1 April

Diefenbaker Wins Biggest Victory

In the early morning hours of April 1, 1958, Canadians were rubbing their eyes in amazement as they watched the completion of election returns. Could it be an April Fool's joke? The Conservatives, led by Right Honourable John G. Diefenbaker, had won 208 seats, the Liberals 49, C.C.F. (now N.D.P.) only 8, and the Social Credit party had been completely wiped out.

It was by far the biggest election victory in Canadian history. Even the people of Quebec, who had been solidly Liberal since the hanging of Louis Riel in 1885 (sec November 16), had given Diefenbaker's Conservatives 61 percent of their votes.

Diefenbaker might be described as the Abraham Lincoln of Canadian politics. Like Lincoln, he survived a number of defeats that would have crushed most men before becoming leader of the nation.

Diefenbaker grew up in Prince Albert, a sparsely-populated area in northern Saskatchewan. This constituency has the remarkable distinction of being represented by three Prim e Ministers: Wilfrid Laurier in 1896, W. Mackenzie King in 1927, and Diefenbaker.

As a newsboy in 1909, the young Diefenbaker sold Laurier a paper, and somehow he became convinced that he was also going to be Prime Minister. He never lost sight of that ambition. Although he became a successful criminal lawyer, his great love was politics. First, he tried to be elected mayor of Prince Albert, but he was defeated. Then voters rejected him four times when he was a candidate in provincial and federal elections. Eventually, in 1940, Prince Albert Conservatives needed a candidate and chose Diefenbaker. This time he was successful, and he began his career in the House of Commons.

The next step was to become leader of the Conservative party. He was rejected twice by party members, who preferred John Bracken and then George Drew. These men made no headway against the Liberals in federal elections, and finally Diefenbaker was given his opportunity in December 1956.

From then on, his progress was meteoric. There was a general election in June, 1957, which resulted in the return of 1 12 Conservatives, 105 Liberals, 25 C.C.F. members, and 19 Social Crediters.

So Diefenbaker finally ended the long rule of the Liberals, who had been in power since 1936, after only six months as leader of the Conservative party. However, as his government was in a minority position, he seized an opportunity to call a general election in 1958. That election resulted in the most spectacular victory in Canadian history.

One of Diefenbaker's first achievements after becoming Prime Minister was to have Parliament pass a Bill of Rights for Canadians.


1 April

-1734    The first lighthouse in Canada was opened at Louisburg, Cape Breton.

-1776    American General Wooster succeeded General Benedict Arnold at the siege of Quebec.

-1885    Indians began their siege of Battleford, Northwest Territories, and the siege continued until April 25.

-1892    The North American Canal Company was incorporated to deepen the St. Lawrence River and to build canals from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario and from Lake Francis to Lake Champlain and the Hudson River.

-1901    The population of Canada was 5,371,315: 3,063,000 English-speaking, 1,649,000 French-speaking.

-1924    The Royal Canadian Air Force was organized.

-1927    The United States put an immigration quota on Canadians seeking employment.

-1949    Sir Albert J. Walsh was appointed the first lieutenant-governor of the Province of Newfoundland.

-1951    The Department of Defense Production was organized.