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The Engineer

The Life and Times of Donald F. Simmons

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Canadian Politics

What with Mike Harris being touted as a possible leader for a United Right (please God, no), along with Bernard Lord (premier of NB) as another future candidate, I started wondering if any Prime Ministers had been premiers first. So I put the question to Charles Levi, my house expert in Canadian politics.

"My quick answer to this is "no", but I would have to check the complete record. Certainly Chretien, Campbell, Mulroney, Turner, Trudeau, Clark, Pearson, Diefebaker, St. Laurent, King, Bennett, Meighen, Borden, Laurier, MacKenzie and McDonald were not (as far as I recall), although Diefebaker was leader of the Provincial Conservatives in Saskatchewan when they failed to win a single seat in the 1938 election. There were a flurry of Conservative Prime Ministers between 1891 and 1896, and I am not sure about them. I think that covers everyone."

"The Conservatives have a record of electing provincial premiers to leadership -- three that come to mind are Manion (Manitoba) in the 1930s and Bracken (Manitoba) and Drew (Ontario) in the 1940s. The George Drew case is especially instructive. He was also a hard-right law-and-order Conservative from Ontario, and he was blown to tiny little bits by the national electorate (against St. Laurent in 1949 and 1953). Harris, if elected leader of a united right, would most likely suffer the fate of Drew. While Ontario, in a fit of absence of mind, often elects fascists to office for short period, the country as a whole has never done so."

"An excellent, though not perfect book on Canadian elections until 1968 is J. Murray Beck's "Pendulum of Power", Prentice-Hall, 1968. I picked up a copy at the U.C. booksale this year."

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Canadian Prime Ministers: the Fabled Four

Ah yes, the fabled four prime ministers between McDonald and Laurier, that no school child remembers.

Sir John Abbott (1891-92). Selected after MacDonald's death in 1991, he saw himself as a caretaker only and quickly resigned due to ill health.

Sir John Thompson (1892-94). Served as premier of Nova Scotia in 1882, and was generally seen as a worthy successor to Sir John A., but died suddenly of a heart attack.

Sir Mackenzie Bowell (1894-1896). Got the job because no one could agree on anyone else. Provided little leadership over a divided cabinet and was pressured into resigning in 1896.

Sir Charles Tupper (1896). Premier of Nova Scotia 1864-67 and an important figure in getting Nova Scotia into Confederation. But, at 75, was well past his prime and was trounced at the polls by Laurier 10 weeks in.

So, two PM's have been premiers also, but neither were directly elected.


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