17 September

Sir John A. Returns

Not only is this country made a slaughter market by being overwhelmed by the overwhelmed by the sweeping of the united States, but it has sometimes been made a sacrifice market by ruinous proposals for the purpose of suppressing any given trade. We all remember what the salt manufacturers of Syracuse and Salena sent in their salt with instructions to undersell Canadian salt on the Canadian market, to crush this infant industry. The shoe trade was dealt with in the same way by the leather manufacturers of the United States.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 -SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Advocating the National Policy

Until 1939, the battlegrounds of election campaigns were the big public meetings at Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal. Political writers and commentators could usually judge who was going to win an election by the reception given the Conservative or Liberal leaders in those places.

One of the greatest political campaigners was Sir John A. Macdonald. He really began the tariff issue by introducing what was called "The National Policy" before the election on September 17, 1878. His government had been forced to resign in 1873 owing to a campaign fund scandal. Macdonald sat back quietly for almost five years and watched Liberal Prime Minister Alexander Mackenzie struggle with a severe depression.

As the time for the next election drew nearer, the question was whether or not Mackenzie would try to improve economic conditions by making a reciprocal trade deal with the United States. When Mackenzie committed himself to reciprocity, Macdonald trotted out his "National Policy" of higher tariffs for prosperity. Years later, D'Alton McCarthy, who was Macdonald's chief aide in Ontario, admitted that if Mackenzie had based his campaign on higher tariffs, Macdonald would have advocated reciprocity. Nevertheless, the high-low tariff battle continued until 1939 when World War II made it clear that nations do better through economic co-operation than through competition.

Macdonald was also largely responsible for the old system of spectacular public meetings. It has been said that he made after-dinner speeches popular. In the 1878 campaign he introduced the "political picnic." Tables were set under the trees. There were plates of cold chicken, tongue, ham, frosted cakes and mounds of strawberries, and jugs of iced lemonade and raspberry cordial. People came from miles around in their horse-drawn carriages, dressed in their Sunday-best. After a delightful luncheon, Macdonald would speak from a specially built platform to a well nourished, warm-hearted audience. One such picnic at Belleville, Ontario, was attended by 15,000 people.

Macdonald won the election of 1878, despite the fact that he was defeated in his own constituency. A safe seat had to be found for him in Victoria, B.C. Sir John remained prime minister until his death 13 years later. Political picnics and public meetings lasted far longer than that.


17 September

-1705    The Marquis of Vaudreuil was made Governor of New France.

-1799    The first Legislature of Upper Canada opened at Newark, now Niagara.

-1814    The Americans were repulsed at Fort Erie, Ontario.

-1859    Victoria Bridge at Montreal was completed. It was the first bridge over the St. Lawrence and was opened by the Prince of Wales in 1860.

-1949    L. B. Pearson represented Canada at the first NATO meeting in Washington.

-1951    The first election was held in the Northwest Territories.