Archive for the ‘Liberal Party of Canada’ Tag

Feast of Jack Layton (August 22)   3 comments

Jack Layton Button

Above:  A Campaign Button

Image in the Public Domain



Canadian Activist and Federal Leader of the New Democratic Party

The process of researching this post entailed, among other activities, watching certain videos at YouTube.  In one of them Ezra Levant, a Canadian pundit, mocked adulation of the recently deceased Jack Layton.  Levant, who had mourned Layton’s passing just a few days before, showed a faux icon of Layton and derived attempts to depict him as a saint.

With this post I declare Layton to be a saint.

Jack Layton came from a family with a history of service to Canada and vulnerable people.  His great-great uncle on his mother’s side was William Henry Steeves (1814-1873), a Father of Confederation, a member of the Senate (1867-1873) as a Liberal, and an advocate for the humane treatment of the mentally ill.  Our saint, on his father’s side, was a great-grandson of Philip E. Layton, a blind organist who advocated for disability benefits and founded the Montreal Association for the Blind and the Philip E. Layton School for the Blind, Montreal, in 1908.  Philip was the father of Gilbert Layton (1899-1961), a conservative Member of the Legislative Assembly of Quebec and cabinet minister in the provincial government in the late 1930s.  Gilbert was the father of Robert Layton (1925-2002), a Liberal Party activist who switched to the Progressive Conservative Party and served as a Member of Parliament from 1984 to 1993, as the Minister of State for Mines from 1984 to 1986, and as the Party Caucus Chair from 1986 to 1993.  He retired from politics in 1993 to focus on his recovery from prostate cancer.  Robert had married Doris Elizabeth Steeves.  Their firstborn son was John Gilbert Layton, born at Montreal, Quebec, on July 18, 1950.

Layton, who graduated with his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from McGill University, Montreal, 1970, embarked upon an academic career and a political vocation.  In 1971 he graduated from York University with his Master of Arts in Political Science.  He became a professor at Ryerson University then at York University, and completed his doctoral program at York University in 1983.  He, married to Sally Halford from 1969 to 1983, became an activist and councilman in Toronto in the 1980s, continuing the good work into the early 2000s.  He was especially passionate with regard to homelessness (favoring public housing as an alternative to incarceration), an issue he addressed locally and on which he wrote two books.  Layton also worked proactively on issues such as HIV/AIDS, recycling, renewable energy, and violence against women.  In 1988 he married Olivia Chow (b. 1957), who served as a councilwoman in Toronto from 1991 to 2005 and as a Member of Parliament from 2006 to 2015.

Layton grew up in The United Church of Canada and acted upon socially progressive Christianity.  Among his heroes was Tommy Douglas (1904-1986), Baptist minister and federal leader of the New Democratic Party.  Our saint, a member of the Bloor Street United Church, Toronto, also attended services at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, whose minister was his friend.  Layton, who had run for Parliament in 1993 and 1997, became the federal leader of the New Democratic Party in 2003 and finally won a seat in 2004.  He led his party, increased its number of seats, and retained his seat in the elections of 2006, 2008, and 2011.  In the House of Commons he opposed the war in Iraq, favored peacekeeping and reconstruction (as opposed to combat) in Afghanistan, and favored a plan to cap interest rates on credit card debt.  He also read scripture at the annual National Prayer Breakfast and taught a Bible study class for youth at Wynan United Church, Hudson, Quebec, in which he had grown up.

In 2011 the New Democratic Party, with Layton as leader, won 103 seats in the House of Commons and became the official opposition for the only time so far in Canadian electoral history.  (The Liberal Party, which came in third place in 2011, won a majority in the election of 2015.  The Conservative Party, which had formed minority governments in 2006 and 2008 before winning a majority in 2011, became the largest opposition party.   The New Democratic Party returned to its usual status as the party in third place.)  In May 2011 Layton became the Leader of the Official Opposition.  During the campaign he had used a cane, due to his recent hip surgery.  That cane, his smile, and his enthusiasm had become his trademarks.  The future seemed bright for Layton and his party.

In 2010 Layton had announced his diagnosis of prostate cancer.  He had sought and obtained treatment for it.  He had been vigorous during the federal campaign of 2011.  There had been no outward indication of disease as of election day 2011.  On July 25, 2011, however, Layton, looking and sounding seriously ill, announced that he had another cancer and that he was stepping down temporarily as party leader.  On August 20 he issued his farewell letter, which concluded with these words:

And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

All my very best,

Jack Layton

Layton died at home in Toronto on August 22, 2011.  He was 61 years old.  The outpouring of grief came from across the political spectrum.






O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served,

and to give his life for the life of the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60


Feast of Flora MacDonald (July 24)   3 comments

Flag of Canada Current

Above:  The Flag of Canada

Image in the Public Domain



Canadian Stateswoman and Humanitarian

Flora MacDonald worked to help the poor and other vulnerable and marginalized people at home and abroad.  This was consistent with her Christian upbringing.


MacDonald, of Scottish descent, was a native of North Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, where Mary Isabel Royle MacDonald gave birth to her on June 3, 1926.  Our saint’s father, George Frederick MacDonald, was a trans-Atlantic telegraph operator for Western Union.  He was active in community life.  From this example young Flora learned civil responsibility.  The father also taught his daughter that she could become anything she wanted.  That lesson seemed unrealistic when Flora was young, for the horizons of females were curtailed relative to those of males.  Our saint studied at Empire Business College, where she prepared to become a secretary.  She became a bank teller instead.  Then, in the early 1950s, she traveled to Europe and hitchhiked across it.  Next she returned to Canada and became involved in politics.

MacDonald was a member of the former Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.  She was a Red Tory–socially liberal, even radical by certain standards of her times.  At first she worked on the campaign of Nova Scotia party Leader Robert Stanfield in 1956.  He won, and MacDonald became a secretary at the party’s national office later that year.  She worked on the campaigns of federal party leader John Diefenbaker (Prime Minister from 1957 to 1963) in 1957 and 1958.  MacDonald held various support positions  in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Progressive Conservative Party until 1963, when Diefenbaker fired her for supporting a leadership review.  That year MacDonald became an administrator in the Department of Political Studies at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario.  In 1967 she supported Robert Stanfield’s successful bid to become the party’s federal leader.  The following year MacDonald worked on the Stanfield’s unsuccessful federal campaign at the time of Trudeau Mania.


Trudeau Mania had run its course by 1972, the year Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau‘s Liberal Party lost its majority in the House of Commons and emerged from the federal election with a minority government propped up by the New Democratic Party.  1972 was also the year MacDonald won her seat in the House of Commons, representing the riding of Kingston and the Islands, in Ontario.  She won re-election in 1974, 1979, 1980, and 1984, serving until her defeat in 1988.

In 1976 MacDonald sought the federal leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party.  She would have won (and gone on to become the Prime Minister three years later) if many male delegates who had sworn to support her had actually voted for her at the party convention.  Her bid failed because of the “Flora Syndrome,” as it became known.  The party was not yet ready for a female leader.  The successful candidate was Joe Clark, whom I also respect, along with Pierre Elliott Trudeau.  Clark’s government, with its minority in the House of Commons, lasted for a mere nine months in 1979 and 1980, sandwiched between two majorities for Trudeau and the Liberal Party.  Clark has admitted that he erred by governing as if he had a majority government.  What a MacDonald government would have been has become a matter of counterfactual history.

MacDonald and Clark became political allies.  He appointed her Secretary of State for External Affairs, making her the first woman to hold that post.  She also supported Clark during his unsuccessful bid to retain party leadership in 1983.  (Brian Mulroney defeated Clark.)  The Progressive Conservative Party lost its majority in 1993, when it lost its majority and retained only two seats, in contrast to the 169 seats it had won five years earlier.  The party increased its numbers in the House of Commons during the following eleven years, but it never came close to forming another government.  The merger of the Progressive Conservative Party and the Canadian Alliance to form the Conservative Party of Canada prompted the opposition of both Clark and MacDonald.  Our saint regarded the merger as a betrayal of principles.  In 2003 she wrote in The Star, a newspaper:

My reaction to the agreement (to merge) was first all one of incredulity, then anger.  The Party’s future lies not in some right-wing alliance that would violate the progressive and moderate traditions of its former leaders, but with a renewed emphasis on the values that the great majority of Canadians feel represent their views.

She voted for the New Democratic Party in the federal election of 2004.

MacDonald served ably as Secretary of State for External Affairs in 1979 and 1980.  She facilitated the settlement of more than 60,000 Vietnamese boat people in Canada.  In August 1979, at the Commonwealth conference in Lusaka, Zambia, our saint declined to go shopping with the wives of ministers.  She spent five hours in a refugee camp instead.  MacDonald also played a vital part in the “Canadian caper” of 1980, for she authorized falsified passports for the six Americans the Canadian embassy staff spirited out of Iran.

The Progressive Conservative Party, under the leadership of Brian Mulroney, won a majority in the House of Commons in 1984.  Mulroney had no respect for MacDonald, for he had a profane term by which he referred to her in private.  Nevertheless, he felt obligated to appoint her to the cabinet.  MacDonald served as the Minister for Employment and Immigration from 1984 to 1986 then as the Minister of Communications from 1986 to 1988.  (Joe Clark was the Secretary of State for External Affairs.)  MacDonald opposed the proposed free trade agreement with the United States in private, but, based on the principle of collective responsibility in the cabinet, supported it, although half-heartedly, in public.


The final stage (1988-2015) of MacDonald’s life was also impressive and constructive.  Our saint was a visiting lecturer at Edinburgh University, Edinburgh, Scotland.  She received the Order of Canada and honorary degrees.  She also worked on behalf of charities such as Oxfam and Doctors Without Borders.  Furthermore, MacDonald worked with the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict and the United Nations.  She and Ed Broadbent, former federal leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, studied transnational corporations in Apartheid-era South Africa for the United Nations.  She and Broadbent became friends.  In 1995, also working with the United Nations, MacDonald confronted the dictatorial regime of Nigeria and convince the British Commonwealth to isolate the regime diplomatically.  In 1989 she visited Palestine, where she danced with one Elias, a wheelchair-bound boy with Down’s Syndrome.  Our saint also served as the Chair of the Board of Canada’s International Development Research Centre from 1992 to 1997 and led the World Federalist Movement–Canada.  From 1997 to 2007 MacDonald led Future Generations, which she founded to help the poor and the vulnerable in their communities.  Some of the projects of the organization were in Afghanistan, which our saint visited twelve times to promote the education of girls and women.


MacDonald, a member of the United Church of Canada, lived her Christian values.  She never married, but she was, according to one nephew, “an incredible aunt.”  She sought to raise up the downtrodden and succeeded.  When news of her death became public, even prominent politicians who disliked her praised her legacy.






Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servant Flora MacDonald, to work for justice among people and nations,

to the glory of your name, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60


Feast of John Diefenbaker, Tommy Douglas, and Lester Pearson (August 16)   5 comments

H2O 2004 01

Above:  Canadian Houses of Parliament, from H2O (2004)

A Screen Capture I Took Via PowerDVD



Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party (1956-1967) and Prime Minister of Canada (1957-1963)



Premier of Saskatchewan (1944-1961) then Leader of the New Democratic Party (1961-1971)



Leader of the Liberal Party (1958-1968) and Prime Minister of Canada (1963-1968)


Today I add to the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days three Canadian statesmen who, despite their political differences, were each partially responsible for creating the national health care system.

Our story begins, however, with Prime Minister Richard Bennett (1870-1947), who led his country from 1930 to 1935.  In 1935 he, the leader of the Conservative Party, was seeking another mandate.  The Prime Minister proposed a set of social programs, including national medical insurance.  Bennett lost the election and his proposal died.  Within a few years, however, a Baptist minister (whom some accused of being a Communist) influenced by the Social Gospel picked up the torch.


Above:  Tommy Douglas

Image Source =

Thomas Clement Douglas (1904-1986), son of Thomas Douglas and Annie Clement Douglas, was born in Falkirk, Scotland.  The family immigrated to Canada when he was six years old.  His father, an iron moulder, suffered from an injury which almost led to the amputation of one leg.  Douglas, whose future depended greatly on his father’s ability to earn a living, became convinced that quality health care should not depend upon one’s ability to afford it.  The family returned to Scotland during World War I then went back to Canada.  Douglas, shaped by the Social Gospel and by social injustices (many of them economic), earned his B.A. at Brandon College, Manitoba, in 1930 (the same year he married Irma Dempsey), and is M.A. at MacMaster University in 1933.  Then he became pastor of a Baptist congregation at Weyburn, Saskatchewan.

Politics beckoned Douglas.  He ran unsuccessfully for the provincial legislature on the Farmer-Labour ticked in 1934.  The following year he ran successfully for the federal House of Commons as a candidate of the Co-opearative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), a Fabian Socialist party.  Douglas, elected to a second term in 1940, resigned four years later to run successfully for Premier of Saskatchewan.

The CCF, founded in 1932, during the depths of the Great Depression, was an outgrowth of Progressivism.  It received much support from trade unionists, farmers, and urban intellectuals.  Causes the CCF supported included:

  1. Clearing slums;
  2. Electrifying rural areas;
  3. Establishing public works programs;
  4. Socializing financial institution and public utilities;
  5. Creating national health insurance;
  6. Establishing pensions for disabled people;
  7. Subsidizing affordable rental housing;
  8. Supporting agricultural prices; and
  9. Passing a national bill of rights.

Many of these goals became realities in governments led by Progressive Conservative John Diefenbaker and Liberal Lester Pearson.

Douglas, Premier of Saskatchewan from 1944 to 1961, instituted important and historical reforms.  He granted public employees the right to bargain collectively.  The Premier’s administration granted equality of access to public places and ownership of property regardless of race, creed, color, or nationality.  And, in 1947, the provincial government began to offer a variety of insurance programs (including medical).

In 1961 the CCF ended its existence; the New Democratic Party (NDP), more moderate than the CCF, took its place with Douglas as the first federal leader.  He, returned to the House of Commons in 1962, remained there through 1979, except for a brief gap in 1968-1969.  Douglas, who left the national leadership of the NDP in 1971, received the honor of the Order of Canada in 1980.  The staunch defender of civil liberties died at Ottawa, Ontario, in 1986.

Diefenbaker 1926

Image in the Public Domain

Now we turn our attention to John Diefenbaker (1895-1979), a man who defended his opinions vigorously then acknowledged that those fellow countrymen who disagreed with him were also loyal Canadians.  National unity mattered greatly to Diefenbaker, as did how decisions which governments and corporate boards made affected common people.  “Dief the Chief” was a Western populist whose principles made him unpopular with elements of his political party, the Progressive Conservatives.

Diefenbaker, born at Neustadt, Ontario, in 1895, was son of William Thomas Diefenbaker and Mary Florence Bannerman Diefenbaker.  The future Prime Minister, who moved to the Fort Carlton region of the North-West Territories with his family in 1903, relocated with them to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, seven years later.  He graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with his B.A. in 1915 and with his M.A. the following year.  Diefenbaker served in the Army in 1916 and 1917 then entered law school, graduating in 1919.

The Saskatchewan attorney entered political life.  In 1925 and 1926 he ran unsuccessfully for the House of Commons on the Conservative Party ticket.  In 1929 and 1938 Diefenbaker ran unsuccessfully for provincial offices.  Yet, from 1936 to 1940, he led the provincial Conservative Party.  And from 1940 to 1979, he sat in the House of Commons.  Diefenbaker, federal leader of the Progressive Conservative Party (renamed in 1942) from 1956 to 1967, served as Prime Minister from 1957 to 1963.

Along the way Diefenbaker married twice.   His first wife was Edna Mae Brower (1899, 1951), whom he married in 1929.  He remarried in 1953, wedding Olive Freeman Palmer (1902-1976).

As Prime Minister Diefenbaker had some important accomplishments.  As a matter of principle he opposed government favors for millionaires.  This policy disturbed many members of the Eastern, big business-oriented wing of his party yet pleased his fellow Western populists.  Diefenbaker, like Tommy Douglas an advocate of a national bill of rights, secured passage of it in 1960.  The Prime Minister led the international movement to isolate the Apartheid government of the Republic of South Africa.  And, in 1961, he appointed a Royal Commission on Health Services.  Three years later the Royal Commission endorsed the Saskatchewan model–mandatory health insurance.  (This had been mandatory in the province since 1961.)

The Canadian Bill of Rights (1960) was a landmark law.  It was the first national legislation to protect human rights and basic freedoms.  This bill of rights lasted until 1982, when the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms superceded it.

Diefenbaker, a Baptist, died at Ottawa, Ontario, in 1979.


Above:  Lester Pearson, July 16, 1956

Copyright: Copyright assigned to Library and Archives Canada by copyright owner Duncan Cameron
Credit: Duncan Cameron / Library and Archives Canada / e007150483

Mikan number 3727308,3727311,3840421,3727310,3840420,3727308,3840408,3840418,3840414,3727312

The final luminary in our Canadian triad is Lester Pearson (1897-1972), Diefenbaker’s frequent political adversary.  Pearson was born at Toronto, Ontario.  He, the son of a Methodist pastor, attended public schools at Peterborough and Hamilton.  Pearson served in the Royal Flying Corps during World War I.  His military service ended when a bus ran over him and the Corps sent him home.  Then Pearson attended the University of Toronto (B.A., 1919) and Oxford University (degrees in 1923 and 1925).  Next he worked as a Lecturer (1924-1926) then as an Assistant Professor (1926-1928) of History at the University of Toronto.

