In fact, not much of a political nature happens during your average Decembers and Januarys in Canada –
mostly due to the obscenely long but fully paid 'Christmas breaks' that the MPs give themselves every year.
As January's entries demonstrate, however, it can be a favorite time to implement unpopular and controversial legislation –
in hopes that by the time Parliament resumes, the bad news will be old news.
1964 - The House of Commons votes 163-78 to adopt the design for a new National Flag of Canada (see February for more) at 2:15 am. After a pointless (given the eventual vote) six-week Conservative filibuster lead by John Diefenbaker, and some 250 speeches, closure is finally invoked by Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson - on the suggestion of Conservative member Léon Balcer.
Never one to give up a fight even after it's been lost, Diefenbaker attends the ceremony but looks away as the Maple Leaf flag is raised on Parliament Hill for the first time on Feb 15, 1965. When he dies in 1979, the superseded Red Ensign is placed over the Maple Leaf flag on Diefenbaker's casket.
1979 - Conservative Finance Minister John Crosbie introduces, his "short term pain for long term gain" budget, which includes an 18 cent per gallon gas tax despite campaign promises to cut taxes to stimulate the economy. This leads to the defeat of the Joe Clark minority government in a 139-133 vote of non-confidence - with five Social Credit MPs abstaining, three Conservatives unable to attend, and two Liberals arriving from hospitals by ambulance in order to vote.
With less than 9 months in power, Clark's declared intention of running the minority as if it were a majority proves less than successful. More recent history will show that it's a tactic that's only possible when you're up against an opposition that doesn't want an election.
1989 - Canada-U-S Free Trade Agreement takes effect; promising to cut or eliminate tariffs on trade and create a fair and binding dispute settlement mechanism. (And we've all seen how well that's worked.)
1991 - The Goods and Services Tax is imposed upon the populace – but only after Brian Mulroney creates eight Senate seats the previous September specifically to force the legislation through the Upper House.
1994 - The Free Trade Agreement is joined by the North American Free Trade Agreement, expanding the potential tariff free zone to include Mexico ... because the original FTA worked so well for us.
2009 - Always willing to demonstrate their willingness to suffer for the good of the country, while at the same time showcasing their ...unique... sense of humour, the $155,400.00 per year Members of Parliament (who were actually in the House of Commons for an exhausting 13 days between June 2008 and January 2009), acknowledged the 50% fall in the price of gasoline during the previous six months by cutting their personal vehicle travel expense allowance from 55 cents per kilometer to ... well, 54.9 cents.
Despite their heroic sacrifice, the one tenth of one cent cut still leaves the MPs' travel allowance some five cents per kilometer over the maximum rate the Canada Revenue Agency allows any other Canadian citizen as a business expense deduction.
A member of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation responds, "You can't make this stuff up."
In less controversial implementations;
1947 - Canadian Citizenship Act officially creates Canadian citizens as of January 1. (Of course this means that the first eleven of the nation's Prime Ministers were elected by a bunch of foreigners.)
1885 - Sanford Fleming's system of Standard Time and geographical time zones is put into effect by 25 nations around the world – paving the way for the most Scottish of all of the (frequently misleading) Historica Minutes.
1759 - First use of secret ballot in Canada takes place in the Nova Scotia Assembly - the first legislature in British territory to permit secret voting. Perhaps the only time that the electorate actually had no previous examples to make them wonder if they were wasting their time.
1959 - Diefenbaker Cabinet announces decision to cancel the Avro Arrow interceptor project because of "costs." (Though many at the time and to this day believe the real reason was a capitulation to American pressure.) In place of the Arrow, BOMARC anti-aircraft missiles are to be installed as part of the "Semi Automatic Ground Environment" defense program favoured by NORAD. (The North American Air Defence agreement, signed by Diefenbaker, which placed RCAF Air Defence Command under American control.) This cost-cutting measure cancels an aircraft years, if not decades ahead of its time and cripples the nation's aviation industry in exchange for an imported anti-aircraft missile system, obsolete before it was installed, designed to use nuclear warheads which, if used, would be depositing fallout over Canada, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars - paid to business in the U.S. ...
"The introduction of SAGE in Canada will cost in the neighborhood of $107 million. Further improvements are required in the radar… NORAD has also recommended the introduction of the BOMARC missile… will be a further commitment of $164 million… All these commitments coming at this particular time… will tend to increase our defence budget by as much as 25 to 30%…"
In addition, SAGE and BOMARC were both phased out within a decade due to ineffectiveness and ... cost ... while, without an effective industry of it's own, all future Canadian fighter aircraft will be bought from, or built under license from, American suppliers.
"Cost-cutting" is a much more nebulous term in the political world than in the real world.
1963 - Defence Minister George Harkness resigns over Canada's refusal to accept US nuclear warheads for BOMARC missiles. A wise decision in avoiding the whole 'fallout falling on Canadians' issue, but one which makes the BOMARC even less effective as a defense or deterrent.
