Tag Archives: prime minister

PMs and their Wingmen

Through the ages, our Canadian Prime Ministers have had a few elected bench mates who loyally served them as their trusted wingmen – their closest advisors, often the Cabinet’s Mr. Fix-It or a dependable Party workhorse. Often, we can look back at the PM’s tenure and see the successes (or failures) of their governments as reflective in how effective their wingmen were in advising on crisis situations and managing the caucus.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has had a series of wingmen through his time as Leader of the Conservative Party. At the beginning there were old Reform partners, like Vic Toews, Jason Kenny and Jim Prentice, who provided a great deal of input. Throughout his stint at 24 Sussex Drive, Mr. Harper has called upon an Ontario triumvirate of Mike Harris ministers — Jim Flaherty, John Baird and Tony Clement.

John BairdOf all these men mentioned, perhaps the person with the greatest personal suasion was John Baird – close friend of the family, (wing)man-about-Ottawa and one of Mr. Harper’s earliest political operators east of the Prairies.  For this reason, Baird’s resignation is a huge loss for the Prime Minister – and an untimely exit for a Party rallying their troops for the next election battle. Baird’s departure, along with the resignation of Jim Flaherty a month before his death last year, has resulted in two of Harper’s most powerful ministers vacating his inner circle in less than a year.

So, the Harper Government of Fall 2015 will look very different from its image of not 12 months ago. Gone are the leading support cast that so defined the Harper Government:

Jim “Smiling” Flaherty and John “Attack Dog” Baird

There is a huge vacuum that will need to be filled in the coming months…

Beside every PM is…

This turn of events today, got By George reflecting on past Prime Ministers and their able wingmen. In the last 40 years, how can we forget these Trojan MPs who worked so hard for their Leader?

PM Pierre Trudeau’s operatives: Allan MacEachen, Daniel MacDonald and Francis Fox, and there was P.E.T.’s “White Knight of Bay Street”, his Finance Minister John Turner

PM Brian Mulroney’s main dancing partners: Michael Wilson, westerners Don Mazankowski and Harvey Andre, and the unforgettably humourous John Crosbie.

PM Jean Chretien’s henchmen: PM-in-waiting Paul Martin, John Manley, “Rat Pack” members Sheila Copps and Brian Tobin, and then there was the Leader’s ultimate Parliamentary caretaker: Herb Gray.

For politicos, the mention of each of these Cabinet Ministers conjures up fiery debates and events that have defined their Prime Minister and his time in office.

As John Baird departs the Hill, one must wonder who can fill the role as both mirror and foil for Stephen Harper now? Who will be his new wingman?


PHOTO CREDIT: By DFATD (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Happy Sir John A. Day!

John_A_MacdonaldThis January 11, 2015 marks a special anniversary for our country: the 200th birthday of Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister.

Since 2002, this day is set aside for Canadians to remember their first Prime Minister, one of the Fathers of Confederation. So it is fitting to that we take this occasion to highlight a few interesting facts and celebrate the man.

Through the years, By George has lamented the ignored legacy of Sir John A in many of our posts (and we have tagged “John A. Macdonald“). We have compiled lists of his quotes and a few years back featured our 10 favourite quotes.

To mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Sir John A., Prime Minister Stephen Harper wrote a stirring piece that commemorates our first PM. PM Harper writes:

Others had ruminated about Confederation but only he saw how to get it done — how to make the case for unity, how to rally common hopes and fears, how to overcome different perspectives and interests.

But Macdonald did more than achieve it; he made it work…. Of the greatest importance for all of us, perhaps, was that Macdonald appropriated from the British constitution its conception of freedom, of “ordered liberty,” of the balancing of popular rule and minority rights, of (in the terms of the era) equality before the law and governments responsible through the legislature to the voters.

Richard Gwyn, the celebrated biographer of John Macdonald wrote in the Toronto Star a column trumpeting: “Sir John A. Macdonald, the greatest PM of all”

Gwyn makes the point that “had there been no Macdonald, there would be no Canada for anyone to be a citizen of.”

Under Macdonald’s leadership as prime minister (1867-1873 and 1878-1891), the country was extended from sea to sea, giving — at last — it a certain geographical coherence. Macdonald also led Canada to achieve the National Dream, a railway the entire way from eastern Canada to the West Coast. The railway, together with Macdonald’s policy of high tariffs to protect Canadian companies from their far more efficient American rivals, made it possible for Canadians to do business with and get to know each other despite all their differences (French vs. English, Catholic vs. Protestant, Aboriginal vs. European) and the immense distances between them.

By other initiatives, Macdonald fashioned a distinctive Canadian way of getting things done that has stayed with us ever since.

