John Diefenbaker, Talk:John Diefenbaker
John George Diefenbaker, CH
, (18 September 1895
– 16 August 1979
) was the 13th Prime Minister of Canada
Diefenbaker was known by several nicknames during his career, "J.G.D." and "The Leader" (a monicker that continued to be applied to him even after his leaving the post of prime minister), but most affectionately as "Dief the Chief," (or simply "the Chief").
Diefenbaker was born on 18 September 1895, in Neustadt
, to William Thomas Diefenbaker and Mary Florence Bannerman. His paternal great-grandfather was an immigrant from the Baden
region of Germany
. The name was originally spelled Diefenbacker
but was Anglicized
following his grandfather's death.
Diefenbaker received a BA
, an MA
in Political Science
and an LL.B
from the University of Saskatchewan
. Diefenbaker married Edna Brower
) in 1929
. In 1953
, after Edna's death, he married his second wife, Olive Palmer
), who had a daughter from a previous marriage. Diefenbaker had no children of his own.150px|thumb|left|Diefenbaker (right) during [World War I
John George Diefenbaker served briefly in World War I
in the Canadian Army from March 1916 to July 1917, reaching the rank of lieutenant
in the 29th Light Horse. He was sent to England for pre-deployment training, but he was never deployed to France, having suffered an injury that had him coughing up blood. Invalided back to Canada
, he was discharged there as Medically Unfit for Service,
due to heart irregularities.
He was called to the Saskatchewan
Bar in 1919 and became a criminal defence lawyer
. Diefenbaker was famous for representing poorer clients, and he would seldom call defense witnesses. At one time, in the Supreme Court of British Columbia
, he fell on the floor, clutching his throat, to show how a murder had been committed. Diefenbaker represented clients in 20 murder cases, and lost only two.
In 1920, Diefenbaker was elected as an alderman
for the municipal council of the Town of Wakaw, Saskatchewan
. He was unsuccessful in his re-election bid of 1923. His career as a lawyer was more successful than his political career at this time, and he was appointed King's Counsel
Diefenbaker's early political career was marked by a singular lack of achievement after his first political breakthrough; he ran unsuccessfully in over a dozen elections at the municipal, provincial and federal levels in Alberta and Saskatchewan before finally getting elected again.150px|thumb|right|Diefenbaker in his early Parliamentary career.
Diefenbaker served as the leader of the Saskatchewan Conservative Party
, having taken over the party after it was wiped out in the 1934 provincial election
that brought down the Tory government of Premier James Thomas Milton Anderson
Diefenbaker was first elected to the federal Parliament
in the 1940 federal election
. He was one of only a handful of western Conservative MPs elected under the party's abortive National Government
platform. He served as one of the few inspiring opposition parliamentarians during the party's long years in the political wilderness between 1935 and 1957. In 1952
, he became Canada's delegate to the United Nations
Diefenbaker was a frequent leadership contestant in Progressive Conservative leadership conventions
. In 1943
, Diefenbaker lost to Manitoba Premier John Bracken
. In 1948
, Diefenbaker lost to Ontario Premier George Drew
. Diefenbaker was not a favourite of the party establishment, who thought of him as a loose cannon and unfriendly to business. Diefenbaker would finally win in 1956
. While the contentious debate surrounding the Pipeline Debate
and other signs of arrogance appeared in the Liberal
government, few gave Diefenbaker any hope of winning an election against the popular Louis St. Laurent
Prime Minister of Canada 250px|right|thumb|Diefenbaker in Northwest Territories
.">[Inuvik, Northwest Territories
Diefenbaker's oratory skill and a desire for change by the populace propelled him to victory in the 1957 election
, after which he was able to form a minority government
. Soon afterwards, Lester Pearson
took over the Liberal leadership, and in his first speech he asked Diefenbaker to hand power back to the Liberals because of the recent economic decline. In a scathing two-and-a-half hour response, Diefenbaker revealed a formerly classified Liberal file that predicted the economic malaise. The "arrogant" label that had been on the Liberals in 1957 stayed.
Diefenbaker returned to the polls in the 1958 election
. Running on a campaign of building a "Canada of the North", increasing subsidies and development in the northern parts of the country, and on increasing social programs, Diefenbaker's message hit harder in English Canada. The biggest surprise was in Quebec, where the Union Nationale
political machine was put into use for the Tories. On election night, Diefenbaker won the largest majority government
in Canadian history.
However, as Peter C. Newman
would write: "He
came to the toughest job in the country without having worked for anyone but himself, without ever having hired or fired anyone, and without ever having administered anything more complicated than a walk-up law office." His first Commonwealth leaders meeting went over well, until he made an offer to the United Kingdom
to bring 15% of Canada's trade with the United States to the UK. Since the proposal violated many international agreements, the UK instead proposed a Free Trade Agreement. Diefenbaker's Cabinet strongly recommended against it, and the 15% figure never came up again. Relations considerably cooled between the UK and Canada.thumb|250px|right|U.S. President John Kennedy (left) with Rideau Hall
.">[Georges Vanier and Diefenbaker at Rideau Hall
Diefenbaker soon ran into economic problems. With a recession already looming by the time he came in, increased deficits hurt the economic picture more. Diefenbaker blamed Liberal policies of tight money
. Out of this sprang the Governor of the Bank of Canada
, James Coyne
. Coyne heavily criticised the government's financial record, saying that the country was relying too much on exports to the United States, and that a tightening was needed. The Government rejected his advice, and tried to get rid of Coyne for playing politics with his position. While the House of Commons passed a bill declaring his position vacant, the Liberal-controlled Canadian Senate
rejected it. Nevertheless, Coyne resigned the next day. The main bank manager criticising the Government gave a feeling of chaos to international investors, which prompted many to withdraw capital from Canada. The ensuing crunch heavily limited economic growth.
Diefenbaker made what some believe to have been one of the most controversial policy decisions of the last century in Canada when his government cancelled the development and manufacture of the Avro Arrow
. The Arrow was a Mach
2 supersonic jet interceptor built by A.V. Roe Canada (Avro Canada
), in Malton, Ontario
to defend Canada in the event of a Soviet
nuclear bomber attack from the north. During its production, the Canadian government purchased American-made Bomarc
missiles as a means of bomber defense, leading to the cabinet decision to cancel the Avro Arrow and its Orenda Iroquois engine on 20 February 1959
, forever known as "Black Friday" in Canadian industry. After cancelling the technologically advanced interceptor project, he obtained CF-101 Voodoo
interceptors in 1961 from the United States. Dwight Eisenhower
was president of the United States
when Diefenbaker became prime minister and the two fostered a strong friendship. His hostility to the Kennedy administration would be pronounced. During the Cuban Missile Crisis
, Diefenbaker was annoyed at the failure of President John F. Kennedy
to consult with him ahead of time, which led Diefenbaker to be skeptical of the seriousness of the situation. This caused him to fail to act quickly on an American request to put Canadian forces on Defcon
3 status. The Minister of National Defence
, Douglas Harkness
, defied Diefenbaker by putting the military on high alert two days prior to Cabinet's decision to authorize the move. 250px|thumb|right|Diefenbaker with the Canadian Bill of Rights.
Diefenbaker was also instrumental in bringing in the Canadian Bill of Rights
. This was the first attempt to articulate the basic rights of Canadian citizens in law. Because the Bill of Rights was an ordinary federal statute
and not a part of the Canadian Constitution
, it did not codify such rights in an enforceable way, since it could not be used by courts to nullify federal or provincial laws that contradicted it (An official would comment, "It's great, unless you live in one of the provinces."). Thus its effect on the decisions of the courts, unlike the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
, was limited.
The lack of economic progress and the lack of an active UN political machine in Quebec helped the Progressive Conservatives lose their majority in the 1962 election
. Immediately afterward, Diefenbaker's minority government began a program to reduce government spending, and raise tariffs and bank interest rates. He then reorganized his Cabinet, moving Finance Minister Donald Fleming
into the Minister of Justice
portfolio, replacing him with George C. Nowlan
In September 1962
, Diefenbaker attended the Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers
, where he attacked Britain's prospective entry into the European Economic Community
, stating it would be at the expense of Canada's increased economic dependence on the United States
. He also criticized South Africa
's policy of apartheid
, and successfully opposed its readmission into the Commonwealth after it declared itself a republic
Diefenbaker's final term of office saw the escalation of a nuclear arms question brought on by the imported Bomarc missiles and the Voodoo aircraft that had replaced the Avro Arrow. Diefenbaker rejected American nuclear warheads being put in missiles. The already strained relationship deteriorated faster, and a Cabinet split further undermined the government. Social Credit and the CCF withdrew their support of the government, prompting its fall over the nuclear arms question. Diefenbaker used Congressional
testimony about the Bomarc missiles to accuse Pearson of making Canada a target for a nuclear war, and accused American media outlets and the US government of interfering with the election.
Party leader and Member of Parliament thumb|right|250px|Diefenbaker in 1964.
Diefenbaker lost the 1963 federal election
to Lester Pearson
and the Liberals
. Nevertheless he continued as PC party leader after the 1963 election, serving as Leader of the Opposition
. In the 1964 Great Flag Debate
, he led the opposition to the Maple Leaf flag
, which he castigated as the "Pearson Pennant", arguing for the retention of the Canadian Red Ensign
There were early calls for Diefenbaker's retirement, especially from the Bay Street
wing of the party. At the February, 1964 PC Convention, a secret ballot on his leadership was held. Diefenbaker held on by a very narrow margin. Diefenbaker would be introduced to the convention by Joe Clark
, president of the Student Federation whose delegates were seen as the vote that tipped the balance. Clark described when he first saw Diefenbaker in High River, Alberta
, and Diefenbaker's bravery at standing for the vote. Diefenbaker emotionally accepted the result, and said, "If there were no other rewards in public life than to have done what was stated by the brilliant Joe Clark, I would have been rewarded more than I could hope for."
To the surprise of many, he ran an aggressive, nationalistic campaign in the 1965 election
, which Pearson had called in the expectation that the Liberals would win a majority. Growing dissatisfaction with his leadership, however, led to open dissension within the party, headed by Party president Dalton Camp
. There was a fear within the party that even though ditching Diefenbaker would probably improve Eastern results, they might lose the Western seats Diefenbaker brought to the party.
Anti-Diefenbaker efforts by Camp and others resulted in a leadership review, a measure for which there was no provision in the party's constitution. The Progressive Conservatives called a leadership convention
. Although Diefenbaker stood as a candidate for the leadership, against the proposed Deux Nations
policy, he was defeated by Nova Scotia Premier Robert Stanfield
. His exit was considered the most emotional moment of the convention.
Diefenbaker retained his parliamentary seat for the next twelve years until his death, while also serving as the chancellor at the University of Saskatchewan
beginning in 1969. He was a favourite of the Press Gallery
, and would frequently make snide remarks about other Conservatives. This reached a head in 1979
, when he joked that Canada had celebrated the International Year of the Child
by electing Joe Clark
, who as a student had defended Diefenbaker.
Death300px|right|thumb|John Diefenbaker's casket, 1979
Diefenbaker died on 16 August 1979
in Ottawa, Ontario
. According to his funeral plans his body was shipped from Ottawa to Saskatoon by train for burial. Thousands of Canadians lined the tracks and more watched on television to bid farewell to "Dief" before he was buried beside the Right Honourable John G. Diefenbaker Centre at the University of Saskatchewan. In his will, he had a special ceremony in place, so that the Maple Leaf flag
was draped on his casket first, and then the Red Ensign that he defended so intensely in parliament was laid over it. His state funeral
was carried out as he had planned years earlier. Interestingly, it was presided over by the short-lived government of Prime Minister Joe Clark
, a fellow Tory. During the burial services, Clark took part in eulogizing Diefenbaker, only days after Diefenbaker had delivered insults against Clark to the press.
Legacy 200px|thumb|Diefenbaker in the [Canadian House of Commons
Diefenbaker's legacy remains a controversial one. During his tenure, economically, the country fared poorly, but this could be ascribed to conditions elsewhere. However, his love for the "common man," and his near universal stand for human rights (he was one of the few dissenters in the internment of Japanese Canadian
s as well as his leadership in the fight against South Africa being in the Commonwealth) seems to shed a more positive light.
Diefenbaker raised the popularity of the Progressive Conservatives in the Western provinces and the West would be a PC mainstay until the early-1990s.
Between 1993 and 2003, Diefenbaker was frequently touted as a "spiritual father" of the values espoused by the then-beleaguered PC Party and its membership. In his 2000 book, In Defence of Civility,
Tory strategist and former PC leadership candidate, Senator Hugh Segal
notes that Diefenbaker "defined Progressive Conservatism as the ultimate balance for free enterprise, profit-making and economic growth on the one hand, and social justice and respect for the interests of the common man on the other." Many Red Tory
PCs, such as David Orchard
and Heward Grafftey
, who were not enamoured of the more recent PC Prime Ministerships of Joe Clark
, Brian Mulroney
and Kim Campbell
, frequently referenced their own political traditions, values and stances to the Diefenbaker era. Ironically, in his memoirs, Diefenbaker stated that he preferred the name "Conservative" to "Progressive Conservative."
Supreme Court appointments
Diefenbaker recommended to the Governor General
that the following be appointed as Justice to the Supreme Court of Canada
* Ronald Martland
- (15 January 1958
- 10 February 1982
* Wilfred Judson
- (5 February 1958
- 20 July 1977
* Roland Almon Ritchie
- (5 May 1959
- 31 October 1984
* Emmett Matthew Hall
- (23 November 1962
- 1 March 1973
Honoursright|thumb|Diefenbaker on the cover of Time
is named for the late prime minister. It is a reservoir
on the South Saskatchewan River
created following the construction of the Gardiner Dam
's airport is named John G. Diefenbaker International Airport
in his honour. A display depicting his life and career is found in the departure area of the terminal.
*John G. Diefenbaker Centre
on the University of Saskatchewan
is a museum dedicated to the late prime minister.
*High school in Hanover, ON is named John Diefenbaker Secondary School
*John George Diefenbaker Public School
on 70 Dean Park Road in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada is named after the former prime mininster.
, the boyhood home of Diefenbaker was moved from Borden
, to Wascana Park in Regina, Saskatchewan
. In 2001, the Wascana Centre Authority shut the site to visitors and, in 2004, it was moved to the Sukanen Ship and Pioneer Village Museum,
13 km south of Moose Jaw.
With the exception of recent Prime Ministers: Kim Campbell
, Jean Chrétien
and Paul Martin
, Diefenbaker is the only former Prime Minister alive at the time of the creation of the Order of Canada
not to receive the honour. Sitting politicians are not permitted to be given the order while in office and since Diefenbaker did not leave the House of Commons
before his death, he never became eligible.
A number of fallout shelter
s constructed for the Canadian Government were nicknamed "Diefenbunker
s" after Diefenbaker, a nickname which persists to this day in describing the many government fallout shelters.
The television show Due South
had a wolf
character who was named "Diefenbaker
," after the Prime Minister. The star of that show, Paul Gross
, would eventually play Diefenbaker himself in the Tommy Douglas
miniseries Prairie Giant.
A planet in the BattleTech Wargame
universe was also named after the late Prime Minister.
In Israel, a hill trail connecting battle sites of the 1948 Independence War, is named after Diefenbaker, who was considered a strong supporter of the fledgling Jewish state. The trail connects Sha'ar HaGay on the Jerusalem - Tel Aviv road to a war memorial dedicated to Israeli soldiers who fell during fighting to break the siege of Jerusalem.
Diefenbaker was a Freemasonhttp://freemasonry.bcy.ca/textfiles/famous.html
* Diefenbaker, John. One Canada, Memoirs of the Right Honourable John G. Diefenbaker: The Tumultuous Years 1962 to 1967.
Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1977. ISBN 0-7705-1331-X.
* Newman Peter C. Renegade in Power: The Diefenbaker Years.
Toronto: McClelland and Stewart,1963. ISBN 0-7710-6747-X.
* Stursberg, Peter. Diefenbaker: Leadership Gained: 1956-62.
Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1975. ISBN 0-8020-2130-1.
* Van Dusen, Thomas. The Chief.
Toronto: McGraw-Hill, 1968.
* Zuk, Bill. The Avro Arrow Story: The Revolutionary Airplane and its Courageous Test Pilots.
Calgary: Altitude Publishing, 2005, ISBN 1-55153-978-0.
*http://www.biographi.ca/EN/ShowBio.asp?BioId=42125 Biography at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
*http://www.parl.gc.ca/information/about/people/key/bio.asp?lang=E&query=837&s=M Political Biography from the Library of Parliament
*http://wascanapark.tripod.com/diefenbakerhomestead/index.html Diefenbaker Homestead
*http://archives.cbc.ca/IDD-1-74-1599/people/john_diefenbaker/ CBC Digital Archives – Dief the Chief
title=Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party
before=Louis St. Laurent
title=Prime Minister of Canada
after=Lester B. Pearson
before=Lester B. Pearson
title=Secretary of State for External Affairs
after=Sidney Earle Smith
succession box |
before=Sidney Earle Smith
title=Secretary of State for External Affairs
before=John Frederick Johnson
title=MP for Lake Centre, SK
title=MP for Prince Albert, SK
|NAME=Diefenbaker, John George
|SHORT DESCRIPTION=13th Prime Minister of Canada (1957
|DATE OF BIRTH=September 18
|PLACE OF BIRTH=Neustadt, Ontario
|DATE OF DEATH=August 16
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