1965 - The Maple Leaf flag is flown for the first time as Canada's national flag. The design is chosen unanimously from three 'finalists' by an all-party committee - but in a scenario typical for such decisions when taken by politicians, the Conservatives only vote for the single Maple Leaf design in order to create a deadlock, because the Liberals have let them believe that they would vote for a three Maple Leaf design. When the time comes, the Liberals also vote for the single leaf design, and the flag is adopted 14-0 as the Conservatives try to figure out what just happened.
(Believe it or not, the flag which theoretically belongs to all the citizens of Canada, is Trademarked - so be careful how you use it.)
1976 - John Turner resigns from the Trudeau Cabinet and works for a Toronto law firm until 1984, when Trudeau resigns and he sees a chance to make his second run for leadership of the Liberal Party. He wins leadership, instantly becomes Canada's 17th Prime Minister, and calls a federal election within four days which will see the election of a Conservative Government. Turner resigns from political life again after losing the 1988 federal election. Like Brian Mulroney before him and Jean Chrétien after, Turner demonstrates by 'coming back' to his party at an opportune time, that while most of our leaders claim that their primary interest is 'serving the country,' there comes a point where they're really only interested in 'serving' it from the top.
Credit where it's due, Joe Clark continued to serve both his party and his country long after his tenure as Prime Minister, despite knowing he would never hold that position again.
1977 - Premier Rene Levesque drives over and kills Edgar Trottier, a homeless man lying in a Montreal street. Despite allegations that Levesque was driving while intoxicated, the coroner rules no criminal responsibility. But for those who may think he completely escaped justice, the Premier was fined $25 for not wearing his glasses when he fatally ran the man over.
1982 - With 20 other nations, Canada signs a UN declaration against 'torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.' Of course, shipping them to other countries to be tortured, well that's another matter entirely.
1984 - Knowing that the Liberal Party will be defeated in the next federal election if he is its leader, Pierre Elliott Trudeau goes for a walk in an Ottawa blizzard and decides to resign. He announces his decision the following day, Febuary 29th, thus ensuring that the media and political junkies can only commemorate the anniversary once every four years.
1990 - John Turner resigns as Leader of the federal Liberal party (see above) and replaced by Herb Gray as interim leader. Meanwhile Jean Chretien makes his return to politics (see above) as he announces his intentions to replace the departed Turner.
1990 - Jean-Pierre Kingsley is appointed as the nation's Chief Electoral Officer. In December of 2006, Kingsley will resign, well before the end of his term, shortly after the governing Conservatives are forced to submit an embarrassing 'recalculation' of their 2005 financial report - including millions of dollars in such 'reclassified revenues' as omitted delegate fees collected from the 2005 national convention. The resubmission and Kingsley's departure are declared to be completely unrelated - over and over and over again.
1993 - Facing a federal election with an 11% approval rating in a recent Gallup poll while other surveys show him as the most unpopular PM since polls were first taken in the 1940s, and rather than face the embarrassment of a personal drubbing, Brian Mulroney announces he is stepping down as Prime Minister and Progressive Conservative Party leader - but not until after taking a costly international 'farewell tour' at taxpayer's expense without actually conducting any government business.
With only two and a half months before the election and absolutely no hope of victory, the party chooses Kim Campbell as the official sacrificial lamb. While the party's standings reflect the inevitable 'bounce' after the election of a new leader, during the campaign Campbell actually manages to make things worse - combining her own blunders with the national hatred for Mulroney to reduce the nation's oldest political party from 151 to 2 seats and preparing it for its eventual extinction.
1996 - Prime Minister Jean Chrétien scuffles with a protestor disrupting Flag Day ceremonies, demonstrating that
A) Our leaders don't need no Secret Service to protect them from the people, and
B) Our citizens may well need a Secret Service to protect us from our politicians.
1871 - Alexander Morris, Minister of Inland Revenue, introduces an Act to legalize the metric system in Canada. It takes a while, but it eventually catches on.
1873 - The John A Macdonald government proposes the establishment of a Mounted Police force for the North West Territories. Nelson Eddy's movie career is assured.
1964 - Government introduces the Canada Pension Plan Bill to House of Commons - proving they're not entirely useless.
1975 - Parliament passes an act making the beaver the official symbol of Canada, and an entire universe of double entendre appears on the horizon.
1980 - The Quebec National Assembly approves wording of referendum question on Sovereignty Association. Wording essentially asks, "So .. like, is it okay with you if we look into this whole Sovereignty Association thing? You don't have to say yes or no to Sovereignty Association yet, and we're not even saying we're going to separate, that's a question for another referendum ... so seriously, no risk, but whaddya say to us just putting out the feelers and seeing what kind of response we get?"
The answer to this deliberately muddy question is still a clear No.
