Mackenzie King's legacy
With his cautious policies and shrewd political skills, he successfully led Canada for almost 22 years. But behind closed doors, he held secret séances and had frequent conversations with his dead mother. As Canada's longest-serving prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King's public persona was staid and serious. After his death in 1950, however, his fascinating private life slowly came to light.
. King was born on Dec. 17, 1874 in Berlin (now Kitchener), Ont.
. His maternal grandfather was William Lyon Mackenzie - the first mayor of Toronto and the leader of 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion.
. King graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor's degree in 1895, a law degree in 1896, and then a Master's degree in 1897. After spending several months tutoring and writing articles for Toronto's Mail and Empire newspaper, he received a scholarship from Harvard to pursue another Master's degree (focusing on industrial/labour relations). He completed that degree in 1898. He was then awarded a fellowship to continue his studies at Harvard and the London School of Economics for the next couple of years.
. In 1900, King became editor of the Labour Gazette, a federal government publication that explored complex labour issues. Later that year he was appointed federal deputy minister of Labour.
. In 1908, he resigned from his Department of Labour job to run for Parliament and won in his North Waterloo (Ontario) riding.
. In 1909, he was sworn in as Canada's Minister of Labour. That same year, he received his PhD from Harvard for his dissertation titled "Oriental Immigration to Canada."
. When Sir Wilfrid Laurier's Liberal government was defeated in 1911 and King lost his seat in Parliament, he took a break from politics to work as editor of the Canadian Liberal Monthly.
. During those years away from politics, King also lived in the United States while working for the Rockefeller Foundation. Wealthy American industrialist John D. Rockefeller Jr. had been impressed with King's labour record and ideas on industrial relations. In 1914, Rockefeller made King head of a newly formed department of industrial relations within the Rockefeller Foundation.
. In 1918, King's book Industry and Humanity was published. It summed up King's conciliatory ideas about labour relations. He believed there were four parties to industry - capital, management, labour and society - and that the government should act on behalf of society to bring about the peaceful resolution of industrial disputes.
. On Aug. 7, 1919, King was chosen as the new leader of the Liberal party.
. In December 1921 the Liberals won the election and King became prime minister.
. In 1926, King was briefly out of power during the very complicated "King-Byng affair." King's minority government was caught up in a customs scandal and he was losing parliamentary support, so King craftily asked Governor General Byng for a dissolution of Parliament so he could call another election. Byng refused to grant it, King quit in anger, and Conservative Arthur Meighen became prime minister for three days before being defeated in a non-confidence vote. After this, Parliament was dissolved and King won in the ensuing election.
. In the 1930 federal election, King lost to the Conservatives led by R.B. Bennett. Bennett had the bad fortune of being prime minister from 1930 to 1935 - the worst years of the Great Depression.
. King was re-elected in 1935. He remained prime minister throughout the rest of the '30s and most of the '40s, leading Canada through the Second World War. He resigned in 1948.
. King's legacy of important social policies include the introduction of the old-age pension in 1926, unemployment insurance in 1940 and the Family Allowances Act in 1944.
Program: Saturday Report
Broadcast Date: Nov. 16, 1991
Guest(s): Jack Granatstein, Laurier LaPierre, Joseph Wearing
Host: Knowlton Nash
Last updated: February 28, 2012
Page consulted on September 10, 2014
All Clips from this Topic
Thoughts on the ascension to the throne of King George VI in 1937.
Mackenzie King explains why we have joined Britain in declaring war on...
King speaks at the country's first-ever citizenship ceremony.
King retires from office.
A journalist eulogizes Mackenzie King, recalling his complicated perso...
A former neighbour describes her memories of King at his cottage.
One prime minister speaks about another in 1968.
The historian talks about the revelations in the diaries with CBC-TV's...
Did CBC's Sunday Morning manage to rouse the spirit of Mackenzie King?...
CBC's Sunday Morning tries to conjure up the spirit of King.
The PM makes a heart-warming tribute to his beloved dog.
Front Page Challenge discusses the release of King's intriguing diarie...
A writer explains why she created an imaginary life for the former pri...
King successfully brings Canada through the Second World War.
Saturday Report looks back at King's long and interesting career.
King has been left out of the monument to the historic Quebec conferen...
Historians pick King as the greatest PM, but others disagree.
The National Archives of Canada will make the former prime minister's ...
With his cautious policies and shrewd political skills, he successfull...