Today in Canada’s Political History: Sir John A. Wins His Final General Election
Canada’s Father of Confederation enjoyed his last electoral victory on this date in 1891, winning his sixth (!) majority mandate from Canadians. Sir John A Macdonald’s Conservatives won 117 seats, while Laurier’s Liberals garnered 90. The campaign was the one […]
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Canada’s Father of Confederation enjoyed his last electoral victory on this date in 1891, winning his sixth (!) majority mandate from Canadians. Sir John A Macdonald’s Conservatives won 117 seats, while Laurier’s Liberals garnered 90.
The campaign was the one and only time our two greatest Prime Ministers, Macdonald and Wilfrid Laurier, faced off in a national election. It was the first campaign for Laurier, the new Liberal leader. As political history junkies will recall, the main issue of the campaign was Macdonald’s National Policy, a system involving protective tariffs intended to assist the development of domestic industry, while Laurier’s Liberals advocated elimination of the tariffs – i.e., freer trade.
Sir John A. who had turned 76 earlier that year, was in poor health as he led his party on the hustings and even collapsed at what would be the final election rally in his storied political career — he had to be returned to Kingston from Napanee, by sleigh, to recover. Macdonald would pass into history only weeks after his victory, dying in Ottawa on June 6. Sir John A’s death led to a succession of four different Conservative Prime Ministers in five years (John Abbott, John Thompson, Mackenzie Bowell and Charles Tupper). It was not until the next general election, in 1896, when Laurier would become Prime Minister.
Arthur Milnes is an accomplished public historian and award-winning journalist. He was research assistant on The Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney’s best-selling Memoirs and also served as a speechwriter to then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper and as a Fellow of the Queen’s Centre for the Study of Democracy under the leadership of Tom Axworthy. A resident of Kingston, Ontario, Milnes serves as the in-house historian at the 175 year-old Frontenac Club Hotel.
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