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Dion is from Quebec: so what?

A common criticism I have seen of Stéphane Dion in blog comments, for months now, is that he is from Quebec, that we shouldn't have yet another Quebec leader. I don't believe it is fair to judge a leader based on previous leaders, only on their own merits. But for the sake of argument, because I am tired of reading criticism of Dion purely because he is from Quebec, let's take a look at the history of Prime Ministers over the last 40 years and compare where they are from to their success as Prime Minister.

In chronological order of the Prime Ministers since Pearson came to office, as gleaned from wikipedia:

Prime MinisterPartyStart dateEnd dateStateRidingProvinceBorn
Lester B. PearsonLiberal1963-04-081965-11-08MinorityAlgoma EastOntarioOntario
Lester B. PearsonLiberal1965-11-081968-04-19MinorityAlgoma EastOntarioOntario
Pierre TrudeauLiberal1968-04-201968-06-25InheritedMount RoyalQuebecQuebec
Pierre TrudeauLiberal1968-06-251972-10-30MajorityMount RoyalQuebecQuebec
Pierre TrudeauLiberal1972-10-301974-07-08MinorityMount RoyalQuebecQuebec
Pierre TrudeauLiberal1974-07-081979-05-22MajorityMount RoyalQuebecQuebec
Joe ClarkProgressive Conservative1979-05-221980-02-18MinorityYellowheadAlbertaAlberta
Pierre TrudeauLiberal1980-02-181984-06-29MajorityMount RoyalQuebecQuebec
John TurnerLiberal1984-06-291984-09-16InheritedNot electedn/aEngland
Brian MulroneyProgressive Conservative1984-09-171988-11-21MajorityManicouaganQuebecQuebec
Brian MulroneyProgressive Conservative1988-11-211993-06-24MajorityCharlevoixQuebecQuebec
Kim CampbellProgressive Conservative1993-06-251993-11-03InheritedVancouver CentreBCBC
Jean ChretienLiberal1993-11-041997-06-02MajoritySaint-MauriceQuebecQuebec
Jean ChretienLiberal1997-06-022000-11-27MajoritySaint-MauriceQuebecQuebec
Jean ChretienLiberal2000-11-272003-12-11MajoritySaint-MauriceQuebecQuebec
Paul MartinLiberal2003-12-122004-06-28InheritedLasalle-EmardQuebecOntario
Paul MartinLiberal2004-06-282006-02-05MinorityLasalle-EmardQuebecOntario
Stephen HarperConservative2006-02-06in officeMinorityCalgary SouthwestAlbertaOntario

By province of birth:

ProvincePrime MinistersMajority termsMinority termsInherited terms
British Columbia1001
New Brunswick0000
Nova Scotia0000
Prince Edward Island0000
The territories (all)0000

By this table we can see that a mere one-third of recent Prime Ministers have actually come from Quebec. The same number are from Ontario.

Of the last 14 parliaments, 8 were majorities and 6 were minorities.

Of those 6 minorities, one was won by a Quebec-born leader, one by an Alberta-born leader, and four by Ontario-born leaders.

Of the 8 majorities, all 8 were won by Quebec-born leaders.

If we go by province of representation instead of by province of birth, Ontario loses two prime ministers, each representing one minority, one to each of Alberta and Quebec. By representation, Quebec still represents fewer than one half of recent Prime Ministers.

By any measure, Quebeckers - whether English or French, Liberal or Conserative - have been the most successful Prime Ministers in the last 40 years. We have had 9 prime ministers, but not one single one from outside of Quebec has won a majority government in recent history.

If you do not believe Stéphane Dion is the best candidate for leader of the Liberal party, that's fine with me. I like a lot of the candidates, too. I prefer Dion, but I won't begrudge others' opinions of who is the best man for the job. Say why you prefer your candidate. Say what it is about Dion that you would like to see improved. Discuss policy ideas and alternatives. But don't say that there have been too many Prime Ministers from Quebec and it's time for another province to take a turn. It is not a fair argument: Quebeckers have simply won more elections as leaders, they have not had more leaders.

This leadership race should be about ideas, policies, and the future, not about where leaders are from in relation to previous leaders.

Posted at 08:37 on June 28, 2006

This entry has been archived. Comments can no longer be posted.

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Joe Liberal writes at Wed Jun 28 14:42:21 2006...

Don't we alternate between Anglophone and Francophone? Isn't that the Liberal tradition?

Hasn't hurt us much, I'd say.

gwilliam writes at Wed Jun 28 15:07:49 2006...

I think what your missing is the years...your graph shows appox 42 years of Quebec PM's compared to approx 10 years of Ontario PM's...I think thats what people mean, another PM from Quebec means to most people more attention and $ for Quebec, truthful or not, its the appearance that matters, and, its what will hurt Dion and the Liberals the most.

cdlu writes at Wed Jun 28 15:15:06 2006...

Joe, Paul Martin is an Anglo. If that's the tradition, then Dion is the only option. ;)

It's also worked out since 1968 that the french/english alternation has been synchornous with Liberal government/opposition.

gwilliam, yeah, I understand the year thing. It's entirely my point. The non-Quebeckers on all sides have had their stab at the Prime Ministership and not succeeded. It isn't that they haven't had a chance, they just didn't make it work. All the Quebeckers did succeed, except Martin, who is only an adoptive Quebecker.

What's happening is people are saying they will, or are presuming others will, hold that against Dion.

Joe Liberal writes at Wed Jun 28 15:22:12 2006...


I'm not holding it against Dion.

But, you have to admit it's probably more coincidence than anything that it is a Francophone's "turn", and Dion seems like the most qualified candidate in the race.

No matter. It all probably works in Dion's favour either way - because if we nominate an Anglophone this time, it will almost certainly be a Francophone next time, and he will be the presumptive frontrunner then.

However, every one of the other candidates seems to respect Dion a lot, and that could easily lead to a win this time - with this large field, anything can happen.

cdlu writes at Wed Jun 28 15:38:30 2006...


Not accusing you of holding it against Dion. :)

I agree wholeheartedly with the rest of your comment. Dion has earned the respect of most of his colleagues and I give him very good odds of winning this fall -- and next spring.

Joseph writes at Wed Jun 28 17:47:03 2006...


I think you should change the word "fair" in your blog to the word "wise".

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