Laurier: A Study in Canadian Politics eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 92 pages of information about Laurier.
liability basis.  In the very height of the controversy Sir Wilfrid could not be got to go beyond saying that Canada should make enquiries as to how many men she could afford to spare from her industries and these she should send if they could be induced voluntarily to enlist.  This was wholly unsatisfactory to those who held that Canada was a principal in the war, and must shrink from no sacrifices to make victory possible.  Still less satisfactory was the professed attitude of the Liberal candidates in Quebec; with few exceptions they embraced the anti-war Nationalist programme.  It became only too evident that a Liberal victory would mean a government dependent upon and controlled by a Quebec bloc pretty thoroughly committed to the view that Canada had “done enough.”  For those committed to the prosecution of the war to the limit, conscription became a test and a symbol; and ultimately the pressure forced reluctant politicians to come together in the Union government.  There followed the general election and the Unionist sweep.  Laurier returned to parliament with a following of eighty-two in a house of 235.  Of these 62 came from Quebec; and nine from the Maritime provinces.  From the whole vast expanse from the Ottawa river to the Pacific Ocean ten lone Liberals were elected; of these only two represented the west, that part of Canada where Liberal ideas grow most naturally and freely.  The policy of shaping national programmes to meet sectional predilections, relying upon party discipline and the cultivation of personal loyalties to serve as substitutes elsewhere had run its full course—­and this was the harvest!


The events of 1917 were both an end and a beginning in Canada’s political development.  They brought to a definite close what might be called the era of the Great Parties.  Viscount Bryce, in a work based upon pre-war observations, in dealing with Canadian political conditions, said: 

“Party (in Canada) seems to exist for its own sake.  In Canada ideas are not needed to make parties, for these can live by heredity, and, like the Guelfs and Ghibellines of mediaeval Italy, by memories of past combats; attachment to leaders of such striking gifts and long careers as were Sir John Macdonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier, created a personal loyalty which exposed a man to reproach as a deserter when he voted against his party.”

For these conditions there were reasons in our history.  Our parties once expressed deep divergencies of view upon issues of vital import; and each had experienced an individual leadership that had called forth and had stereotyped feelings of unbounded personal devotion.  The chiefships of Laurier and Macdonald overlapped by only four years, but they were of the same political generation and they adhered to the same tradition.  The resemblances in their careers, often commented upon, arose from a common attitude towards the business

Project Gutenberg
Laurier: A Study in Canadian Politics from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook