Five Prime Ministers, Five Years Haiku

Old? Popular? Great!

But maybe have an heir in

Mind when you drop dead.

One of the benefits of the Westminster system of government is that it can survive five heads of government in five years more or less intact. The downside is that it makes such scenarios much more possible.

Such was the case in Canada in 1891-1896.

In 1891, an election was due. John A Macdonald had held the spot almost continuously since Confederation in 1867. (The Pacific Scandal put the Liberal Alexander Mackenzie in power from 1873 to 1878, but an inconvenient worldwide depression and a total lack of charisma put paid to that.) But you see, the thing was, John A… Well, he wasn’t exactly a spring chicken by that point. He was 76 years old by that point and while his wife Agnes managed to curb his drinking quite a bit, it had lasting effects. So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that three months after the election, John A had a stroke and died. Thus ushering in one of the most awkward periods in Canadian political history!

The obvious replacement would have been the young, handsome, intelligent, capable, husky John Thompson. The problem was that this dude had the unmitigated audacity to convert to Catholicism upon wedding his wife, Annie Affleck. (Can you believe him?) So they went with John Abbott instead.

Abbott, though, he didn’t really want the job either. And as a senator and not an MP, the job was all that much harder for him. If you’re the former and not the latter, you can’t participate in parliamentary debates, y’see? As soon as he could, he called in sick and retired in 1892. Lest you think he was faking it, he died of cancer the next year.

Now it’s finally Thompson’s turn. Fuck yeah. Former Justice Minister and ass kicker. But… Well…

In 1894, he took a trip to England because Queen Victoria (you may have heard of her) was going to make him a member of her privy council. That she did, but I guess the excitement must have been too much for Thompson, because he had a heart attack and died at age 49.


“Who do we go with this time?” asked the Conservative party. “Let’s go with another senator, because that wasn’t awkward enough the first time.”

Enter the wishy-washy Mackenzie Bowell and the Manitoba Schools Question. The province of Manitoba had abolished denominational schools, both Protestant and Catholic. The problem was that the latter was so strongly associated with the French language that the act effectively signed its death warrant in the province. (And yes, that was pretty much what the Manitoba provincial government wanted.) Bowell leaned towards compromise, but like Abbott, he couldn’t state his case in the House of Commons proper. His cabinet perceived him as incompetent and kicked him out as he declared them a ‘nest of traitors.’

Thus, in 1896, we come to Charles Tupper, Nova Scotian Father of Confederation and the Ram of Cumberland. (He really liked to flirt with the ladies, see.) He holds the dubious distinction of being the shortest lived PM in Canadian history – just 69 days before an election happened and Wilfrid Laurier defeated him with the awesome powers of his sunny ways. Grant you, Tupper’s Conservatives did win the popular vote, but the Liberals won the most seats. Furthermore, Tupper was a sore loser, refusing to resign until the Governor General was like, “Dude. No,” when he tried to make cabinet appointments. He finally resigned, under protest. Enter Laurier, bitches.

We’d never have such a silly situation nowadays. (*cough* Ford family *cough*)

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