On This Day in Canada's Political History: John Diefenbaker's PCs End 22 Years of Liberal Rule

  • National Newswatch

Today is a big anniversary on the Canadian political calendar, particular for the nation's Tories.  It was on June 10, 1957, that John Diefenbaker did the impossible and removed the Liberals from the government benches in Ottawa, ending 22 consecutive years of Liberal Party rule.  The Progressive Conservatives surprised the pundits and the pollsters by taking 112 seats to the Liberals' 105: though not a majority, a manageable plurality.   The Diefenbaker Years had begun.To mark the day, I am pleased to welcome Conservative leader Erin O'Toole, Canada's Leader of the Official Opposition, to “Art's History.” In the piece below, Mr. O'Toole provides his thoughts on his distinguished predecessor as federal Tory leader.  (Note: In the days and weeks ahead I will also be inviting other federal party leaders to serve as guest contributors to “Art's History.”)


By the Hon. Erin O'TooleA paper boy meets a Prime Minister, and a tale of Canadian folklore was born.At the corner of 21st Street and First Avenue in Saskatoon, Sir Wilfrid Laurier stands with his hand on the arm of a young paperboy born in Neustadt, Ontario.  The paperboy is John Diefenbaker who, a half century later, would sit in Laurier's office on Parliament Hill.'Dief the Chief' was fond of reminding people that he was the first Canadian Prime Minister to not be of entirely British or French ancestry.  His vision of a modern Canada spoke to the man.  He was a third generation Canadian.  His grandparents were immigrants.  His parents, like so many Central and Eastern Europeans moved to the prairies when they were still known as the Northwest Territories.He was the son of homesteaders.  His father, a teacher would educate four MPs elected to Parliament in 1940.Diefenbaker's experience of Canada, and his conservatism were rooted in the belief that anything was possible here.  That your last name didn't matter.  That a classroom in a prairie schoolhouse was as likely to produce a Prime Minister as Upper Canada College.That was the Canada he wanted.  It's the one he helped build.It's why the paperboy still stands at 21st Street and First Avenue.Erin O'Toole is Leader of the Official Opposition of Canada and Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and the Member of Parliament for Durham, Ontario.Birthday Alert from Art's History: Sending out birthday greetings to Ontario MPs Doug Shipley and Dave Epp. And it is also important to recall, particularly for my fellow Kingstonians, that it was on this date in 1940 that our distinguished MP, Norman Rogers, died in a plane crash near Port Hope. Finally, it was on this date in 1937 that Canada lost one of our greatest Prime Ministers, Sir Robert Borden, who passed into history at Ottawa. There will be more on Sir Robert later in the month.[caption id="attachment_563113" align="aligncenter" width="515"] Statue depicting a young John Diefenbaker meeting Sir Wilfrid Laurier[/caption]