Canada Day Quiz: Ten things about our prime ministers you might never have known

By chance, a 1967 photograph captures four prime ministers in the same frame. L-R: Pierre Trudeau (1968-79 and 1980-84), John Turner (1984), Jean Chretien (1993-2003) and Lester Pearson (1963-68)

1. During a visit to the United States, this prime minister was reportedly grabbed by the lapels of his suit jacket and shouted at by the U.S. president. Was it…

a.) Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald (Conservative, 1867-1873 and 1878-1891)
b.) Prime Minister Mackenzie King (Liberal, 1921-1926, 1926-1930 and 1935-1948)
c.) Prime Minister Lester Pearson (Liberal, 1963-1968)

2. This prime minister reportedly used mediums and clairvoyants to get political advice from the dead. Was it…

a.) Prime Minister Jean Chretien (Liberal, 1993-2003)
b.) Prime Minister Mackenzie King (Liberal, 1921-1926, 1926-1930 and 1935-1948)
c.) Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent (Liberal, 1948-1957)

3. He was the only Manitoba MP to be Prime Minister. Was it…

a.) Prime Minister Sir John Thompson (Conservative, 1892-1894)
b.) Prime Minister Arthur Meighen (Conservative, 1920-1921 and 1926)
c.) Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald (Conservative, 1867-1873 and 1878-1891)

4. Inept and openly prejudiced against anyone who was not Anglo-Saxon and/or Protestant, he was described as “a bitter Santa Claus” and “a tiny, stupid man” — and is considered by some observers to have possibly been one of Canada’s worst prime ministers. Was it…

a.) Prime Minister Arthur Meighen (Conservative, 1920-1921 and 1926)
b.) Prime Minister Sir Mackenzie Bowell (Conservative, 1894-1896)
c.) Prime Minister Mackenzie King (Liberal, 1921-1926, 1926-1930 and 1935-1948)

5. This prime minister’s term in office ended so badly that he turned his back on the country he once governed, opting to start a new life overseas. Was it…

a.) Prime Minister R. B. (Richard) Bennett (Conservative, 1930-1935)
b.) Prime Minister Lester Pearson (Liberal, 1963-1968)
c.) Prime Minister Sir John Abbott (Conservative, 1891-1892)

6. Had they been known by their true first names instead of by their middle names, prime ministers Mackenzie King, Joe Clark, Brian Mulroney and Jean Chretien would have been known as…

a.) Martin King, William Clark, Joseph Mulroney and Charles Chretien
b.) Charles King, Martin Clark, William Mulroney and Joseph Chretien
c.) William King, Charles Clark, Martin Mulroney and Joseph Chretien

7. This prime minister was accused of mouthing the words “fuck off” to his fellow MPs. He denied this, claiming to have said “fuddle duddle” to them. Was it…

a.) Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (Liberal, 1968-1979 and 1980-1984)
b.) Prime Minister Sir John Abbott (Conservative, 1891-1892)
c.) Prime Minister Joe Clark (Conservative, 1979-1980)

8. This prime minister was nicknamed “The Glad Man” due to his resemblance to the TV pitchman for Glad Garbage Bags, and is alleged to have told broadcaster Pamela Wallin, “You know, Pammy, I bet those shoes have been under a lot of beds.” Was it…

a.) Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent (Liberal, 1948-1957)
b.) Prime Minister John Turner (Liberal, 1984)
c.) Prime Minister Brian Mulroney (Conservative, 1984-1993)

9. To date, he was the last prime minister to die in office. Was it…

a.) Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier (Liberal, 1896-1911)
b.) Prime Minister Sir John Thompson (Conservative, 1892-1894)
c.) Prime Minister Alexander Mackenzie (Liberal, 1873-1878)

10. So far in Canadian history, only one former provincial premier has successfully gone on to become Prime Minister of Canada. Was it…

a.) Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent (Liberal, 1948-1957)
b.) Prime Minister Sir Charles Tupper (Conservative, 1896)
c.) Prime Minister Kim Campbell (Conservative, 1993)

The answers:

1. c.) On April 2, 1965, prime minister Lester Pearson made unfavourable comments about the Vietnam War during a visit to Temple University in Philadelphia. When he met with U.S. president Lyndon Johnson the following day, witnesses reported that an angry Johnson grabbed Pearson by the lapels and shouted, “Don’t you come into my living room and piss on my rug!”

2. b.) Multiple biographies about prime minister Mackenzie King noted that he occasionally consulted a medium known as Mrs. Bleaney to ask his late mother and deceased former prime minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier for advice while in office.

3. b.) Born in Ontario in 1874, Arthur Meighen moved to Portage la Prairie in 1902 and began to practice law there after being called to the Manitoba Bar. He was elected to Parliament in 1908 as the MP for Portage, and became prime minister in 1920 on the resignation of Sir Robert Borden. He was defeated as both PM and MP in the 1921 election. He became prime minister again briefly in 1926 as the MP for an Ontario constituency.

4. b.) According to historian Jacques Monet, when Prime Minister Thompson died suddenly of a heart attack in 1894, the Governor-General summoned Thompson’s most senior cabinet minister, Sir Mackenzie Bowell, to ask for his advice on who would be in the best position to assume the premiership. Bowell took advantage of the opportunity to recommend himself as prime minister. He was duly given the job, but the resentment of his colleagues and his unacceptable past as a harsh critic of francophones and Catholics and as a hardline Protestant Orangeman soon left him in over his head. He was described by one colleague as a “bitter Santa Claus” due to his white hair and ample beard, while he responded by attacking his caucus as a “nest of traitors”. Bowell was forced to resign in 1896 by a party revolt, after less than 17 months in office.

