Political captains in Canada must have courage to lead rather than servility to follow. [criticism of McKenzie King] – Arthur Meighen
  • One great secret of successful debate: when you have a man under your hammer, never be tempted into doubtful ground and give him a chance to digress. How often I witnessed men in the House who had a case, and who really had their opponents cornered, doddle off into other ground and give the enemy a chance to change the subject and come out not too badly worsted. – Arthur Meighen
  • The slogan etched more deeply than ever on the heart of every Canadian should be: Unity, Stability and Progress. [Conservative campaign call of 1926] – Arthur Meighen
  • The powers of the Prime Minister are very great. The functions of and duties of a Prime Minister in Parliament are…supreme in their importance. – Arthur Meighen
  • We no longer live in a political Empire. [adoption that year of the Statute of Westminster] – RB Bennett
  • I propose that any government of which I am the head will at the first session of Parliament initiate whatever action is necessary to that end, or perish in the attempt. [1930 speech on the elimination of unemployment] – RB Bennett
  • In the last five years great changes have taken place in the world… The old order is gone. We are living in conditions that are new and strange to us. Canada on the dole is like a young and vigorous man in the poorhouse … If you believe that things should be left as they are, you and I hold contrary and irreconcilable views. I am for reform. And in my mind, reform means government intervention. It means government control and regulation. It means the end of laissez-faire. [on The Bennett New Deal of 1935] – RB Bennett
  • Your leadership of the party especially during the years when you were Prime Minister was marked by a distinction which has not been surpassed. . . . No one has ever been asked to carry the burdens of unprecedented depression such as you assumed and no one could have shouldered them with such ability. I am confident that we shall look to those years as landmarks in Canadian history because of your energy and direction. [on RB Bennett’s leadership] – Harold Adams Innis, professor of economics at the University of Toronto

 

On Politics: Quotes of PM Sir Robert Borden

Sir Robert Borden was Canada’s Prime Minister from 1911 to 1920, leading the country during World War 1. Borden’s government introduced the first federal income tax to Canada and he nationalized the Canadian railways and he was responsible for WW1 conscription in 1917. 

  • It is a miserable irregular life one has to lead and I am more than sick of it, I can assure you. [in a letter to his wife on politics in Ottawa]
  • Canadianism or Continentalism [the victorious 1911 campaign slogan against PM Laurier’s vision of U.S. trade reciprocity]
  • Freely and voluntarily the manhood of Canada stands ready to fight beyond the seas in this just quarrel for the Empire and its liberties.
  • It can hardly be expected that we shall put 400,000 or 500,000 men in the field and willingly accept the position of having no more voice and receiving no more consideration than if we were toy automata. 
  • We must not forget that days may come when our patience, our endurance and our fortitude will be tried to the utmost. In those days, let us see to it that no heart grows faint and that no courage be found wanting. . .
  • In this country we are a peace loving people, and great tasks lie before us in the peaceful development of our resources. We have no lasting quarrel with the German people, who have great qualities and whose achievements in every important sphere of human progress are conspicuous, although they are temporarily misled by the militarism of Prussia; but we will fight to the death against the vain attempt of an arrogant militarist oligarchy to impose upon the world its ideals of force and violence and to achieve its unworthy purpose by “blood and iron”.
  • There is but one way to deal effectively with the Prussian gospel of force and violence and the Prussian ideal of absolutism. It must be smashed utterly and completely. The sooner that is accomplished the better for the German people and for all the nations. Canada joins wholeheartedly in that great task. What has been done is known to all. What remains to be done shall be limited only by the need.
  • Let us never forget the solemn truth that the nation is not constituted of the living alone. There are those as well who have passed away and those yet to be born. So this great responsibility comes to us as heirs of the past and trustees of the future. But with that responsibility there has come something greater still, the opportunity of proving ourselves worthy of it; and I pray that this may not be lost.
  • The Canadians who have fought so gallantly for our liberties and those of the world, and who have given to our country a great place among the world’s nations, will return to Canada with a wider vision and with a higher appreciation of the opportunities that lie before them.
  • Canada got nothing out of the war except recognition. [in a letter to his wife on what Canadians achieved from the war]

 

