George Brown Vs. Sir John A. Macdonald

George Brown vs John A Macdonald

In the past for Sir John A. Macdonald’s birthday (January 11th), I have talked about the man himself and his complicated legacy as well as his friendship with Sir George Étienne Cartier. As such, it might not be much of a surprise that for this year I’m going to look at his arch-nemesis, George Brown. (I wish I could say I am being hyperbolic, but I’m not really. The two Fathers of Confederation hated one another). Despite their intense dislike of each other, the two were able to come together for Confederation purposes. How did this happen? Were they ever able to resolve their legendary feud? Continue reading

Macdonald and Cartier

John A Macdonald & George Etienne Cartier
Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir George Étienne Cartier: Close friends and Fathers of Confederation

Yesterday was Sir John A. Macdonald’s 201st birthday. To mark the occasion, I thought I would explore his friendship with Sir George Étienne Cartier. The two were both Fathers of Confederation, but were once actually on opposing sides in Canadian politics for a period of time. So how did Macdonald and Cartier come together and how did their unlikely lifelong friendship impact the future of the country? Continue reading

The Top 5 Canadian Political Attack Ads

Canadian History in the News: The past is always a part of the present. This blog series looks at current events and stories that have a Canadian history element to them and I offer my opinion on the subject.

Now for part two of our exploration of historical negative campaigning from Canadian federal politics. Last week was attack posters, this week television attack ads. The top five most memorable Canadian attack ads to be more specific.

Historians trace the start of televised political attack ads to the “Daisy Girl” commercial that aired during the Lyndon B. Johnson vs. Barry Goldwater 1964 election campaign. The ad shows a little girl counting the petals she plucks off a daisy. Then an atomic bomb goes off. An ominous voice-over by LBJ follows, “We must either love each other or we must die,” and then the ad ends telling viewers to vote for him. The ad ran just once, (you can imagine just how horrified 1960s audiences were), but it changed the political game forever. Now, our politicians have yet to include nuclear annihilation in their attacks, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t come up with some seriously ridiculous ads. Continue reading

The Art of Negative Campaigning

Snapshots of Canada’s Past: History is more than just words on a screen or from a textbook; this series is a thematic look back at Canadian history through visual imagery.

Union Government Campaign Poster, (c. 1917).

Far from being a staple of the modern era, negative campaigning and politics have always gone hand-in-hand. When it comes to campaign ads designed to attack political opponents, that has a long history as well. Archaeologists who excavated the ruins of Pompeii discovered ads defaming political candidates on ash-covered walls. Needless to say, Canada also has a tradition of political mudslinging stemming all the way back to the days of Sir. John A Macdonald. Nowadays when we think of negative campaigning/advertising, television attack ads probably come first to mind. Before we even touch on those sorts of ads though, let’s wind the clock back a bit first. This post will take a look at some historical federal campaign posters from the context of the time they were produced. Continue reading

Old White Guys Smiling for Votes: Canada’s Electoral History

Snapshots of Canada’s Past: History is more than just words on a screen or from a textbook; this series is a thematic look back at Canadian history through visual imagery.

From the Chronicle Herald for August 6, 2015 by Michael de Adder.

It’s August 11, 2015 and that means that the 42nd Canadian General Election is only a mere 69 days away. If that seems horribly long and tedious, just remember it could be worse. That being said, between now and October 19th, I intend to do a couple of posts related to our own electoral history. The first of which is a visual look back at past Prime Ministers in the act of campaigning along with some fast facts about these 22 individuals. Continue reading

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Sir John A. Macdonald’s Complex Legacy

Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald at 55, (1870).

January 11, 2015 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Sir John Alexander Macdonald. As the first Prime Minister of Canada and one of the Fathers of Confederation, there is fanfare going on to commemorate his bicentennial birthday. The Royal Mint of Canada will be placing his image on the tonnie. Kingston, Ontario, his adopted hometown (parents immigrated here when he was 5 from Glasgow, Scotland), is going all out with a jam-packed Macdonald Week to celebrate. Meanwhile historians and Canadian history fans are hashing it out over his divisive legacy.

Its the latter that captures my attention the most. To celebrate or not to celebrate? In 99% of what I have read, the author tries to convince readers of their view. With public memory, there is a tendency to cast historical individuals as either a hero or a villain because it is simply easier. Grey figures, aka most people throughout history, don’t fit into the molds we build for them. As a result, facts get glossed over depending on one’s perspective or agenda. However, since I have none to push, I have decided to simply list the aspects that make up his complex legacy and leave it up to you to decide whether to Toast or Roast Sir John A. Macdonald—or both. Continue reading