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Mackenzie King and the Prairie West

Mackenzie King and the Prairie West

Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 350
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  • Book Info
    Mackenzie King and the Prairie West
    Book Description:

    According to Robert Wardhaugh shows that the disintegration of Liberal fortunes in the Prairie West began during the tumultuous era of William Lyon Mackenzie King.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7686-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-5)

    The latter half of the twentieth century has been a miserable time for the Liberal party on the Canadian Prairies. What is commonly referred to as the most ‘national’ of Canada’s parties has enjoyed remarkable success at the federal level, maintaining office for the majority of the century, yet it has failed in an area that at one time was considered, alongside Quebec, one of the twin pillars of Liberalism. It would seem that since John Diefenbaker, the ‘beloved Prairie son,’ captured western hearts for the Progressive Conservative party in 1957, Prairie Liberalism has remained in the doldrums. The governments...

  5. 1 In Search of the New Jerusalem, 1874–1919
    (pp. 6-35)

    It is doubtful that the Canadian Prairies played any significant role in the early life of William Lyon Mackenzie King. When King was born on 17 December 1874, the distant interior of the Northwest had yet to feel the full impact of a nation desirous of expansion and development. Canadian interest in the area had prompted the British Crown to purchase Rupert’s Land in 1870 from the Hudson’s Bay Company, and, after the tension surrounding the Red River Resistance, it was incorporated into the Dominion. Although white settlements were gradually appearing, the Northwest remained a vast expanse of rolling plain...

  6. 2 Following Phantoms, 1919–1921
    (pp. 36-68)

    Mackenzie King’s career has been characterized by the struggle to maintain national unity. This struggle is usually associated with a continuation of Laurier’s quest to maintain both Quebec support and harmony between French and English Canada. Yet, in the early years of King’s leadership, Quebec was firmly in Liberal control; the threat to national unity came from the Prairie West. Upon acceding to the Liberal leadership, King was forced to bring his idealistic perceptions of the West to terms with the political realities of regaining the region’s support. The obstacle was the agrarian revolt. One of King’s most remarkable political...

  7. 3 Belling the Cat, 1922–1924
    (pp. 69-92)

    As prime minister, Mackenzie King would have his western sympathies, whether genuine or contrived, put to the test, and he would be expected to turn rhetoric into action. It would not be enough to point to the platform of 1919 as evidence of Liberal concern for Prairie issues. He would have to walk the political tightrope. Thus far the balancing act had entailed catering to Quebec while maintaining at least the possibility of gaining western support. Now it would necessitate a more aggressive stance on western issues. The problem was that King’s position was far from secure. The eastern elements...

  8. 4 The Angels on Side, 1924–1926
    (pp. 93-127)

    With Lomer Gouin and W.S. Fielding gone, Mackenzie King moved immediately to shore up his position in the West. If the Liberal party were to be successful, there would have to be a shift in emphasis away from Quebec, and central Canada in general, and toward the Prairies. Once again westerners cautiously waited to see if the policies would match the rhetoric. The prime minister was given another chance to prove his mettle but, with an election approaching, it was by no means certain that the ‘angels’ would be on King’s side.

    Thomas Crerar and Charles Dunning were invited to...

  9. 5 Leaving the Plough in the Furrow, 1927–1930
    (pp. 128-162)

    By 1927 it seemed that the Liberals had regained their foothold on the Prairies. Mackenzie King, however, was taking no chances. Although the influence of the Progressives had waned, they were still a potentially dangerous force. The battle with the third party movement had left its scars; for the remainder of King’s career an element of distrust coloured his attitude toward the region. The prime minister was pleased with his party’s standing, but he was not yet prepared to lay down arms. His attempts to neutralize and absorb the Progressives merely changed venues: after 1927 efforts were directed toward the...

  10. 6 The Stiffer the Application, the Swifter the Cure, 1931–1935
    (pp. 163-198)

    The Depression brought the Prairie West to its knees. Falling grain prices, diminishing yields, and collapsing markets were joined by drought, crop disease, and insect plagues. Urban areas were beset by unprecedented levels of unemployment. The region had held the balance of power within the nation through much of the 1920s; by 1935 it was a debtor region. Political ramifications were inevitable. As politicians such as Mackenzie King grappled with broader national and international issues, the emphasis on region and province diminished. The revamping of federalism and the constitution, the crisis in capitalism and the beginning of a new economic...

  11. 7 The Radical Has Left Us, 1936–1940
    (pp. 199-229)

    The period after 1935 would demonstrate just how much Mackenzie King’s attitude toward and handling of the Prairie West had changed. Gone were the sympathies and affinities so commonly espoused; gone were the hopes that the region would serve as the base of a new Liberalism; gone was the idea that King was a ‘spiritual westerner’ who had found his home. When the prime minister looked west, he no longer saw the hopes and future of the nation. He saw an area stricken by drought and depression, unable even to pay its debts, and constantly begging the federal government -...

  12. 8 Viewing the Mountains without Scaling the Hills, 1941–1950
    (pp. 230-262)

    The war years marked the height of Mackenzie King’s career. Although there were doubts that the prime minister was a strong enough leader for such a military crisis, he emerged from the war with a united country that had doubled its gross national product and increased its budget ten-fold in five years. Political victories followed on the heels of the economic and military successes as the Liberal party won two more elections under his leadership. He surpassed Robert Walpole in holding power longer than any statesman in the English-speaking world. In 1948 the reins of leadership were handed over to...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 263-266)

    It has been argued that ‘the Diefenbaker transformation of the electoral map in 1957-8 had a much more deadly effect upon the Liberals in the West than in any other region of the country.’¹ While this was undoubtedly the case, the decline of Prairie Liberalism began long before the election of 1957 or the selection of Louis St Laurent as leader in 1948. These events were merely the final stages in a process that had been ongoing at least since 1935 and, to a considerable extent, well before.

    The demise of the Liberal party in the West occurred mainly in...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 267-308)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 309-318)
  16. Index
    (pp. 319-328)