Canadian PM Wilfrid Laurier Quotes

  • Canada has been modest in its history, although its history, in my estimation, is only commencing. It is commencing in this century. The nineteenth century was the century of the United States. I think we can claim that Canada will fill the twentieth century. – Wilfrid Laurier
  • Confederation is a compact, made originally by four provinces but adhered to by all the nine provinces who have entered it, and I submit to the judgment of this house and to the best consideration of its members, that this compact should not be lightly altered. – Wilfrid Laurier
  • I claim for Canada this, that in future Canada shall be at liberty to act or not act, to interfere or not interfere, to do just as she pleases, and that she shall reserve to herself the right to judge whether or not there is cause for her to act. – Wilfrid Laurier
  • Let them look to the past, but let them also look to the future; let them look to the land of their ancestors, but let them look also to the land of their children. – Wilfrid Laurier
  • A colony, yet a nation – words never before in the history of the world associated together. – Wilfrid Laurier
  • We are here a nation, composed of the most heterogeneous elements–Protestants and Catholics, English, French, German, Irish, Scotch, every one, let it be remembered, with his traditions, with his prejudices. In each of these conflicting antagonistic elements, however, there is a common spot of patriotism, and the only true policy is that which reaches that common patriotism and makes it vibrate in all toward common ends and common aspirations. – Wilfrid Laurier
  • Fraternity without absorption, union without fusion. – Wilfrid Laurier
  • For us, sons of France, political sentiment is a passion; while, for the Englishmen, politics are a question of business. – Wilfrid Laurier
  • Two races share today the soil of Canada. These people had not always been friends. But I hasten to say it. There is no longer any family here but the human family. It matters not the language people speak, or the altars at which they kneel. – Wilfrid Laurier
  • Why, so soon as French Canadians, who are in a minority in this House and in the country, were to organise as a political party, they would compel the majority to organise as a political party, and the result must be disastrous to themselves. – Wilfrid Laurier
  • If I were not French I would choose to be – Scotch. – Wilfrid Laurier
  • He is ready, if the occasion presents itself, to throw the whole English population in the St. Lawrence. – Wilfrid Laurier
  • I am quite prepared, if we can do it without any disrespect to the Crown of England, to bring our titles to the marketplace and make a bonfire of them. – Wilfrid Laurier
  • It would be simply suicidal to French Canadians to form a party by themselves. – Wilfrid Laurier
  • Quebec does not have Opinions, but only sentiments. – Wilfrid Laurier
  • This country must be governed, and can be governed, simply on questions of policy and administration and the French Canadians who have had any part in this movement have never had any other intention but to organise upon those party distinctions and upon no other. – Wilfrid Laurier
  • The Divinity could be invoked as well in the English language as in the French. – Wilfrid Laurier
  • I am a subject of the British Crown, but whenever I have to choose between the interests of England and Canada it is manifest to me that the interests of my country are identical with those of the United States of America. – Wilfrid Laurier
  • I am not here to parade my religious sentiments, but I declare I have too much respect for the faith in which I was born to ever use it as the basis of a political organization. – Wilfrid Laurier
  • Whether splendidly isolated or dangerously isolated, I will not now debate; but for my part, I think splendidly isolated, because the isolation of England comes from her superiority. – Wilfrid Laurier  

 

Quotes from Canada’s earliest PMs

   

Here are ten quotes from five of our country’s earliest Prime Ministers:  Alexander Mackenzie (1873-1878), Sir John Abbott (1891-1892), Sir John Thompson (1892-1894), Sir Mackenzie Bowell (1894-1896), and Sir Charles Tupper (1896).  

  • I have always held those political opinions which point to the universal brotherhood of man, no matter in what rank of life he may have taken his origin. – Alexander Mackenzie
  • But I refer to it now merely to say this: that the Reformers of this country will remember — those who were not alive at that time by reading, and those who were alive by having been in the midst of these events — with gratitude that it was the great leaders of the Reform party who first gave perfect civil and religious rights to the people of Canada. – Alexander Mackenzie
  • We shall all respect the principles of each other and do nothing that would be regarded as an act of oppression to any portion of the people. – Alexander Mackenzie
  • I hate politics and what are considered their appropriate measures. I hate notoriety, public meetings, public speeches, caucuses and everything that I know of which is apparently the necessary incident of politics—except doing public work to the best of my ability. – Sir John Abbott
  • I cannot promise that my services shall be of great account, or that I shall render great service to my country. I can promise that my whole strength of mind and talent, whatever it is, shall be devoted to its interests. – Sir John Abbott
  • We look forward to it as one of the aims which are to be accomplished in the public life of Canada, because the Conservative party believes that the influence of women in the politics of the country is always for good. I think, therefore, that there is a probability of the franchise being extended to the women on the same property qualifications as men. –  [on women’s suffrage] Sir John Thompson
  • I hope the time is fast approaching in Canada when we shall never hear the question raised of a man’s birth, or the creed that he professes. We live in a country and under a constitution in which every man has a right to act as his judgment dictates, or as his education leads him, upon matters of this very important character. – Sir Mackenzie Bowell
  • I have lived long enough to come to the conclusion, that if a man believes in one particular principle, or one particular creed and thinks it is the best, it is not for me to interfere with his conscience, nor do I think any one else should interfere with his conscience, or with the course which he may think proper to pursue, so long as he does not attempt to interfere with others. – Sir Mackenzie Bowell
  • The human mind naturally adapts itself to the position it occupies. The most gigantic intellect may be dwarfed by being cabin’d, cribbed and confined. It requires a great country and great circumstances to develop great men. – Sir Charles Tupper
  • Each little Province is a little nation by itself. – Sir Charles Tupper

