Michael took a look back at an article, “Pearson and Diefenbaker must go” from the November 19th, 1965 issue of The Brock Press. Have things really changed 50 years later?
With the new Canadian flag flying patriotically atop the Peace Tower in Ottawa, the 27th Parliament was elected on November 8, 1965. Throughout the campaign, similar rhetoric was used as in our current election campaign; the longest in Canada’s history.
In 1965, the Liberals promised medical research, a university scholarship program, insurance for farmers, old age pensions, and infrastructure expenditures in the North; the Conservatives promised increased grants to universities, grants to farmers, old age pensions, water conservation program and developing hydro-electric facilities; finally, the New Democratic Party of Canada promised the implementation of Medicare – the vision of Tommy Douglas – eliminating university tuition, funding for technical training, increase the price of wheat, and old age pensions. As a result of this race, Lester B. Pearson was re-elected as Prime Minister in his Liberal Party’s win.
Yet, Brock politics professor, Dr. W.H.N Hall was disappointed in the results of the election and published in thoughts in the November 19th issue of The Brock Press in an article entitled “Pearson and Diefenbaker Must Go – Canada Needs Younger Leadership.” Specifically, he was troubled with the majority Liberal government suggesting that “our [Canada’s] own experience in recent memory has indicated that majority government is by no means a guarantee of good government.” His anxieties parallel the current state of Canada. In fact, Stephen Harper, Tom Mulcair, and Justin Trudeau have offered similar, if not the same promises in the current election and are all hoping for a majority government. Many would argue that our last four years under Harper’s majority is indicative of bad government. If in 1965, a majority was seen as a threat to the peace, order, and good government promised in the Constitution Act of 1867, how far has Canada come in fifty years? Why is good government not central to the debates of our current election? Without it, we cannot run as a country.
The House of Commons, in a majority, is a zoo; Ministers jar and scream, papers are thrown, desk lids are smacked, the Speaker customs throat lozenges to ease soreness from taming disgruntled MPs, questions take the place of answers, anarchy trumps decorum, all in the name of democracy. Why should a majority government elected by the people of Canada work cooperatively when they are basically unrestricted in their actions? Majorities, as professor Hall suggests, are symbolic of an old Canada, a Canada that must change.
In the latter of his article, he suggests that the old Canada, led by outdated values and policies of John Diefenbaker (Conservative) and Pearson be abandoned in lieu of social democratic values of the youth. This was the glamour of the 1960s: health care, education, medicine, research, social assistance, job creation, and taxes based on income were all benefits of the welfare state which Canada personified.
What Hall argues in 1965 is for a new approach to Canadian government through the election of the NDP. They were the embodiment of youthful – Bolshevik if you asked a Conservative – politics led by one of Canada’s greatest politicians, Tommy Douglas. Yet, Canada resorted to her old ways, until the young, energetic, outspoken socialist Pierre Trudeau was elected in 1968. The question still remains for 2015 however, will the electorate pick a more modern party that promises to alleviate inequality and poverty, support the environment and women, offer free tuition, and follow Indian Treaties? Or will we resort to our old ways? One way to answer this question is to vote in the upcoming election for a party that values good government over a majority.
-Michael Angaran (Concurrent Education student- History major. Community Outreach Coordinator for BUHS)
*Special thanks to Brock University Historical Society*