1985 - President Ronald Reagan comes north to a Canada-US Summit with Brian Mulroney. The meeting is dubbed the Shamrock Summit because of the leaders' common Irish ancestry and the timing - St. Patrick's Day. The most memorable -and embarrassing- event of the summit comes at the end of a gala performance when the leaders and their spouses take the stage to sing, "When Irish Eyes are Smiling."
Rarely in international politics was there a clearer parallel to the obsequious middle management lackey trying to kiss up to the dimwitted but powerful boss at the office party.
1776 - Benjamin Franklin comes to Montreal (as part of a delegation sent by the Continental Congress) to invite Canada to join the American states in their revolution against Britain. The Canadians decline, and save some 30 million future citizens from the ignominious fate of having G.W. Bush as their supreme leader.
So before you go to bed tonight, take a moment to thank those long-dead benefactors.
(And if you think it could never happen here, take a good long look at Stephen Harper.)
1782 - Post-Revolutionary War talks with the British see Franklin looking north again as he negotiates not only for independence but also for some optimistic proposed boundary lines, and the "voluntary" cession of Canada. (Later still, another, less diplomatic, attempt is made during The War of 1812. The Canadians decline again - this time also with less diplomatic methods.)
1869 - Noon cannon on Parliament Hill fired for the first time.
Waste of effort.
1896 - Prime Minister Mackenzie Bowell, an ex-Grand Master of the Orange Lodge for British North America, is forced to resign by the actions of his own cabinet when he tries to pass legislation forcing Manitoba to reinstate funding for Catholic Schools (as guaranteed under the British North America Act). Demonstrating that principles were a political handicap even a hundred years ago, Bowell's attempts to ensure that Catholics have the same access to education as Protestants results in the Protestant members of his own Cabinet stalling the legislation for six months. When seven Ministers resign and his Cabinet blocks the appointment of replacements in order to force the P.M.'s own resignation, Bowell calls his opponents 'a nest of traitors.' Succeeded by Sir Charles Tupper, Bowell remains the only Canadian Prime Minister forced into resignation by his own Cabinet.
1967 - House of Commons recommends making "O Canada" (music, Calixa Lavallée's / words, various artists) the national anthem. "O Canada" is proclaimed Canada's national anthem on July 1, 1980, 100 years after it was first sung on June 24, 1880.
(Notice of a motion, "That the government be authorized to take such steps as may be necessary to provide that "O Canada" shall be the National Anthem of Canada," is first put on the Parliamentary order paper by Lester Pearson in 1966. The fact that it takes 14 years to deal with such a non-controversial issue illustrates the 'effeciency' and 'dedication' of our government when it comes to tasks that don't involve Parliamentary pay hikes or re-election.)
1941 - Finance Minister J. L. Ilsley calls taxes "a temporary wartime expedient" in budget speech to Commons.
See also September 1917.
1975 - Members of Parliament raise their own salaries by 33%.
And they deserve every penny.
I mean it!
Stop looking at me like that!!!
1980 - Rene Levesque accepts an interprovincial amending formula which renounces Quebec's historic veto right in exchange for financial compensation for those provinces who refuse the right to retreat from federal equalization programs. (By March of 2007, all the provinces are happy with the latest incarnation of federal equalization - at least that's what the Finance Minister says.)
1989 - Gunman hijacks a ... well, a bus .... near Montreal and drives it to ... uhmm, Parliament Hill.
Only in Canada.
1987 - Brian Mulroney's first attempt to eclipse Pierre Trudeau's patriation of Constitution is born in the form of the Meech Lake Accord. An attempt to entice Quebec into the constitutional fold by meeting five conditions (including recognizing Quebec as a distinct society), Meech Lake will require ratification by Parliament and all provincial legislatures by June 23rd, 1990 in order to become law. Despite a 'last second' revision (20 days before the deadline), public opinion is against the agreement and ratification is not forthcoming from either Manitoba or Newfoundland. The Meech Lake Accord, Brian's attempt to make history, is history.
And the longest lasting legacy of Mulroney's actions? The birth of the Bloc Quebecois.
1990 - Commons passes the Goods and Services Tax bill by a vote of 144 to 114. Conservative government for, and Liberal opposition against. Less than 20 years later, a different Conservative government makes a pair of symbolic 1% reductions to their tax - over the objections of a Liberal opposition that says it should be left alone.
1841 - Opening of first session of the first Parliament of the Province of Canada in Kingston Ontario. The nation's first 'Parliament Building' (constructed between 1833 and 1835) was originally meant to be a hospital. Ironically -or, prophetically- the hospital plan had to be abandoned due to a lack of operational funds, and the building was put up for rent. Perhaps the first 'public/private partnership' in the nation's healthcare system.
