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Maclean’s on the Hill: 150 years of Canadian politics

Political historian and strategist John Duffy explores Canada’s rich political history, from Confederation through world wars to the modern era


 

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Each week, the Maclean’s Ottawa bureau sits down with Cormac Mac Sweeney to discuss the headlines of the week. This week, we have a special episode of Maclean’s on the Hill. In 2017, Canada celebrates its 150th birthday, and to kick off that we look back at the last 150 years of our political history. We’ll take a look at the early years when politicians like Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Wilfred Laurier were building our nation, take you through the war years with Robert Borden and Mackenzie King, then on to the 1950s and 1960s, and the first Trudeaumania. We wrap things up with a look at the modern era of politics. To walk us through all of this, Cormac is joined by author John Duffy, author of Fights of Our Lives, an entertaining work detailing Canadian elections from 1867 to Brian Mulroney’s second majority win.

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The full episode



Part 1. Canadian politics at Confederation

Sir John A. Macdonald.  (1815-1891)   National Archives of Canada/CP

Sir John A. Macdonald. (1815-1891) National Archives of Canada/CP

In 1867, Canada was a very different place: it was far more dependent on agriculture, and its cities were much smaller than today; railroads were only in their infancy, and Canada’s political landscape was divided along religious and cultural lines. John Duffy and Cormac explore that early era in Confederation.



Part 2. Canadian politics during the war effort

Poppies in full bloom in a field on a hilltop near Sommepy-Tahure, France on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2014.  (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

Poppies in full bloom in a field on a hilltop near Sommepy-Tahure, France on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

Canada entered a new political era when war broke out in 1914 and Canadians fought in Europe. Cormac and John Duffy explore the influence of the world wars on Canadian politics, unpack the King-Byng affair that launched a constitutional crisis in the interwar years, and make sense of the postwar era that extended through Lester Pearson’s years as PM.



Part 3. Trudeaumania hits Canada, and modern politics come of age

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (second from left) wearing dark glasses, arrives with members of his new cabinet for swearing in ceremonies at Government House in Ottawa, July 6, 1968. Saturday.  Left to right are: James Richardson, minister without portfolio,  D.C. Jamieson, (partly hidden), minister without portfolio,  Trudeau,  Justice Minister John Turner,  Jean Marchand, Forestry Minister, and  Gerard Pelletier, State Secretary. Ten years after his death, and more than four decades after it was taken, the photo of Pierre Trudeau striding up the drive at Rideau Hall - flanked by his dark-suited cabinet-to-be - still packs a blast of movie-star, hipster cool. (Doug Ball/CP)

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (second from left) wearing dark glasses, arrives with members of his new cabinet for swearing in ceremonies at Government House in Ottawa, July 6, 1968. (Doug Ball/CP)

Trudeaumania hit Canada in 1968. Cormac and John Duffy talk about the genesis of the movement that thrust Pierre Trudeau into the spotlight, including the quiet revolution that transformed Quebec. They also enter the modern era of Canadian politics, which saw Brian Mulroney sweep into power and make free trade with the United States a top priority.



Part 4. The NDP’s influence

Ed Broadbent, photographed at his Ottawa home November, 2016, will be receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual Maclean's Magazine Parliamentarian of the Year Awards later this month. (Photograph by Blair Gable)

Ed Broadbent, photographed at his Ottawa home November, 2016, will be receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual Maclean’s Magazine Parliamentarian of the Year Awards later this month. (Photograph by Blair Gable)

The New Democratic Party has never formed a federal government, but the party has played a central role in Canada’s political life since its predecessor, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, first ran candidates in the Great Depression years. Cormac and John Duffy discuss the influence of the NDP in Canadian politics over the years.

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