5. a.) Prime Minister R. B. (Richard) Bennett was elected in 1930, only to find himself in the unenviable task of trying to lead the country through the Great Depression. Rising unemployment and social unrest, including riots in Vancouver and Regina, caused Bennett’s popularity to sink, and precipitated a challenge to his leadership of the Conservative Party in 1934. He survived this challenge, but badly lost the 1935 federal election. Discouraged by his repudiation, he emigrated to the U.K. in 1938. He never returned to Canada in the following years, and was buried in a churchyard in Mickleham, England following his death in 1947.

6. c.) The full names of prime ministers Mackenzie King, Joe Clark, Brian Mulroney and Jean Chretien were, respectively, William Lyon Mackenzie King, Charles Joseph Clark, Martin Brian Mulroney and Joseph Jacques Jean Chretien. Another prime minister not known by her official first name: Prime Minister Avril Phaedra (“Kim”) Campbell

7. a.) In 1971, prime minister Pierre Trudeau was accused to mouthing the words “fuck off” to opposition MPs in the House of Commons. Trudeau denied this, rhetorically asking the media, “I moved my lips and I used my hands in a gesture of derision, yes. But I didn’t say anything. If these guys want to read lips and they want to see something into it, you know that’s their problem…. What is the nature of your thoughts, gentlemen, when you say ‘fuddle duddle’ or something like that? God, you guys…!”

8. b.) During his brief term as prime minister during the summer of 1984, silver-haired prime minister John Turner was plagued with jokes about how he resembled the TV pitchman for Glad garbage bags. He also caused controversy by indiscreetly taking a shot at broadcaster Pamela Wallin in front of other reporters with the comment, “You know, Pammy, I bet those shoes have been under a lot of beds.” Wallin is thought to have gotten her revenge in a 1988 TV interview with Turner when she bluntly asked him about rumours that he had a drinking problem.

9. b.) Prime Minister Sir John Thompson died suddenly of a heart attack while on a visit to the U.K. on Dec. 12, 1894. Since then, no other prime minister has died in office.

10. b.) Sir Charles Tupper is, to date, the only former provincial premier to have gone on to become a federal prime minister. He was premier of Nova Scotia from 1864 to 1867. After 16 years in Parliament (1867-1883) and as High Commissioner in the United Kingdom (1883-1895), he returned home to briefly assume the office of prime minister in 1896 at age 74. Notably, Tupper’s was also the shortest premiership — 68 days as prime minister (May 1 to July 8, 1896).

Related links: A couple of  interesting and at times hilarious overviews of our prime ministers by James Hope Howard and Filibuster Cartoons.

1. During a visit to the United States, this prime minister was reportedly grabbed by the lapels of his suit jacket and shouted at by the U.S. president. Was it…
2. This prime minister reportedly used mediums and clairvoyants to get political advice from the dead. Was it…
3. He was the only Manitoba MP to be Prime Minister. Was it…
4. Inept and openly prejudiced against anyone who was not Anglo-Saxon and/or Protestant, he was described as “a bitter Santa Claus” and “a tiny, stupid man” — and is considered by some observers to have possibly been one of Canada’s worst prime ministers. Was it…
5. This prime minister’s term in office ended so badly that he turned his back on the country he once governed, opting to start a new life overseas. Was it…
6. Had they been known by their true first names instead of by their middle names, prime ministers Mackenzie King, Joe Clark, Brian Mulroney and Jean Chretien would have been known as…
7. This prime minister was accused of mouthing the words “fuck off” to his fellow MPs. He denied this, claiming to have said “fuddle duddle” to them. Was it…
8.  This prime minister was nicknamed “The Glad Man” due to his resemblance to the TV pitchman for Glad Garbage Bags, and is alleged to have told broadcaster Pamela Wallin, “You know, Pammy, I bet those shoes have been under a lot of beds.” Was it…
9. To date, he was the last prime minister to die in office. Was it…
10. So far in Canadian history, he was the only provincial premier to go on to become Prime Minister of Canada. Was it…
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About theviewfromseven
A lone wolf and a bit of a contrarian who sometimes has something to share.

2 Responses to Canada Day Quiz: Ten things about our prime ministers you might never have known

  1. Oh, man, nine out of ten. So close! Really nine-and-three-quarters out of ten, but I always forget the ‘Joseph’ part of Chretien’s name. Admittedly, though, I’m kind of a ringer on the subject.

    I did a whole project on these very people just last year, and I hope you don’t mind if I plug it shamelessly:

    http://www.imc.uwo.ca/~jhoward/primed/index.html

    One of these days I’m going to launch it as its own site, for reals, but it’s still archived for now as a student project. One of these days!

  2. theviewfromseven says:

    No problem, James — and nice work on the “Primed” site!

    You might recall which source it was, but one historian in recent years revealed just how chaotic Diefenbaker’s administration had become in its final weeks in office in 1963. The story goes that Diefenbaker arrived at a cabinet meeting to find a scene of absolute mayhem, with cabinet ministers shouting and swearing at each other.

    The cabinet meeting continued as a potty-mouthed free-for-all for some time, before one cabinet minister stormed out of the room, yelling “I resign!” At some point, Diefenbaker called for an impromptu vote of confidence in his leadership of the party, and became even angrier when several ministers refused to support him. With that, Diefenbaker gathered up his things, shouted “I resign!” A day or two later, his government lost the confidence of the House and was forced into an election which Diefenbaker lost.

    It still says something about his political survival instincts, though, that he was not only still around to lead the Conservatives into the 1965 election, but also able to cling to the party leadership for another two years after losing that election.

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