BTC: Again with the Diefenbaker (II)


The CBC likes the Diefenbaker v. Pearson precedents too, only they’re going with 1965. And reversing the comparison entirely.

Fair enough.

While we’re here though, consider this description of Diefenbaker circa 1960, taken from Christina McCall’s essay The Unlikely Gladiators: Pearson and Diefenbaker Remembered.

“That was the year when Diefenbaker’s errors of judgment in foreign and economic affairs, his ineptitude in managing his cabinet and caucus, and increasing alienation from the intertwined business and bureaucratic elites began to tell. The year when monetary policy conflicts between the prime minister and James Coyne, the bloody-minded governor of the Bank of Canada, began to surface. The year when the Opposition Liberals were heartened by their provincial counterparts’ victories in Quebec (under Jean Lesage) and New Brunswick (under Louis Robichaud); by the election of the liberal Democratic candidate, John Kennedy, as president of the United States; and by the demoralizing effect their determined attacks in Parliament were having on Diefenbaker and his inexperienced front bench.”

A Liberal read of this will find half a dozen similarities. The questionable management of an inexperienced cabinet, errors of judgment in foreign and economic affairs, determined attacks in Parliament, alienation of the bureaucratic elites, a Liberal in Quebec, a Liberal in New Brunswick, a would-be JFK on the verge of the White House.

But it’s probably not quite 1960 all over again. This seems to me, in a worst case scenario for our PM, a description of Stephen Harper’s public perception circa early 2009. (Though the critical favour of Mr. Harper does seem to have turned of late with his fixed election date dodge.)

Of course, that might also help explain why we’re almost all set to go to the polls in October.


BTC: Again with the Diefenbaker (II)

  1. Foreign and economic affairs has reached New Brunswick. We eventually got in but to John Kennedy, this was foreign and economic affairs of the White House they were doing, charging for the verge for attacks.

  2. The comparison is especially interesting in terms of the CCF and SoCred percentages by province in the West.


    Con 33%, 7 seats
    Lib 21%, 2 seats
    CCF 22%, 7 seats
    SCr 24%, 5 seats


    Con 28%, 3 seats
    Lib 28%, 1 seat
    CCF 6%, no seats
    SCr 38%, 13 seats


    Con 23%, 3 seats
    Lib 30%, 4 seats
    CCF 36%, 10 seats
    SCr 11%, no seats

    So, even though nationally the CCF only polled 11% and the SoCreds only 7%, you had a 4-way race in BC and 3-way races in AB and SK. The 10% margin for the SoCreds in AB was enough to win a ton of seats there.

    Cf. contemporary Quebec. There the Bloc polled 42% in 2006 and won 51/75 seats, owing to QC’s regional variations. In 1957 the SoCreds in AB polled 38% and won 13/17 seats.

    I suppose in a three-way race 35% by riding is enough to pick up most seats?

    So, does it follow that the Bloc will continue to win the 40-50 ridings in de souche QC until it stops polling at 35% in those ridings? Factoring in Montreal, that’s got to be under 25% provincially.

    40 seats is more than 10% of the House.

    So how big do either Liberals or Tories have to win in the ROC to make up for the absence of those QC seats when forming their majorities? Pretty hugely, no? And if they can’t, we’re in for perpetual minorities?

  3. I wonder when the people of Quebec will realise that they can return to their role as king-makers – granting a majority to one party (at a price of course…). that would do far more FOR Quebec than sending the Bloc there.

  4. Chris B,

    I diasgree.

    I see no downside for Québec to have its Bloc Québécois.

    1) It guarantees French will be spoken in the House.
    2) It guarantees that Québec will receive roughly 30% of questions during Question Period.
    3) It guarantees the other parties will put special attention on the province, as it wants to court those “parked” votes.

    I am certain some might say they are not “governing”, but who cares? I’d rather have a Gilles Duceppe in Opposition than a Josée Verner in Government.

  5. But the problem, Maxime, is that it virtually guarantees minority parliaments. And we’ve had ample proof that Canadian politicians are not grown up enough to handle those. So the Bloc is representing Quebec at the expense of the whole system of government at the federal level.

    That may last for a few minorities (we’re about to have #3), but eventually the ROC is going to do the math and either insist on proportional representation on the basis of national percentages (NDP and Greens would love that) or kindly say enough’s enough and not accept Bloc MP’s. Which would of course be apocalyptic but what other choice is there if Parliament is not going to be permanently paralysed?

  6. So the Bloc is representing Quebec at the expense of the whole system of government at the federal level.

    I don’t necessarily agree that a minority government is in itself something less legitimate or useful than another type. But what I want to say mostly is that JM’s observation does not necessarily trouble the bloc. And proportional representation will usually deliver minority governments, so would not solve the “problem”.

  7. More likely than rejecting Bloq MPs is that the parties might actually resign themselves to minority government and build coalitions on issues.

    However, PMSH’s egomania hasn’t fostered this kind of government with every vote being a confidence motion and his unwillingness to build consensus. He has been governing as if he had a majority, which is why things have gotten so acrimonious.

  8. I do hope you guys are right about the minority parliaments of the future. There must at least come a point when Canadians start punishing parties that won’t play nice. The Americans have established “bipartisanship” as the virtue of virtues, so perhaps it will catch on here.

    Still, I don’t know if consensus and compromise are always the best recipe for good government. Sometimes the country needs bold vision, long-term planning, etc.

    Right you are on PR minorities, Mike T.

  9. That’s a good point about hyping consensus.

    “bipartisanship” in America seems to occur when the interests of the incumbents coincide. At least if your example is McCain’s bipartisan campaign finance reform bill, which protects politicians from third party free speech for 90 days before an election date. Candidates without a personal fortune cannot raise large amounts of money at once and ones who do were restricted too.

    Its a pretty good example of why partisanship can be a good thing even though its ugly. You don’t want them working together!

  10. “Its a pretty good example of why partisanship can be a good thing even though its ugly. You don’t want them working together!”

    Economist Steven Landsburg has often argued in favour of political antitrust legislation that would outlaw bipartisanship (for the same reason there are antitrust laws for companies). Your example suggests why Landsburg has a point.

  11. Specifically:

    “When an industry is dominated by two highly profitable firms, theory tells us that if there is no price war then there is probably collusion. In the case of the Republicans and Democrats the requisite collusion is on display for all to see. It is called bipartisanship.”

  12. Hah, even if he isn’t serious its a great way to make the point! What I have to wonder is why so much of the American media was so impressed by it, at least before McCain became a real republican again. I think its more than that bipartisanship is a fluffy word. I think they identify with the political elite enough to appreciate a bill that entrenches them. They seem to have a heroic view of guys like McCain, who agree, and think they need to be protected from malign outside influences. Their own free speech is quite secure, and it shuts up grassroots rubes who don’t think for a living like them.

    Dang. More monopolistic than I thought. Say, what kind of blog is this… everyone seems to be thinking : )

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