In a National Post article noting the significance of this day, Bob Plamondon, respected political observer and author, makes the perceptive comment:
Macdonald’s greatest gift to us, then as now, was to show us how we can be stronger as a nation when we celebrate and respect our diversity.

All of this is by way of hanging our collective heads with the discouraging fact that Canadians really do not know enough about Macdonald and his legacy. On Canada.com, there is a telling release this week: Poll conducted ahead of the 200th anniversary of Macdonald’s birth

One in four Canadians can’t identify Sir John A. Macdonald as the first prime minister of Canada, according to a new poll commissioned by Historica Canada.

The poll, conducted by Ipsos Reid, shows Canadians don’t know their history as well as Historica would hope. Twenty-eight per cent of Canadians don’t know the year of confederation, and 44 per cent don’t know Canada turns 150 years old in 2017.

So, today, take a moment and share a story or two about our first Prime Minister. Talk about him. Toast his legacy. Canada is very much a living testament to Sir John A. Macdonald’s vision and efforts. It is so important that more Canadians appreciate this fact.

30 years ago today!!


30-years ago today, the Progressive Conservatives swept across Canada in a remarkable election that ushered in Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

This government did a lot of small things wrong, and Mr. Mulroney wasn’t the most popular of Prime Ministers. However, he and his government got a few big things right: Canada – US Free Trade leading to a North American agreement, GST helping to eliminate deficit spending, an enviable environmental record, leading the call for the end to apartheid and projecting Canada favourably on the world stage.

Happy Anniversary Brian Mulroney and the Progressive Conservatives of 1984!

The (factual) record of Pierre Trudeau

The Truth about Trudeau by Bob Plamondon is one of those books that is destined to redefine the manner Canadian historians and writers pen biographical accounts. This is a book that makes an unchallengeable case on the record of a Prime Minister, wholly contrary to the prevalent narrative of our country’s liberal, chattering-class. Bob Plamondon’s mastery over government statistics and economic facts, his skills accumulating and researching government policies and outcomes of the period, and his laser-like abilities to parse a truth from the many legendary tales of the man – all of this makes his study of the Trudeau years in power a must read.

Here are some of the highlights (lowlights?) of Pierre Trudeau’s tenure in office as recorded in The Truth about Trudeau.  

  • The accumulated deficit rose tenfold, from $19.4 billion to $194.4 billion, or from 25.5 percent of GDP to 43.2 percent. Total annual federal spending was $12.9 billion in 1968 and $109.2 billion in 1984, leaping from 17 percent of GDP to 24.2 percent. This fueled inflation in Canada, to an average of 15 percent while Trudeau was in office – the worst inflation rate among developed nations.
  • The Trudeau Government purposefully undermined our traditional alliances with Britain and the U.S.; pointlessly annoyed our major trading partners; and, of his own independent accord, Trudeau befriended communist dictators and regimes that were devoid of Canadian interests. His cavalier approach to foreign affairs resulted in multiple failed Canadian initiatives on the world stage: his North-South, Third Option, and world peace initiatives all failed.
  • Trudeau’s misleading Quebecers and repatriating the constitution without Quebec’s consent created a difficult and lasting rift between Quebec and TROC. It also sowed the seeds of mistrust that born PQs’ rise to power and the creation of Bloc Quebecois.  
  • The Charter of Rights and Freedoms was not the jewel in the crown of a repatriated constitution, but rather a tool that has been used to Americanize our constitutional structure by making our culture more litigious and enabling judicial activism.   
  • And much more is recounted: the gutting of the military, effectively leaving the country defenseless; the implementation of a National Energy Program that was disastrous for western Canada’s economy and a lasting source of resentment; and, the social-minded, state-intervention approach to Canadian business that challenged free enterprise and destroyed private sector confidence – leading to greater inflation and unemployment rates of 11.2 percent in 1984 (it was 4.5 percent in 1968).

Click through Bob Plamondon’s website to know more about the author and click to Amazon where you can order a copy of this must-read!

P.E.T.: We’re going to build socialism here.


“We’re going to build socialism here. For a country with such a small population there is no alternative.”


“The state has an active role to play in ensuring that there is equilibrium between the constituent parts of the economy, the consumers and the producers.”


“Since neither individuals themselves, nor the economic system itself, can remedy the fluctuations [in the business cycle], we’re forced – whether we like it or not – to turn to the State. How can it guarantee that distributed purchasing power will transform itself completely into effective demand for produced goods? The most obvious solution would be to redistribute income equally among social classes, so that the poor have more to spend, and the rich have less to save.”


When asked in 1969 by some students what kind of society he would like to make in Canada – socialist or capitalist, Trudeau replied: “Labour Party socialist – or Cuban socialism or Chinese socialism – socialism from each according to his means.” *


These quotes of Pierre Trudeau’s not only provide the lens to understand the former Prime Minister’s design for our country and his government’s modus operandi; but they also illuminate the core resentments that conservative-minded Canadians harbour for the misguided government actions Pierre Trudeau, solely, is responsible for.


(ed. – This quote is e sourced in a “Tribute to Trudeau” written by George Irbe – click here.)



Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s Trudeauisms (30 years later)

PM Pierre Trudeau - 1980

PM Pierre Trudeau – 1980

“I walked until midnight in the storm, then I went home and took a sauna for an hour and a half. It was all clear. I listened to my heart and saw if there were any signs of my destiny in the sky, and there were none — there were just snowflakes.”


It has been thirty years this week since Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau took that “long walk in the snow” and decided to retire from Parliament Hill (and what all Canadians thought was public life). He is a man who has cast a long shadow on our country. This week By George provides some perspective on our former Prime Minister.


Here are some of P.E.T.’s infamous musings while in office:

  • My life is one long curve, full of turning points.
  • Luck, that’s when preparation and opportunity meet.
  • The essential ingredient of politics is timing.
  • In academic life you seek to state absolute truths; in politics you seek to accommodate truth to the facts around you.
  • We wish nothing more, but we will accept nothing less. Masters in our own house we must be, but our house is the whole of Canada.
  • I am trying to put Quebec in its place — and the place of Quebec is in Canada.
  • Canada is a country whose main exports are hockey players and cold fronts. Our main imports are baseball players and acid rain.
  • Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.
  • I believe a constitution can permit the co-existence of several cultures and ethnic groups with a single state.
  • I believe that Canada cannot, indeed, that Canada must not survive by force. The country will only remain united – it should only remain united – if its citizens want to live together in one civil society.
  • The die is cast in Canada: there are two ethnic and linguistic groups; each is too strong and too deeply rooted in the past, too firmly bound to a mother culture, to be able to swamp the other. But if the two will collaborate inside of a truly pluralist state, Canada could become a privileged place where the federalist form of government, which is the government of tomorrow’s world, will be perfected.
  • Bilingualism is not an imposition on the citizens. The citizens can go on speaking one language or six languages, or no languages if they so choose. Bilingualism is an imposition on the state and not the citizens.
  • We peer so suspiciously at each other that we cannot see that we Canadians are standing on the mountaintop of human wealth, freedom and privilege.
  • Canada will be a strong country when Canadians of all provinces feel at home in all parts of the country, and when they feel that all Canada belongs to them 
  • If there is anything that puzzles me in this game, it is that the longer that you are in the job of prime minister, the harder you have to work to do your job. With anything else ….you get to know the ropes pretty well and it becomes easy.  I feel the more you know, the more you have to know and  the more problems come at you.  It is certainly not because I do not delegate.
  • Power only tires those who don’t exercise it.
  • The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.
  • Let us overthrow the totems, break the taboos. Or better, let us consider them cancelled. Coldly, let us be intelligent.
  • The past is to be respected and acknowledged, but not to be worshipped. It is our future in which we will find our greatness.
  • Liberalism is the philosophy for our time, because it does not try to conserve every tradition of the past, because it does not apply to new problems the old doctrinaire solutions, because it is prepared to experiment and innovate and because it knows that the past is less important than the future.
  • Our hopes are high. Our faith in the people is great. Our courage is strong. And our dreams for this beautiful country will never die.
  • There is no such thing as a model or ideal Canadian. What could be more absurd than the concept of an “all Canadian” boy or girl? A society which emphasizes uniformity is one which creates intolerance and hate.
  • Some things I never learned to like. I didn’t like to kiss babies, though I didn’t mind kissing their mothers. I didn’t like to slap backs or other parts of the anatomy. I liked hecklers, because they brought my speeches alive. I liked supporters, because they looked happy. And I really enjoyed mingling with people, if there wasn’t too much of it.
  • What sets a canoeing expedition apart is that it purifies you more rapidly and inescapably than any other. Travel a thousand miles by train and you are a brute; pedal five hundred on a bicycle and you remain basically a bourgeois; paddle a hundred in a canoe and you are already a child of nature.


(ed. – This compilation of quotes first appeared in the By George Journal post of June 2010. Source for the photo:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pierre_Elliot_Trudeau-2.jpg )

A few observations in the election aftermath

A strong national Conservative majority government….

C’est ca.  Now, consider the remarks made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper once the reality of these election results sunk in for him and his Conservative team. In post-election interviews, the PM has given us a glimpse of how he views his responsibility through the next four – five years:

“We are intensely aware that we are and must be the government of all Canadians, including those that did not vote for us.”

“We got that mandate because of the way we have governed, because of our record…. Canadians expect us to continue to move forward in the same way, to be true to the platform we’ve run on and be true to the kind of values and policies we’ve laid out before them.”

