Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Maclean's on Prime Ministers

It's been out a couple of weeks now, but we had missed Maclean's new ranking of the Canadian prime ministers.  Apparently it is the first large-scale survey of this kind in Canada, with almost 120 experts having contributed rankings.  Lawrence Martin observes in today's Globe & Mail that the scores make the Liberal Party look pretty good, despite its current situation.  John A. Macdonald, second to Laurier, is the only Conservative in the top seven.

Norman Hillmer and Stephen Azzi, the Carleton University professors who directed this project and wrote Maclean's long and interesting article about it, were kind enough to invite me to be one of the contributors to this ranking back in April.  I declined. (I wonder if anyone else did?)  I salute their efforts and defer to the wisdom of those who did contribute, but I found (and still find) myself bewildered by the historical challenge involved.  How do you compare Pearson to Bordon. How do you determine if  Laurier would have handled the 1970s better than Trudeau would have handled the 1900s?

Update, June 29:  Dan Francis defends Kim Campbell as not absolutely the worst ever.

Image:  from the House of Commons Heritage Collection online, Mackenzie Bowell, prime ministers in 1896 and painted from a photograph in 2002 by the always terrific Joanne Tod.   Bowell lost out to Kim Campbell in the contest for Canada's worst prime minister.  (The only historical novel I have ever contemplated never got any further than the title:  Bowell: The Memoirs of Canada's Greatest Prime Minister.)
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