Then Pearson commenced his career as a diplomat.  He, married to Maryon Elspeth (1901-1989) since 1925, became a first secretary in the new federal Department of External Affairs in 1928.  This led to a series of diplomatic postings and service on two royal commissions then a stint as Secretary (later Counsellor) of the Canadian High Commissioner’s Office in London.  Pearson, nearly the first Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), served as the first Ambassador to the United States in 1945-1946.  Next, in 1946-1948, he was the Undersecretary of State for External Affairs.  In 1947 Pearson served as Chairman of the UN’s Political and Security Committee; he proved instrumental in the partition of Palestine in 1947.

Then, in 1948, Pearson entered politics, his arena for the next two decades.  The future Prime Minister, a member of the Liberal Party, joined the House of Commons and became Secretary of State for External Affairs.  His diplomacy continued–he was ever a diplomat–into political life.  In 1956, during the Suez Crisis, Pearson proposed the creation of a UN peacekeeping force, thereby aiding British and French withdrawal from Egypt.  For this he won the Nobel Peace Prize the following year.  In 1957, with Diefenbaker’s rise to the office of Prime Minister, the Liberal Party became the main opposition party.  Pearson led that party from 1958 to 1968, when he retired from public life.

Pearson became Prime Minister in 1963.  He led two successive minority governments (1963-1965 and 1965-1968).  His tenure was eventful.  In 1965 Pearson signed the Canada Pension Plan (similar to Social Security in the U.S.A.), something for which Tommy Douglas also advocated.  Pearson also presided over the centennial of Canadian confederation in 1967.  Of great importance also were two other laws.

In 1966 the Government of Canada created Medicare–socialized medicine–via the Medical care act.  This accomplishment also had the fingerprints of Richard Bennett, Tommy Douglas, and John Diefenbaker all over it.

Flag of Canada Pre-1965

Above:  The Flag of Canada, 1957-1965

Image in the Public Domain

And, in December 1964, Parliament voted to change the national flag, switching from a flag with the Union Jack prominent in it to the current banner, the one with the maple leaf symbol.

Flag of Canada Current

Above:  The Flag of Canada Since 1965

Image in the Public Domain

This was not a universally popular decision.  John Diefenbaker, a defender of Canada’s British heritage, opposed the new flag.  He spoke of the two founding nations of Canada–Britain and France–and of how the flag should show both heritages.  The former Prime Minister also spoke of the Canadian soldiers who had died fighting under a Canadian flag with the Union Jack on it.

Pearson, ever the diplomat and mediator, tried to resolve a variety of disputes, sometimes unsuccessfully.  In 1965, for example, the Prime Minister, in a speech at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, criticized U.S. policy in Vietnam and suggested that, if the United States were to halt bombing in Vietnam, there might be an opening for a negotiated settlement.  President Lyndon Baines Johnson took great offense and invited him to Camp David.  There the President demonstrated his displeasure by grabbing the Prime Minister’s lapels and scolding him.  Canada, Johnson said, did not do its fair share to spread freedom around the world, so Pearson had no right to criticize U.S. foreign policy.  The Prime Minister came away from that encounter convinced that the President was a bully and that the United States was not a senior partner but a nation to view from a distance.  Pearson’s subtle description of the encounter to his cabinet was to recount

the story of a British policeman giving evidence at a murder trial.  “My Lord,” the policeman told the judge, acting on information received, I proceeded to a certain address and there found the body of a woman.  She had been strangled, stabbed and shot, decapitated and dismembered.  But, My Lord, she had not been interfered with.”

At Camp David, the Prime Minister concluded, he had at least not been

interfered with.

–Quoted in Robert Dallek, Flawed Giant:  Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961-1973 (New York, New York:  Oxford University Press, 1998), page 259

Pearson, a member of the United Church of Canada, died at Ottawa, Ontario, in 1972.

I have been pondering and studying Canada for years.  It is an interest which many people do not understand.  This interest has led me, however, to learn of these great men–statesmen, really–who left Canada better than they found it.








Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servants John Diefenbaker, Tommy Douglas, and Lester Pearson,

to work for justice among people and nations,

to the glory of your name, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60