Premier Wynne Doesn’t Really Know Her Tory History, Does She?

You might think, given the role of Ontario in Canadian history, that Premier Wynne (or at least her speechwriters) would be at least passingly familiar with Canadian history. Or at least did a brief search on Wikipedia.

Apparently not:

“I’ve said that if Stephen Harper had been the Prime Minister instead of Sir John A. Macdonald and B.C. had said ’well we need a railway,’ he would have said ’well, you know, we’re not going to help you with that, build it yourself,”’ Wynne said.

One of the big problems with this rhetorical technique is that it fails to take context into account. Macdonald’s Canada is not Stephen Harper’s Canada: it had less people, a smaller tax base, and a more hostile neighbor to the south. Which, in case she hadn’t noticed, was still in thrall to the idea of “manifest destiny” expressed a mere fifty years or so earlier.

Which means that, had Stephen Harper been PM at that time, issues of national security would have overridden any reluctance to rely solely on the private sector — a sector which, incidentally, would never have built a transcontinental railway within British North American borders, due to the engineering effort required to get through the Rockies.

Of course, there’s also the question of whether Harper would encounter the Pacific Scandal, which was a direct result of the decision to build a transcontinental railway; Macdonald was more tolerant of what we would today call patronage, and living in an age which was altogether more tolerant of patronage and bribery.

I think we should consider Premier Wynne’s oration an example of someone with political blinders on. Macdonald is one of those few Tory prime ministers that Liberals, provincial and federal, have to acknowledge as important to Canadian history, especially since he’s considered a primary nation-builder. She might have been better off making comparisons to R.B. Bennett, the Tory Prime Minister of the Great Depression, or Robert Borden, the Tory PM of the First World War; both are more relatable to the current political situation that Macdonald, and such comparisons would have given the Premier a stronger reputation as someone who’s learned from studying history.

Instead, what we see is a retail politician using poor research and cheap rhetoric to score a point that even now is fading from public consciousness, mainly because the educated public knows better than she does.

About phantomobserver

I'm a professional librarian currently working in Ottawa, Ontario.
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6 Responses to Premier Wynne Doesn’t Really Know Her Tory History, Does She?

  1. Frances says:

    Sir John A was a rascal, but he DID get the railroad built. Back in the day, there was a good TV documentary on building of same – think was based on Pierre Burton’s book. From an engineering standpoint, the logical route would have been through what is now the Crowsnest Pass, but that was deemed to be too close to the US border. So we’re stuck with Roger’s Pass and the Fraser Canyon.

    This comment could rebound on her: the Conservatives could point out that 1) the Liberals of the day were supporters of the railroad in word only; and, 2) the modern equivalent is building a pipeline to the East Coast, so why isn’t she supporting same.

  2. Don Morris says:

    Ironically, in JA McDonald’s day, it’s Wynne’s hero Justin Trudeau who would be a complete nonentity, the idiot son who’d probably be shipped off to Australia to work on the family ranch and NOT embarrass the rest of the family.

    Wynne’s strong suit isn’t history, and it certainly isn’t economics, so just what are her strengths?

    • Tim says:

      She doesn’t have any. She’s the Ontario Premier purely because of Political Correctness; in the same way Obama is POTUS. Both are a pathetic joke.

  3. Sandy says:

    As I said in my post, BC’s approval of the railway to go through BC was also necessary in order for that province to become part of the Canadian federation in 1871. Wynne sounded foolish in the extreme saying what she did. Whoever recommended it should be fired.

  4. Nicola Timmerman says:

    Actually she hesitated before saying John A. Macdonald, so her grasp of history seems even less solid. Don’t think a course in history is mandatory in Ontario’s high schools today.

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