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Canadian Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier

Sir Wilfred Laurier (1841-1919) served as the successor to Canada's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. McDonald (Watkins 312). Historians of Canada's multi-ethnic population have observed that a Catholic Prime Minister following in succession to a Protestant Prime Minister illustrates Canadians' high flexibility in tolerating difference (Matthews 71). Addition-ally, Laurier was the first Quebecois to serve as Prime Minister holding this office from 1896 to 1911. During the 15 years which he held office the province of Quebec experienced phenomenal growth. In 1871 Quebec had been 77% rural. Within 40 years, by the end of Laurier's administration, Quebec had become 50% urban (Mandel 274). Scrutiny of Laurier's defeat in the election of 1911 offers insight into the political heritage and leanings of contemporary Canada.

Laurier stands as a pivotal figure in Canadian history. In writing his biography, Joseph Schull chose to call him "the first Canadian." Schull's contention is that the problems and issues which Laurier was forced to deal with are the same thorny issues which plague Canada today. The way in which Laurier and his opponents responded to these critical issues shaped how Canada was to deal with them for decades. Questions surrounding the relations of church and state, the French and English, Canada and the United States, and the place of Canada within the Commonwealth were significantly influenced by Laurier's politics (Schull preface).

To understand the monumental significance ascribed to Laurier's defeat in the election of 1911 attention must be given to what preceded it. First, a brief overview of Laurier's own political ascendancy will be given. This will be followed by a brief charting of the political history of Canada post its confederation in 1867. Political analysts indicate that Laurier "lost because of fears created by two of his major decisions" (Careless 174). Laurier's naval policy and his i...

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Canadian Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 22:57, June 24, 2019, from