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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Canada's Greatest Politician

It started with 64 challengers, and now my friend Tim Hudak's Internet contest to choose Canada's Greatest (read Most Inspirational) Politician comes down to these final four:

Voting in this round is open until Thursday, 11:59 p.m., EDT.  Click here to vote.

Funnily enough, I recall some early commentary on this site suggesting that the poll results would favour conservatives, either because (as some argued) they were the greatest or (as others argued) conservatives were the ones voting.  That was before "favourites" such as John A. Macdonald, Robert Borden and John Diefenbaker fell from competition.  To get a sense of who is driving the contest now, you can check out the debate between Rabble (pro-Riel) and 80soft.com (pro-Duplessis).

So what happened to conservative voters and their favourites?  I have a theory.

Part of the challenge is that a modern conservative can find few role models among past (Progressive) Conservative prime ministers (the current party leader, Stephen Harper is a notable exception).  Excluding the prime ministerial historical footnotes, of which Conservatives claim the lion's share, most Conservative/Progressive Conservative prime ministers were corrupt (e.g., Macdonald), rigid centralists (e.g., Macdonald again), unthinking disciples of Big Government (e.g., Mulroney) or tax-and-spend liberals (e.g., Diefenbaker, not to say the preceding don't fit into this category). Indeed, Diefenbaker and Macdonald each pursued policies and exhibited traits for which we recently, vehemently (and quite properly) excoriated Jean Chrétien.

Given the realignment of Canadian political parties over time, the current values of many modern conservatives are best reflected by early Liberal Prime Ministers such as Alexander Mackenzie (fought corruption, cleaned up the civil service, introduced the secret ballot) or Wilfrid Laurier (free trade). Whether or not the partisan lineage can be traced in an unbroken line, the ideological ancestors of modern Canadian conservatives are the 19th-century Reformers and Grits, not 19th-century Conservatives.

All of which may explain why the historical popularity contest produced such interesting results, at least among conservative respondents to the poll. It's a natural human instinct to want to cheer on the home team.  But during travel back through time, home-town loyalty gets fuzzy, especially when the home-team has relocated, whether all at once, as in the case of the Dodgers, or gradually, as in the case of classical liberals now modern conservatives.  My theory is that some conservatives voted the historic party label, while others voted for conservative ideals regardless of label (e.g., I did my best to promote Oliver Mowat).  In the result, all our favourites came up short.

So now we're down to Maurice Duplessis, Lester Pearson, Louis Riel and John Thompson.  Don't forget to vote, and may the best remaining candidate win.

Posted by Guy Giorno on April 11, 2007 in Canadian Politics | Permalink


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" So what happened to conservative voters and their favourites? "

I didn't get my targeted tax break to encourage me to vote.

Posted by: BBS | 2007-04-11 9:26:05 AM

I predict Pearson will win. Was he a Christian?

My man was Sir Wilfrid Laurier.

Posted by: Rémi Houle | 2007-04-11 10:18:52 AM

So conservatives did not vote because there are NO prominent past politicians that conservatives like, other than ones who were Liberals. Interesting....

Posted by: Mark Logan | 2007-04-11 10:26:11 AM

Modern Conservatives are a loose coalition of social conservatives, libertarians, populists along with the remnants of the old Progressive Conservatives. Old (PCs)conservatives clung to the large government / mega project / nationalistic / interventionist (tory) traditions. It's the liberals that really changed in the last 150 years from a quasi-libertarian polity to today's activist, red-tory, NDP-guided, opportunistic power-whores.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2007-04-11 10:53:26 AM

Now that Stronach has quit, does she qualify for "Canada's Greatest Politician?"

Posted by: Buhlinduh | 2007-04-11 11:19:50 AM

Riel won't win because he dared to stand up to the rich people of Ontario. Most of the people voting for this thing are Ontarians and they distrust anyone and anything that questions their divine right to rule for their own profit.

Duplessis won't win either because he's not from Ontario.

Thompson - how did he manage to go so far? He accomplished nothing in 2 years as PM.

Pearson will win because 1) he's Ontarian; 2) he gave the weak Easterners a myth of "peacekeeping" that they wish would return (wake the hell up people), and 3) he's from Toronto.

Question: who would win the race for greatest Alberta politician? EC Manning? Aberhart? Preston Manning? Stephen Harper? Peter Lougheed? My money is on EC Manning.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2007-04-11 11:31:46 AM

Yaaaaawn ....

Posted by: John | 2007-04-11 1:04:25 PM

The winner should be:

Sir John Thompson!

He went to London as PM and was knighted there by Queen Victoria. The next day, he was dead of a massive heart attack.

Thompson was a knight for a day. That should clinch it for him, I would say.

Posted by: obc | 2007-04-11 2:29:31 PM

There were originally half a dozen inspirational politicians in the race. None are left. The only top-tier candidate in the final eight was Laurier. I find this all very depressing.

Posted by: pete e | 2007-04-11 11:32:18 PM

Thompson ? Duplessis???
Someones been skewing with that poll - did SDA send her minions over there or what ?

btw- how come kate don't come round here no more - lovers spat or something ?

Posted by: Nbob | 2007-04-11 11:41:28 PM

Title of post is an oxymoron.

Posted by: David | 2007-04-12 9:19:25 AM

Duplessis was a thug. He sent thousands of children to mental hospitals to save money. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duplessis_Orphans

"The diagnoses were always swift — the children went to bed orphans and woke up psychiatric patients. The reason? Shrewd fiscal planning; federal subsidies paid out more to hospitals than to orphanages. Some children allegedly endured lobotomies, electroshock, straitjackets and abuse" http://archives.cbc.ca/IDD-1-70-1633/disasters_tragedies/duplessis_orphans/

The amount of hate against RIEL and against us is terrible. Many hurtful words It is like they want to hang him all over


Posted by: Saigon | 2007-04-12 2:39:06 PM

Did you get the part where regions get to duke it out?

Gee, I wonder who will dominate now?

Instead of actually selecting the greatest, we will end up with a post-mortum popularity contest.

May the deceased with the most released riga mortis win.


Posted by: Lady | 2007-04-12 6:57:42 PM

The torys tried to kill Riel again but failed ... 217 votes RIEL 205 votes Duplessis All there cheating and they still lost

RIEL is in the Final round please vote to make him Canadas greatest politician Its Important WE NEED EVERY VOTE


Posted by: Saigon | 2007-04-13 12:42:38 AM

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