Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Maclean's ranks the prime ministers

Needed a better barber, maybe
Maclean's, or more precisely, historians Norman Hillmer and Stephen Aziz for Maclean's, has organized another of those rank-the-prime-ministers studies.  It appeared in the magazine --print and online -- last week. A hundred and twenty-three responses were tallied from "academics and journalists who are experts in history, politics, international relations and economics."  So you may be among the participants.

(I'm not, actually.  Norman Hillmer kindly invited me to participate when he did one of these ten years ago, but I was busy, a bit dubious about the whole exercise, and frankly not very sure who I'd rank where among a lot of PMs I was neither well informed about or terribly interested in.  So I declined -- and my choice has been respected.  If I did not play, I shouldn't criticize the results, I guess, but what the hell. This time the 123 responses came from 187 invitations, it says.)

This year the poll has separated the long-term PMs from the short-termers.  Among long-term leaders, it's Mackenzie King, Laurier, Macdonald, Pierre Trudeau, and Pearson filling the top five - so mid-twentieth century Liberalism is doing pretty well in academic eyes.  Macdonald dropped among young respondents, and Trudeau dropped sharply among Quebec respondents.

Big misjudgments?  Louis St-Laurent right behind the top five, hmmm.  And I'd say Alexander Mackenzie deserves to be higher than second from the bottom among the long-service PMs.  Sure, he only served one term, and he tends to be treated as hopelessly out-maneuvered by John A.  But the first ever Liberal government did important things: the secret ballot and electoral reform, civil service reform, bringing Prince Edward Island into confederation, planning western expansion and land treaties, and standing up to presumptuous governors-general and British officialdom.  Historians who can see the merit in the short serving John Thompson should take another look at Mackenzie.
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