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Arthur Meighen, parliamentary powerhouse, dies at 86

His time as prime minister was brief, but for those who worked with him, Arthur Meighen left a lasting impression. Meighen led a Conservative government in two short stints in 1920-21 and 1926, though he never became prime minister by popular vote. Instead, it was in Parliament that Meighen, a sharp-minded orator, really shone. In this CBC radio tribute, senator and colleague Eugene Forsey remembers Meighen after his death on Aug. 5, 1960.
• Born in Anderson, Ont., on June 16, 1874, Arthur Meighen trained as a lawyer and started a practice in Portage la Prairie, Man., after graduating from the University of Toronto in 1896.
• Meighen first ran for Parliament in 1908 and became a member of Robert Borden's cabinet as solicitor general five years later.
• In 1919, Meighen was acting justice minister and played a major role in bringing the Winnipeg General Strike to an end.

• In 1920, an ailing Robert Borden stepped down as Conservative Party leader and prime minister. He chose Meighen as his successor, and on July 10, 1920, Meighen was sworn in as Canada's ninth prime minister.
• At 46, Meighen was the youngest man to hold the seat of prime minister. Joe Clark would eclipse that record when, in 1976, he became prime minister at age 39.

• Meighen held the office for about a year and a half before the next election in December 1921. His party lost to Mackenzie King's Liberals, who captured 118 seats to the Conservatives' 49 and the Progressive Party's 58.
• In the 1925 election, Meighen's party won more seats than the Liberals: 115 to 100, with 22 for the Progressives. But, with the help of the Progressives, King maintained his grip on the prime minister's office.

• In 1926 King's government was struck by a scandal that came to be known as the King-Byng affair. The governor general, Viscount Byng, called upon Meighen to form a government after King stepped down.
• Meighen's government was defeated in Parliament shortly thereafter, and in the ensuing election King and the Liberals won yet again. Meighen lost his own seat and stepped down as party leader.

• Meighen, who had gone into business in Toronto, was appointed to the Senate in 1932. In 1941 he once again became Conservative Party leader, but failed to win a seat in a subsequent byelection and retired from politics.
• Meighen died in his sleep after a short illness at age 86. He is buried in the town of St. Mary's Ont., near his birthplace.

• "Gifted with a rapier-like ability in political debate, and possessed of a fine analytical mind, Arthur Meighen was unexcelled as a cabinet minister and administrator, yet as a political leader found these qualities of little popular appeal to voters." - Globe and Mail obituary, Aug. 6, 1960.
• "I had a very tough experience, but I don't regret my time in public life. I don't have to make amends." - Arthur Meighen, speaking in 1957 at a Canadian Club dinner in his honour.
Medium: Radio
Program: CBC Radio Special
Broadcast Date: Aug. 11, 1960
Guest(s): Grant Dexter, Eugene Forsey
Host: William Roger Graham
Duration: 4:13
Photo: Library and Archives Canada / C-005799

Last updated: March 16, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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