 

Great Quotes of Sir John A. Macdonald

  • . . . one people, great in territory, great in resources, great in enterprise, great in credit, great in capital. [a 1860 speech summed up his lifelong political creed and political goals] – Sir John A Macdonald
  • If I had influence over the minds of the people of Canada, any power over their intellect, I would leave them this legacy: ‘Whatever you do, adhere to the Union. We are a great country, and shall become one of the greatest in the universe if we preserve it; we shall sink into insignificance and adversity if we suffer it to be broken.’
  • God and nature made the two Canadas one—let no fractious men be allowed to put them asunder. – Sir John A Macdonald
  • Let us be English or let us be French . . . and above all let us be Canadians. – Sir John A Macdonald
  • Everyone admits that Union must take place sometime. I say now is the time. [At the Charlottetown Conference 1864] – Sir John A Macdonald
  • There may be obstructions, local differences may intervene, but it matters not — the wheel is now revolving, and we are only the fly on the wheel, we cannot delay it. The union of the colonies of British America under one sovereign is a fixed fact. – Sir John A Macdonald
  • The statement that has been made so often that this is a conquered country is a propos de rien. Whether it was conquered or ceded, we have a constitution now under which all British subjects are in a position of absolute equality, having equal rights of every kind – of language, of religion, of property and of person. There is no paramount race in this country; we are all British subjects, and those who are not English are none the less British subjects on that account. – Sir John A Macdonald
  • My sins of omission and commission I do not deny; but I trust that it may be said of me in the ultimate issue, ‘Much is forgiven because he loved much,’ for I have loved my country with a passionate love. – Sir John A Macdonald
  • A public man should have no resentments. – Sir John A Macdonald
  • As for myself, my course is clear. A British subject I was born, a British subject I will die. With my utmost effort, with my latest breath, will I oppose the veiled treason which attempts by sordid means and mercenary proffers to lure our people from their allegiance. [on Canadian-American trade] – Sir John A Macdonald

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Canada’s Prime Ministers on Politics

Sir John A. Macdonald is Canada’s first Prime Minister

and a grand and colourful character whose accomplishments

helped forged a nation from sea to sea.

 

Over the course of the next two months, we will focus on providing quotes from our country’s Prime Ministers.

We begin with the quotes and quips of perhaps our greatest leader, Sir John A.:

  • Politics is a game requiring great coolness.
  • Anybody may support me when I am right. What I want is someone that will support me when I am wrong.
  • An election is like a horse-race, in that you can tell more about it the next day. – Sir John A Macdonald
  • There were, unfortunately, no great principles on which parties were divided – politics became a mere struggle for office. – Sir John A Macdonald
  • If you would know the depth of meanness of human nature, you have got to be a Prime Minister running a general election. – Sir John A Macdonald
  • Politics is a game requiring great coolness and an utter abnegation of prejudice and personal feeling. – Sir John A Macdonald
  • Give me better wood and I will make you a better cabinet. – Sir John A Macdonald
  • The time has come, I think, when we must choose men for their qualifications rather than for their locality. – Sir John A Macdonald
  • We are all mere petty provincial politicians at present; perhaps by and by some of us will rise to the level of national statesmen. – Sir John A Macdonald
  • The Government are merely trustees for the public. – Sir John A Macdonald
  • I don’t care for office for the sake of money, but for the sake of power, and for the safe of carrying out my own views of what is best for the country. – Sir John A Macdonald
  • Even if all the territory Mr. Mowat asks for were awarded to Ontario, there is not one stick of timber, one acre of land, or one lump of lead, iron or gold that does not belong to the Dominion, or to the people who purchased from the Dominion Government. – Sir John A Macdonald
  • Had I but consented to take the popular side in Upper Canada, I could have ridden the Protestant horse much better than George Brown, and could have had an overwhelming majority. But I willingly sacrificed my own popularity for the good of the country, and did equal justice to all men. – Sir John A Macdonald
  • He shall hang though every dog in Quebec bark in his favour. [referring to Louis Riel] – Sir John A Macdonald
  • I have no accord with the desire expressed in some quarters that by any mode whatever there should be an attempt made to oppress the one language or to render it inferior to the other – I believe that would be impossible if it were tried, and it would be foolish and wicked if it were possible. – Sir John A. Macdonald
  • I would be quite willing, personally, to leave that whole country a wilderness for the next half-century but I fear if Englishmen do not go there, Yankees will. – Sir John A Macdonald
  • But if it should happen that we should be absorbed in the United States, the name of Canada would be literally forgotten; we should have the State of Ontario, the State of Quebec, the State of Nova Scotia and State of New Brunswick. Every one of the provinces would be a state, but where is the grand, the glorious name of Canada? All I can say is that not with me, or not by the action of my friends, or not by the action of the people of Canada, will such a disaster come upon us. – Sir John A Macdonald
  • If Canada is to remain a country separate from the United States it is of great importance to her that they (the United States) should not get behind us by right or by force, and intercept the route to the Pacific. But in any other point of view, it seems to me that the country is of no present value to Canada. We have unoccupied land enough to absorb immigration for many years, and the opening up of the Saskatchewan would do to Canada what the Prairie lands of Illinois are doing now – drain away our youth and our strength. – Sir John A Macdonald
  • The word ‘protection’ itself must be taboo, but we can ring the changes on National Policy, paying the U.S. in their own coin. – Sir John A Macdonald
  • There is no maxim which experience teaches more clearly than this, that you must yield to the times. Resistance may be protracted until it produces revolution. Resistance was protracted in this country until it produced rebellion. – Sir John A Macdonald
  • When fortune empties her chamber pot on your head, smile and say, ‘We are going to have a summer shower.’ – Sir John A Macdonald
  • I am afraid I shall have to give you the answer of the Irish servant who got into a place where the food was not as it should be – ‘there’s too much to swallow and too little to eat’. – Sir John A Macdonald
  • A compliment is the statement of an agreeable truth; flattery is the statement of an agreeable untruth. – Sir John A Macdonald
  • Never write a letter if you can help it, and never destroy one. – Sir John A Macdonald
  • A sweet smile from the teeth outwards. [referring to John Abbott] – Sir John A Macdonald
  • When a man has done me an evil turn once, I don’t like to give him the opportunity to do so twice. – Sir John A Macdonald
  •  [Macdonald was well known for his wit and also for his alcoholism. He is known to have been drunk for many of his debates in parliament. Here is a story from an election debate in which Macdonald was so drunk he began vomiting while on stage.]  His opponent quickly pointed this out and said: “Is this the man you want running your country? A drunk!” Collecting himself, Macdonald replied “I get sick … not because of drink [but because] I am forced to listen to the ranting of my honourable opponent.” – Sir John A Macdonald

 

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Celebrating Sir John A.

Upon Sir John A. Macdonald’s death, (the soon-to-be Prime Minister) Wilfred Laurier paid tribute to him in the House of Commons (June 8, 1891):

“The place of Sir John A. Macdonald in this country was so large and so absorbing that it is almost impossible to conceive that the politics of this country – the fate of this country – will continue without him. His loss overwhelms us. For my part, I say, with all truth, his loss overwhelms me, and that it also overwhelms this Parliament, as if indeed one of the institutions of the land had given way. Sir John A. Macdonald now belongs to the ages, and it can be said with certainty that the career which has just been closed is one of the most remarkable careers of this century. . .

“As to his statesmanship, it is written in the history of Canada. It may be said without any exaggeration whatever, that the life of Sir John Macdonald, from the time he entered Parliament, is the history of Canada.”

And, so that you may discuss this great man at your next social, here are some interesting trivia most may not know about Sir John A.

  • While there is some debate over his actual birthdate, January 10 is the official date recorded and January 11 is the day Macdonald celebrated it.
  • Having personally written the largest part of the Canadian constitution ( BNA act ), and having been the main lobbyist for its adoption at London, Macdonald can truly be called “THE Father of his country.”
  • According to the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, Macdonald’s nicknames included Old Chieftain and Old Tomorrow – the latter for his habit of putting off any large political problems until conditions were personally favourable to him.
  • Sir John A.Macdonald is one of two Canadian prime-ministers to die in office (The other is John Thompson).
  • Macdonald’s nephew Newton Ford was the father of iconic Canadian-American actor Glenn Ford

Happy Birthday Sir John A. Macdonald!

   

“If I had influence over the minds of the people of Canada, any power over their intellect, I would leave them this legacy: ‘Whatever you do, adhere to the Union. We are a great country, and shall become one of the greatest in the universe if we preserve it; we shall sink into insignificance and adversity if we suffer it to be broken.”

Happy Birthday Sir John A.! We certainly miss your national vision and your leadership today. For more, click here to see the By George archived articles on this great man.