After extensive renovations which included the construction of stables (of course today, all the manure is created within the Parliament Buildings), the structure served as Canada's seat of government from 1841-1844 (less than a current majority term) before moving to Montreal. The building survives to the present, having returned at least partially to its original intent, and currently houses administrative offices of the Kingston General Hospital.
1896 - After the Conservative party's ouster of their own leader, Prime Minister Mackenzie Bowell (see April), Sir Charles Tupper assumes the leadership and begins his stint as the oldest (75 Years) and shortest-serving Prime Minister in Canadian history - with a record of 68 days that makes fellow Conservatives Joe Clark (272 Days) and Kim Campbell (131 Days) look like amateurs in the historic race for the least. (At least John Turner made things interesting by only lasting 10 days more than Tupper.)
Despite his short tenure as PM, Tupper had a long career in politics, as Premier of Nova Scotia, as a proponent of Maritime Union, and then as a Father of Confederation - who took his province into Confederation over the objections of a clear majority of the people he represented.
Described during his career with such colourful epithets as, “the Boodle Knight,” the “Great Stretcher” (of the truth), “the old tramp,” the “Arch-Corruptionist,” “the old wretch,” and the rather expansive, “most despicable politician within the bounds of British North America,” Tupper is famous for a statement that could well be the credo for the 'pragmatic flexibility' of all politicians that followed in his footsteps, as they constantly adopt new absolutes regarding their ever shifting positions on matters of 'principle.'
"The human mind naturally adapts itself to the position it occupies."
So remember, it's not hypocrisy, it's adaptation.
1918 - The government of Robert Borden passes the Canada Elections Act, which gives all Canadian women over 21 the right to vote in federal elections.
From this point on, every inept, corrupt, grasping, lying, self-interested government will be their fault too.
1971 - Dominion Bureau of Statistics changes its name to Statistics Canada.
No record of the national approval / disapproval percentages about the name change, though it's a reasonable assumption that the majority had no opinion - or were ... Undecided.
1974 - Pierre Elliott Trudeau's minority government is defeated in the House of Commons. In the ensuing election, the Liberals win a majority.
Five years later in May, Joe Clark defeats the Liberals to form a minority government. Clark declares that he will govern as if he had a majority, and his government is defeated on a non-confidence vote the month after Parliament resumes. He will lose to Trudeau, who will form another Liberal majority government.
The lesson? Defeating Trudeau leads to a Trudeau majority government.
1980 - First Quebec referendum results in a 59.56% vote against René Lévesque's plans for sovereignty-association with the rest of Canada. Lévesque famously says to his supporters: "If I understand you correctly, what you are telling me is, 'Next Time!'"
Today, this would be called "parsing." Then, as now, it means that politicians don't think you know what you want if it's not what they want you to want whether you want it or not.
1984 - Ministry of Transport declares that it will deregulate commercial air travel within two years, allowing airlines to offer lower rates, more routes, and of course, absorb or drive the competition out of business.
An industry that in 1984 included ...
Canadian Pacific Air Lines / Canadian Airlines International
Eastern Provincial Airways
Pacific Western Airlines
Worldways Canada and more
... has essentially been reduced to Air Canada and WestJet.
Welcome to consumer choice through competition.
1986 - Michel Gravel, Progressive Conservative MP for Gamelin, Quebec is charged with 50 counts of influence peddling, bribery and abuse of public trust. Gravel is alleged to have obtained $100,000 from individuals or companies doing business with the government, and later pleads guilty to 15 charges, pays a $50,000 fine and serves four months in jail.
That's one month for every 3.75 admitted offences of influence peddling, bribery and/or abuse of public trust, because, well it's not like that stuff is serious or anything. It's just, you know, politics.
1986 - Canadian negotiator Simon Riesman starts Canada-US free-trade talks.
1812 - U.S. President James Madison asks Congress to declare war on Britain and its Canadian colonies. Reasons include outrage at the seizure of American sailors, frustration at British restraints on neutral trade, and anger at British military support for Native Americans defending their tribal lands from encroaching American settlers.
Oh, and then there was also that whole territorial expansion thing - specifically to 'liberate' the Canadas from under the Imperial British yoke, whether they wanted liberating or not, and then gain the real estate that came along with the deliverance. As would become standard operating procedure through their history, American leaders will seriously underestimate the difficulty of the proposed operation - with former president Jefferson optimistically predicting that the conquest of Canada would be merely "a matter of marching."
All attempts at invasion are repulsed. Madison himself will have to evacuate the White House in the face of advancing British troops (who then eat the dinner that had been prepared for the president before his hasty departure), and the only significant enemy territory held by either side at the end of the war is a section of eastern Maine which will be returned to the U.S. in the Treaty of Ghent. (Proceeds from duties imposed during that occupation will be used in establishing Dalhousie University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.)
And, for us, G.W. Bush is somebody else's problem.
In other words, we win. Big Time.
1917 - Robert Borden's government introduces the Military Service Act in the Commons - a plan for conscription which creates a largely English/French split among the citizens of Canada - and then calls an election to get clear mandate.
Though, being a prudent politician, Borden doesn't call that election until after pushing through the Military Voters Act (which grants the vote to overseas soldiers and nurses, who are obviously in favour of conscription to replace their depleted forces, and whose votes could be distributed in any riding, regardless of the voter's regular place of residence) and the War-time Elections Act (which extends the right to vote to women, as long as they are mothers, wives, or sisters of soldiers already serving in the Canadian Expeditionary Force).
While these imaginative bits of vote padding (not to mention the denial of voting rights to conscientious objectors) doubtless help in Borden's re-election, the implementation and later amendment of the act (to close exemption loopholes) results in a nation that thoroughly distrusts its government. Borden's successor, Arthur Meighen, is defeated in the 1921 election, and the Conservatives are virtually shut out of Quebec for the next half-century.
1926 - Conservative Arthur Meighen is appointed Prime Minister by Governor General Lord Byng. This after Byng refuses two requests by minority (see October 1925) Liberal Prime Minister W. L. Mackenzie King to dissolve Parliament and call for a new election. (The only time a G.G. has taken such an action.) This after said P.M.'s 8-month old government is caught in a scandal in which Liberal Minister of Customs and Excise Jacques Bureau is found to be actually helping the flow of liquor across the U.S. border during prohibition - for a reasonable fee. (King reacts in a typically political fashion by announcing that Bureau is stepping down for health reasons, and then appointing the corrupt minister to the Senate.) Within days, the Meighen government is defeated in a vote of non-confidence, and King wins a majority in the resulting election.
1942 - Prime Minister W. L. Mackenzie King utters his famous and quintessentially political statement regarding Canadian military service in World War II: "Conscription if necessary but not necessarily conscription." Rarely has a quotation become so well known precisely because it doesn't actually say anything.
1957 - John George Diefenbaker wins a minority in the 23rd Canadian federal election with 112 seats to 105 for Louis St. Laurent's Liberals. (He will later win a majority in 1958. and a second minority in June of 1962.) The first Conservative P.M. since Meighen in 1926, Diefenbaker is probably most famous for cancelling the Avro Arrow project (see February 1959).
1968 - National party leaders (Pierre Trudeau, Robert Stanfleld, Tommy Douglas and Real Caouette) take part in Canada's first televised federal leaders' debate. Decades and many, many sequels later, the nation still awaits the first straight answer to a straight question.
1990 - Immediately after a first ministers' conference to salvage the faltering Meech Lake Accord, Brian Mulroney tells Globe & Mail reporters that he deliberately delayed calling the conference until less than three weeks before the final deadline in order to create an atmosphere of crisis - choosing early June as the time to "roll all the dice." Mulroney's cynical manipulations and his apparent willingness to gamble the future of the nation, not to mention his boasting about the strategy before the Meech Lake deadline has even passed, backfires both among other politicians and the Canadian people as a whole.
And the outcome of Mulroney's roll? Craps.
1991 - Securing a favorite source of campaign contributions for the New Democratic Party, the Supreme Court unanimously rules that unions can collect dues from non-union members in a bargaining unit, and then donate that money to the party of their choice - regardless of the wishes or political preferences of the workers. Definitively proving that politics really has nothing to do with democracy, the Supreme Court also demonstrates what all politicians already know - just because something is morally indefensible, that doesn't make it illegal.
Additionally, Joe Clark, Kim Campbell, and John Turner all assume the office of Prime Minister in June of 1979, 1983, and 1984, respectively.
...'uninspiring' levels of success...
Like January, there are relatively few major political developments in Canada during the Summer months,
as the politicians are generally into the longest of their
many, many, many ...many... annual paid vacations.
Perhaps all this paid time off stems from a need to recover some energy after weeks or months
of acting like a day care full of three-year olds high on sugar and caffeine.
Such behaviour is presumably fairly taxing for an ... 'adult.'
1917 - Finance Minister Sir Thomas White introduces the Income Tax War Bill. Passed in September, the bill will create the first national personal income tax on Canadians. But not to worry, the tax will be strictly a temporary wartime measure.
... Should be able to cancel the temporary measure any day now.
... Just around the corner.
1960 - Treaty and registered aboriginal Canadians given the right to vote.
From this point on, every inept, corrupt, grasping, lying, self-interested government will be their fault too.
1984 - For the first time in Canadian history, party leaders John Turner, Brian Mulroney & Ed Broadbent meet in a French-language television debate. Now questions of vital interest to all Canadians can be dodged and danced around by national leaders in both official languages.
1992 - In a spectacular and historic example of too little, too late, with consequences still being felt today, Fisheries Minister John Crosbie orders the northern cod fishery to shut down "for two years" in order to conserve stocks.
... Should be able to cancel the temporary measure any day now.
... Just around the corner.
1990 - The fallout of Brian Mulroney's 'rolling of the dice' with Canada's future takes a tangible form as Lucien Bouchard, ex-Mulroney Environment Minister and Ambassador to Paris, announces the creation of the Bloc Quebecois.
1991 - A national Gallup poll finds that 69% of Canadians want Brian Mulroney to resign. (Another Gallup poll in 1992 places his approval rating at 11%. He resigns in '93.)
1867 - John A Macdonald starts campaigning for the first federal general election following Confederation, to be held in September. It is safe to assume that Canada's first electoral lies and soon to be broken promises began almost immediately thereafter.
1872 - Six days before the nation's second federal election, John A. Macdonald wires Sir Hugh Allan (one of two bidders for the contract to build the national railway), "I must have another $10,000. Will be the last time of calling. Do not fail me. Answer today." This telegram, along with additional receipts(?!) for previous 'contributions' will later provide the Liberal opposition with proof that Macdonald had accepted money in return for his support of the Allan bid, and will lead to MacDonald's resignation.
1977 - Quebec government adopts Bill 101, with such imaginative concepts as the rule making it illegal for a Chinese (English, Italian, etc.) business in a Chinese neighbourhood with Chinese customers to have exterior signs in any language other than French, and the creation of the Office de la langue française - the 'Language Police.' As a result, many companies, including the Royal Bank and Bank of Montreal move their head offices to Toronto, taking workers, and millions of dollars in salaries and other expenses with them. Meanwhile, the bill itself is challenged in both the Supreme Court and at the United Nations, and compared by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s National Security advisor, to South African apartheid statutes.
1983 - Brian Mulroney wins election to the House of Commons in a by-election in Central Nova.
1990 - Gilles Duceppe wins Laurier-Ste-Marie riding for Bloc Quebecois. The first MP elected for the Bloc Quebecois, Duceppe will later become party leader and in May of 2007, launch a one-day campaign for the leadership of the provincial Parti Québécois - deciding that he doesn't want to leave Ottawa after all when it immediately becomes clear that he has no chance of winning the PQ position.
1995 - Hoping to take advantage of the reduced press coverage of the summer recess, the Liberal government announces it will close 150 Canada Employment Centres. There is no record of whether Jean Chrétien is aware of the irony of this situation or not.
1867 - Just a few months into its existence as a nation, Canada has its first Prime Minister, as John Alexander Macdonald defeats George Brown with 51.1% of the popular vote. The seat count is 108 to 72, which no doubt, generates the nation's first post-election debate about the inequities of the 'first-past-the-post' electoral system ... from the losing side.
And just a few years later, Canada will have its first Prime Minister resigning under accusations of unethical behaviour - as the Pacific Scandal gives rise to accusations that the PM was taking bribes in exchange for contracts in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Macdonald's protestations of innocence hold little weight against an incriminating telegraph ... and the receipts.
1898 - Canada holds its first referendum - on the prohibition of alcoholic beverages. The vote is in favour, by a margin of 51.3% to 48.7% (no record of Undecided voters), but the government of Sir Wilfrid Laurier takes no action 'in view the close vote.' The quest for "50% +1" has begun.
1985 - Ignoring numerous reports from his own inspectors, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, John Fraser orders the release and sale of canned tuna that has been declared spoiled and not fit for human consumption - or even cat food. Rejected for Ethiopian famine relief (or even feeding to Canadian troops overseas) because Canadian export law would require it to be labeled as undesirable, the rancid tuna is shipped to domestic grocery stores across the country, where there is no requirement for warning labels. When the story reaches the public, Fraser reverses himself, and orders a recall of 1,000,000 cans of the tainted tuna. He resigns on September 23.
Meanwhile, after first stating that he had informed Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s Office of his original decision to release the tuna (a claim that Mulroney initially confirmed), Fraser and his boss then reversed their stories and claimed that Mulroney had not been informed until the story hit the airwaves. Then both Fraser and Mulroney claim that THEY were the ones who actually ordered the recall.
(Mulroney later tells the New York Times he had fired Fraser as soon as he had heard of the affair, though in fact six days had passed between the September 17 CBC report and Fraser's departure. Another New York Times article relates that a, "...Tory member of Parliament who represents the New Brunswick district containing the plant said five times in an interview with The Canadian Press, a news agency, that he had brought the matter up in the Tory legislative caucus in the presence of Mr. Mulroney. Later, he called the agency three times to deny this assertion, saying he had received no pressure from the Prime Minister.
''At no time has the Prime Minister called me, nor has he exerted any pressure, nor has any member of his staff exerted any pressure on what I should say to you,'' he said.")
The MP's family members are released shortly thereafter.
1990 - Bob Rae wins the Ontario provincial election for the NDP, taking 74 seats to 26 for the Liberals, and 20 for the PCs under Mike Harris. Elected largely as a reaction to the Patti Starr scandal swirling around the incumbent Liberal party, Rae's government lasts only a single term due to public reaction to a truly impressive combination of broken promises, the introduction of such un-NDP-ish concepts as wage freezes and 'welfare cops,' and of course, cabinet-level scandals and resignations. The extent of voters' disappointment over their pre-election hopes for the Rae government can be judged by the victory of the Mike Harris Conservative party in the next election - pushing Ontario from one end of the political spectrum to several infinities past the other.
By 2006, Rae will run for but lose the leadership of the national Liberal party - presumably in an attempt to do for the federal Liberals what he had previously done for the provincial New Democrats.
1990 - To ensure passage of his Goods and Services Tax, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney uses an obscure power written into the 1867 Constitution Act to make eight instant Senate appointments - increasing the size of the chamber to 112 members, and giving the Conservative Party a Senate majority. When the opposition condemns the PM's unprecedented move, Mulroney accuses the Liberals of trying to subvert democracy. The ironic impact of the accusation rattles windows in homes 50 kilometers away, though it completely escapes Mulroney's notice.
2006 - Stephen Harper -who criticized arbitrary Senate appointments and unelected Cabinet ministers while in opposition, and then promptly appointed the unelected Michael Fortier to the Senate and his Cabinet within hours of attaining power- appears before a Senate committee examining his government's proposed reforms and gives them his best impression of Tony Soprano.
Advising Senators to not "... give me the opportunity" to fight the next election on the issue of Senate reform, Harper offers the thinly veiled warning of "political consequences" if the Red Chamber were to refuse to rubber-stamp such legislation as an eight-year term limit for incoming senators and the PM's Federal Accountability Act. Meanwhile, Liberal Senators calling for amendments to the Accountability Act point out that under the proposed legislation, the Conservative Party would not have to disclose delegate fees from its 2005 policy convention, nor the names of donors to the candidates in the most recent Conservative leadership convention - a list that would reveal the financial backers of Harper, Peter MacKay and Tony Clement.
But in politics, accountability only goes so far.
1911 - Wilfrid Laurier resigns as Prime Minister over the issue of Free Trade with the United States.
Having announced an agreement that would permit free trade in 'natural' products but keep tarrifs on most manufactured goods, Laurier and his Liberals are accused of trading away the nation's prosperity and identity by the Conservatives as well as business and financial heavyweights on both sides of the political fence. This incarnation of the trade deal collapses with the dissolution of Parliament, and the two parties will each take their turns on the pro and con side of the Free Trade debate in future years. (Always remembering to forget the absolute and timeless truths of their previous positions.)
1925 - William Lyon Mackenzie King's Liberal Party wins 99 seats to the Conservatives' 116 seats in the nation's 15th federal election. King retains his position as Prime Minister thanks to the helpful support of 24 Progressive and 6 Labour MPs.
Just because you've lost doesn't mean you haven't won.
1977 - Parliament launches regular live TV coverage of the proceedings of the House of Commons. The monkeys at the zoo now have a nationwide audience, and things will never be the same.
1993 - In what must be the greatest turnaround in Canadian federal politics, and the most complete collapse of a major political organization in the nation's history, the Progressive Conservative Party, under the sacrificial-lamb leadership of Kim Campbell, loses 152 of its 154 seats, and garners only 16% of the popular vote. With even the NDP holding more seats, the PC Party loses its status as an official party, and will never recover - eventually becoming a sacrificial lamb of its own as it is fed to the Reform/Alliance party by leader Peter MacKay.
Given the 'honour' of leading the party into a can't-win campaign when Brian Mulroney (the architect of the nationwide hate affair with the PCs) decides he'd rather pretend he'd had enough of being Prime Minister (or in layman's terms, run away) than face the country's reaction to his governance and his own inevitable defeat, Campbell accomplishes the almost impossible task of turning even more Canadians against the party and elevates a simple thrashing into near total annihilation. Through such deft political moves as stating that an election campaign is no time to discuss serious issues, and failing to apologize for an attack ad that features Jean Chrétien's facial deformity (caused by Bell's palsy), Campbell not only loses the election but her own seat, and is left with little more than the right to refer to herself as "The Right Honourable..." (A phrase which seems more ironic than legitimate when applied to most of those who lay claim to the title.)
After her defeat, Campbell accepts a fellowship at Harvard University, and begins lecturing students on Political Science - despite her demonstrable lack of expertise in the subject. (No word on if Harvard students demanded a refund.)
1995 - Quebec's second referendum on 'maybe, kind of, sorta, independence or maybe just a new deal with Ottawa,' loses by a 50.58% to 49.42% margin in a vote that sees more than 93% of the electorate going to the polls. (For once, the Undecided voter does not represent the majority.)
With early polls indicating a 67% majority for unity, NO side representatives soon begin working to level the playing field - helping the separatists with such gaffes as Paul Martin arguing that separation would cost Quebec a million jobs, and federalist speaker Larry O'Brien declaring that federalists should not only defeat, but "crush" sovereignists.