Mr. Harper also intimated that he feels the burden of Canadians’ trust and their vote for a majority government:  “It feels great but at the same time I am very much aware of the immense challenges that lie before us in the government and the responsibility that this office carries with it.”

This is all refreshing that we have a Prime Minister with these reflections after having been handed the keys to absolute power in the Nation’s Capital.  Furthermore, the fact that he immediately jetted back to Ottawa and is back in his office today to attend to the country’s matters speaks volumes for the type of man he is. (Most elected representatives and candidates are cacooning themselves with their families and friends and putting their feet up from their grueling campaign schedules – but not Stephen Harper.)

Let us take this point one step further in saying that PM Harper’s immediate response to the Canadian public is both refreshing and reassuring. Can you remember hearing this type of comment from previous PMs in the wake of their majority mandates? We did not hear it from PMs Chretien or Mulroney – and, in fact, we heard the exact opposite – an arrogant bravado about the dawn of a new Liberal era – from former PM Trudeau. So, given this comparison, we are ever-hopeful our current PM’s observations are a sign of many good things to come…

So, By George Journal will complete our 2011 federal election commentary with a final fractured poem (and note we’ve moved to sailing analogies from flogging that horserace analogy): 

crashing blue wave

a striking Orange undertow

drowned Grits and separatist

forward now, wind in sails

calming waters, edging to the right


The Economist and its review of the Canadian Prime Minister


A recent issue of The Economist marked Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s five-year anniversary in power by asking some very provoking questions for Canadian conservatives as well as the general public. In the article entitled, “The circumspect and circumscribed Conservative,” the question is put: “Stephen Harper has proved remarkably durable by curbing his instincts. Can he now remake his country?”


Here’s the crux of the analysis:


     STARTING a conservative revolution in Canada was never going to be easy. It is a socially liberal place, proud of its welfare state and ruled for 79 of the past 115 years by the centre-left Liberal party. The first time Stephen Harper led the Conservative Party in a general election, in 2004, it finished a distant second to the Liberals, who saw themselves as Canada’s “natural governing party”. Two years later, with the Liberals crippled by a kickback scandal, the Conservatives did well enough for Mr Harper to form a minority government. An evangelical Christian and economic libertarian, he vowed to turn a would-be “second-tier socialistic country” into one that “the Liberals wouldn’t even recognise”.


     Five years on, Mr Harper has pulled off two surprises. The biggest is that he is still prime minister, despite failing to win a majority in a subsequent election in 2008, making his the longest-serving minority government in Canada’s history. The second follows in part from the first: Canada remains a country that the Liberals can recognise perfectly well, with big government and social liberalism largely intact. “He emerged from the movement. He was going to be our Ronald Reagan,” says Gerry Nicholls, a former colleague of Mr Harper’s. “But he’s become what he’s always opposed. If he destroys the Liberal party by becoming it, what’s the point?”


Read the full article here:




Putting an end to per-vote federal political subsidies


Just imagine in Canada, we are taxed to pay for the activities of our national political parties. Canadian taxpayers are on the hook for all politicos – paying for both MPs who represent our point of view and those who don’t – and even for Bloc MPs who are only interested in getting a bigger hunk of flesh from “Body Canada” for Quebecois. This practice amounts to state-sanctioned pick-pocketing. Since 2004, when former PM Jean Chretien and his Liberal band of “Nottingham sheriffs” decreed it law, we’ve all been paying for the shenanigans on Parliament Hill.


FACT:  In 2010, the total cost to taxpayers was $27.4 million.


Here are some more facts on the party subsidy as reported in the Hill Times:

     In 2010  five  parties received $27.4-million from the per vote subsidies. The Conservatives received $10.4-million; the Liberals received $7.3-million; the NDP received $5.0-million ; the Bloc Québécois received $2.8-million; and the Green Party received $1.9-million.

     Compare the per vote subsidies to the amounts raised by direct donations from individuals to the parties. The  Elections Canada’s website indicates that in 2009 (the latest full year available), the Bloc Québécois raised $834,762; the Conservatives raised $17,770,477, the Greens raised $1,166,874 ; the Liberals raised $10,120,312 and the NDP raised $4,039,104 (The Hill Times, March 29, 2010).The total equals $33.94-million.

     With the most recent adjustment for inflation, the per vote subsidy was raised $2.04 per year for 4Q 2010.


These facts are important to tuck away in our memory for this whole issue is soon to be a central point of argument and, possibly, a federal election issue.  (ed. – Given our disdain for this subsidy, full marks go to PM Stephen Harper and his persistence in wishing to cut the taxpayer per vote subsidies to political parties!)


The By George Journal will follow this argument as it is presented to the public in the months to come. To review the facts of the matter, we recommend W.T. Stanbury’s column in the Hill Times – “Comparing the per-vote subsidies to all federal political subsidies”


Full article: