If you were to look at Canadian and American politics, you’d probably say that American politics is far more exciting than what goes on at Parliament Hill. But I would stay you’re mistaken. I would say that you clearly didn’t pay attention in history class, because there has been some interesting moments in Canadian political history.
Pierre Trudeau was one of the most controversial Prime Ministers in Canadian history. Weather it be sliding down banisters, dating celebrities, or wearing sandals in the House of Commons, there was always some ‘fuddle duddle’ controversy Trudeau was causing. Perhaps the most memorable was on May 7, 1977, when Trudeau did a pirouette behind the back of Queen Elizabeth the II, captured in the image above. In the image, we see the moxy of the prime minister, and how he doesn’t seem to care that he has disrespected the monarch. The rawness of the moment is perfectly captured, with Trudeau in mid pirouette, as well as the reflecting lights in the mirror behind the Queen. These lights represent the clash of the old imperialist attitudes, and the more realistic modern day nationalist ideologies, which stood out strongly during the Trudeau reign, much like how the lights stick out in the photo. Ultimately, Trudeau, his crazy antics, and sometimes ignorant personality, allowed Canada to being an exciting hotbed for politics during the 70’s and 80’s.
The Drunken Rascal
Perhaps one of the most enthralling Prime Ministers our country has seen, is the first; Sir John A Macdonald. A drunk who wanted to form Canada single handedly. His reputation and importance in Canada are highly debated, but no one can deny that Sir John was a character. This photo above might be just a portrait, but I believe that it is so much more than that. This photo captures the simplicity of Canada, and how Sir John was just a man who believed that it could be developed into becoming a great nation. In this photo, Sir John’s head is tilted to the side in an almost cheeky manner, a dramatic contrast to the typical rigid, cold, stern portraits of politicians before him. This photo belies his personality, and the individualism he brought to Canadian politics. You can see the wild man behind the formation of this country, and what excitement he brought to it almost one hundred and fifty years ago.
“You had an option sir!”
After Pierre Trudeau retired as Prime Minister in June 1984, John Turner filled in the shoes as Prime Minister of Canada . Turner, a man who was outdated and rusty on being a progressive and modern day leader, called an election in September. He found himself face to face with Brian Mulroney, a forward thinking Conservative who was a successful business man that focused on economics. The televised debate of the two leaders was mostly uneventful, until Mulroney brought up the Patronage Appointments, which were left over from Trudeaus reign. Turner insisted that he had no other option but to keep these appointments, but Mulroney blew up on Turner, telling him “You had an option, sir!” and continued to passionately argue about the topic, leaving Turner a mumbling mess.
The picture above captures the moment perfectly. Mulroney is poised in a confident stance, firmly pointing at Turner, who in return is meekly attempting to shadow his opponent. Mulroney has the literal upper hand, with his hand powerfully bearing overtop of Turners out of pure passionate confidence in what he is saying.
This image captures one of the greatest debates in Canadian political history, and raised the standards for Canadian debates to come.
The Shawinigan Handshake
Canadian politics has also seen it’s fair share of wacky incidents as well, such as the ‘Shawinigan Handshake’. On February 15, 1996; the first National Flag day in Canada, Prime Minister Jean Chretien addressed the crowd, but was soon heckled by anti poverty activists. As Chretien made his way through the crowd after the ceremony had ended, he was approached by activist Bill Clennett, and the scene in this photo was executed. Chretien grabbed Clennett by the neck, threw him to the ground. The RCMP did not interfere, as they believed there was no serious threat to the Prime Minister. For so many years, Canada had been to most of the world, a peaceful, low-key, under the radar country. This image portrays an angry, aggressive, leader, of what is supposed to be a moderate country. The chokehold represents a change from that moderate policy, to one of a more forceful player on the world scene.
In Canada, we have more personality than the world gives us credit for. We are not just the friendly Canadians, and our politicians can be just as controversial as any other country.
"Trudeau's Pirouette". Iconic Photos. June 19, 2009. Web January 12, 2015.
"Macdonald in 1870, age 50". Library and Archives of Canada. George Lancefield. Web January 12, 2015.
"You had an option, sir!". Huffington Post. Peter Mansbridge. November 28, 2011. Web January 12 2015.
"Jean Chretien applies 'Shawinigan Handshake' to Don Cherry on beer label". The Toronto Star. Andy Blatchford. April 13 2012. Web January 12, 2014.