While such subtle political skills offer no end of help to the separatist movement, Parti Québécois leader Jacques Parizeau soon reciprocates and shoots his side in the foot by revealing that despite an offer to look for a partnership with Ottawa before declaring separation, he really wants the YES vote strictly as a tool to secede from Canada, and that once the YES vote is in, Quebecers will be trapped in the march to separation "like lobsters thrown in boiling water." On the night of the referendum, Parizeau further endears himself to people on both sides of the argument by blaming his loss on "money and the ethnic vote." He resigns as PQ leader and Quebec premier the next day.
Kim Campbell does not attempt to lead the Parti Québécois into the next general election.
1873 - Ottawa Ontario - John A. Macdonald defends himself against the Pacific Scandal charges in an impassioned if wordy 5 hour speech to parliament. Two days later, he resigns. All in all, seems like a waste of a five hour speech.
1885 - A letter from Prime Minister John A. Macdonald to citizen P. King;
"I am extremely sorry that I have not been able to provide for you in the North West. I thought I had done so but an untimely accident threw me over for the time. The office I had thought to get for you was the postmastership at Calgary. I thought it was all done and you had been notified when I found to my horror that another Mr. King who was strongly recommended had by mistake been appointed. He now holds the office. I now must try to repair the error and be on the lookout for another vacancy."
1995 - Brian Mulroney files a $50-million lawsuit against the Department of Justice and the RCMP, claiming that a letter sent to Swiss banking authorities alleging a kickback in the sale of Airbus jets to Air Canada in 1988 damaged his reputation. Rather than point out that Mulroney's reputation in 1995 could hardly sink any lower even if he had been outed as a recreational puppy crusher, the government admits that the charges could not be substantiated and pays roughly 2 million dollars to cover the ex-PM's legal fees.
About 10 years later, despite Mulroney's testifying under oath in 1995 that he had "never had any dealings" with Airbus 'wheel greaser' Karlheinz Schreiber, and despite Mulroney spokesman, Luc Lavoie's, assertions in 1999 that, "...the bottom line is that he never received any money from anybody," and "Because there never was any money. And to think otherwise is really to not know Mulroney. He is too smart to do something like that. It is just too dummy. It is too damn stupid. He wouldn't do that," CBC television and the Globe and Mail reveal that the boy from Baie Comeau had received three $100,000 dollar payments from the German-Canadian businessman after he left office in 1993 and 1994 - and that he didn't declare the money on his income tax in the years such declarations would legally have been required.
Mulroney continues to avoid years' worth of repeated opportunities (including a 2007 autobiography and the ensuing book tour) to definitively state what the money was for and why he didn't declare the income to Revenue Canada when he should have, yet when finally faced with the prospect of appearances at public and political inquiries, the ex-PM begins acting as if he can't wait to reveal all. Not surprisingly, his enthusiasm wanes under actual questioning by the Commons ethics committee in late 2007, and he refuses invitations to return and clarify discrepancies in the spring of 2008.
1997 - RCMP officers pepper-spray protesters lining the planned route of world leaders attending the APEC Conference in Vancouver, even as the protesters are moving out of the way. In one of history's classic cases of a leader trying to laugh off something that everyone else is taking very seriously, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien dismisses the incident with: "For me, pepper, I put it on my plate."
Almost four years later, a commission of inquiry finds that the Mounties had acted inappropriately, and that officials from the Prime Minister's Office, specifically director of operations Jean Carle, played an "improper role" in giving instructions to the RCMP to clear the motorcade route quickly, using force if necessary. Documents leaked to the media include an RCMP memo stating, "The PM wants everyone removed," while others portray Chrétien and Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy going to great lengths to reassure Indonesian dictator Suharto that he would not see or hear any demonstrations in Canada. Events lead some to the conclusion that Chrétien learned more about governing style from Suharto than the other way around.
The following November, Solicitor General Andy Scott resigns after he is heard telling a seatmate on a flight home to his constituency that RCMP Staff Sgt. Hugh Stewart "would take the fall" for the pepper-spraying incident.
2005 - The Gomery preliminary report into the sponsorship scandal is released, criticizing ex-PM Jean Chrétien and his office for setting up the sponsorship program in a way as to invite abuse, and Minister of Public Works Alfonso Gagliano for deliberate dishonesty, while clearing current Prime Minister Paul Martin of any responsibility or wrongdoing in the matter. Gomery declares that Martin's role as Finance Minister was to set up a 'fiscal framework' at the instruction of then Prime Minister Chrétien, but that he had no oversight on the spending of the funds. A report on the issue by the Auditor General's Office draws the same conclusion, but the scandal sticks to the PM of the moment, the government falls on a vote of non-confidence, and Martin's Liberals lose the January 2006 general election.