From Norman Spector’s blog at the Globe, emphasis is mine:

Still, these days, one increasingly hears commentators invoking the rocky relationship between Prime Minister John George Diefenbaker and President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in the 1960s as evidence of the difficulties that Conservatives experience when they are in office at the same time as Democrats. That, of course, misses the irony that it was Mr. Diefenbaker who stood up to the Americans while the Liberals ultimately agreed to station nuclear-tipped missiles on Canadian soil.

Not quite.

The Bomarcs were purchased in lieu of interceptor aircraft (originally the Avro Arrow, but I suppose the goverment could have opted for another type of plane). Canada needed these as part of its NORAD commitments to blow up Russian bombers as they crossed over the North Pole. Diefenbaker agreed to purchase them in 1958.

The pickle is that they were only really effective if they were nuclear tipped- the bigger the boom, the better the ability to blow up the bombers. When these bombers are on their way to drop nuclear bombs on cities, preference is given to machetes over scalpals. Diefenbaker announced the purchase of the missiles, and then promptly realized it would mean committing to Canada having nuclear weapons. He waffled, and this went on to be part of the shit storm that contributed to Pearson’s election.

Pearson did accept missiles, but did so reluctantly (the Canadian Encyclopedia reference on the matter is a lesson in understatement): Canada had purchased missiles to fulfill our NORAD obligations, and these missiles weren’t much use without nuclear warheads. By the time that the missiles were phased out, we were well enough into the ICBM age to need them less.

History is open to interpretation, but Diefenbaker’s “standing up” to the Americans hardly seems noble when he agreed to purchase missiles in the first place, and Pearson’s “capitulation” is a lot less severe when you consider that we had already actually bought and installed the missiles. Heck, if memory serves, Dief had (crazily!) already agreed that the missiles might be so-armed in the event of an emergency, but that the warheads must be stored south of the border. Pearson certainly may have had warmer relations with the United States,  but he also is the dude the championed a whole lot of economic nationalism and famously pissed on LBJ’s rug.

(This is, ofcourse, an aside in a post about how the Canada/US relationship might change with the Obama election. I think that Harper is way to smart to pull a Diefenbaker and let a frosty relationship with the US get in the way of him staying in power. Remember: the Tories are now the party of Canada/US cooperation, the reverse was true in 1960.)

The trouble with the Monarchy

“Mr. Pearson said that he had never approached an international discussion with deeper concern. He had been astonished by the amount of public and press interest in the meeting that had been shown in the United States. President Kennedy intended to welcome him as if he were a Head of State.” (Cabinet Conclusions, May 9 1963, LAC RG2 Series A-5-a)

Almost as if he actually was the de facto head of state!

Best Premier Ever: Nova Scotia Edition

As part of Calgary Grit’s annual summer poll, I’ve offered to be the first round blog to establish the best Nova Scotian Premier. The winner will go on to face those from the 9 other provinces at Dan’s blog.

To make things manageable, I’ve only included the 10 longest-serving Premiers. We can have debates about the merits of using time as a qualifier, but history tends to reward those that stick around the longest, and so too will this contest. It actually works out pretty well, including a reasonable cross section across time and partisan affiliation. The cut off for inclusion worked out to be 5 years in office, rounding to the nearest year. The wrong side of the line includes two forgettable premiers that would later go on to be forgettable Prime Ministers in the gap between Macdonald’s death and Laurier’s election and Russell “15 seconds of silence” MacLellan.

Any how, my original plan had been to have a short bio for each (with snarky comments of my own added in), but the Deathly Hallows was a better read than I expected, and J.K. Rowling seems to be paid by the word. What evs’. In the meantime, wikipedia links will do, though I do recommend reading the Dictionary of Canadian Biography entry for the older fellows- the link should be on their wiki page- as they are written by actual historians rather than nerds in their parents’ basement people like me. I will endeavor to have something up later tonight of my own creation.

Voting will be by rank, so feel free to set the order as you see fit. I’ll leave it to run until the end of the week. Remember, as with Nova Scotia politics in general, a certain amount of gerrymandering is expected, so: vote early and often.

The Candidates (by years served):

George H. Murray (1896-1923)

Angus L. Macdonald (1933-1940; 1945-54)

William S. Fielding (1884-1896)

John Buchanan (1978-1990)

Robert Stanfield (1956-1967)

William Annand (1867-1875)

Gerald. A. Regan (1970-1978)

John Hamm (1999-2006)

Edgar N. Rhodes (1925-1930)

Alexander S. MacMillan (1940-1945)

The poll itself can be found here.

Ahead by a Quarter Century, Part 2

On Tuesday, Padraic, Adam, and I had a discussion about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 25 years later. This is the second part.

Note, if the audio sounds funny with google reader, just listen to it on the site. I’m still trying to sort out which bitrates are cool and which are not.

Ahead by a Quarter Century, Part 1

On Tuesday, Padraic, Adam, and I had a discussion about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 25 years later. This is the first part.

Note, if the audio sounds funny with google reader, just listen to it on the site. I’m still trying to sort out which bitrates are cool and which are not.


I’m at the archives, as I usually am on Fridays, and there are people here with matching embroidered golf shirts, complete with their names on the side.

They seem to be with The Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association Recovery Team, or at least so says the back of their shirts- and it seems to be pretty neat stuff. I can only assume that they are looking into documents relating to the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, be it for places to dive or more general information.

This is probably the most visible demonstration of the non-university/museum use of the archives- there are firms and individuals that do lots of contract work for government or private organizations, though they usually come dressed just as casually as your average grad student, and tend to work individually. The CHAA folks seem to be working in a team, which is unusual, and pretty interesting to see.