CBC Digital Archives CBC butterfly logo

CBC Archives has a new look: Please go to cbc.ca/archives to access the new site.

The page you are looking at will not be updated.

King for Prime Minister

The Story

For three decades, Mackenzie King has been Canada's foremost politician. Off and on, he has led the country through the Roaring '20s, the Dirty '30s and the war-ravaged '40s. Now, in 1945, King makes his fourth and final bid, vowing to see the country through to happier times, as heard in this CBC Radio excerpt.He actively campaigns on his record of social reform and his desire to contribute to a new peaceful world order. King successfully steers his party to victory and the Liberals go on to win the election, sending 125 members to Parliament. By comparison, John Bracken's Conservatives and M.J. Coldwell's CCF will capture only 67 and 28 seats respectively.

Medium: Radio
Program: Political Broadcasts
Broadcast Date: May 30, 1945
Guest(s): William Lyon Mackenzie King
Duration: 8:05
Photo: National Archives of Canada

Did You know?

• Born of a storied lineage on Dec. 17, 1874, William Lyon Mackenzie King was raised in Berlin (later renamed Kitchener), Ont. His ancestry was the stuff of Canadian folklore -- his maternal grandfather, William Lyon Mackenzie, was the legendary leader of the unsuccessful 1837 rebellion in Upper Canada. In contrast, his paternal grandfather was an officer who helped quell the very same 1837 insurgence against British rule.

• On Dec. 6, 1921, King wrote in his journal, "I think I will carry North York by a close margin but win or lose, I feel I have fought a good fight, run a good course and kept the faith and I shall be happy and contented whatever the outcome. All I pray is God's guidance to do the right in whatever situation presents itself." That night, King and the Liberals captured 116 seats and 40.7 per cent of the popular vote. King won the riding of North York, winning 5,167 votes over Conservative John Armstrong's 4,112.

• In June 1926, King's government was challenged by a vote of no-confidence and resigned. Governor General Viscount Byng asked the Conservative leader of the Opposition Arthur Meighen to assume power and form a new government. But Meighen quickly failed to move legislation through the House of Commons and accordingly dissolved Parliament. He then called for a federal election. In September 1926, King's government staged a comeback, claiming 116 seats and 43.6 per cent of the popular vote.

• A motion of no-confidence is a strategic motion put before the House of Commons by the Opposition in an attempt to defeat the governing power. The motion is accepted or rejected by a Parliamentary vote. If the motion is accepted, the government must either resign or dissolve parliament and call another federal election.

• In the 1935 federal electoral race, King campaigned on the platform that the Tories were running on stolen Liberal ideas. He secured an overwhelming majority, claiming 171 seats out of 245. By comparison, the Conservatives captured 39 seats and the Social Credit party won 17.
• In the subsequent 1940 federal election, the Liberals won 178 seats and 54.9 per cent of the popular vote. The Tories sent 39 members to Parliament while the Social Credit and CCF parties sent 10 and 8 respectively.

• King remained in office for a total of 21 years, 5 months and one day, rendering him Canada's longest-serving prime minister. His intermittent terms in office spanned from December 1921 to June 1926, September 1926 to August 1930 and October 1935 to November 1948.
• Under King's leadership, a host of social reforms were passed including old age pension in 1926, unemployment insurance in 1940 and the Family Allowance act in 1944.

• King, a lifelong bachelor, died on July 22, 1950 in Kingsmere, Que.
• In 1960, historians began to examine the prolific King diaries. A vociferous writer, King kept a journal from the time he was a student at the University of Toronto in 1893 up until his death in 1950. A substantial work, his journal entries comprise close to 30,000 pages and more than 7,500,000 words.

• While the journals offer unique political insights, they also reveal some quirkier aspects of King's personality. Specifically, the former prime minister actively describes his belief in the occult, his participation in séances and his communication with his deceased mother, grandfather and former prime minister Sir Wilfred Laurier.


Campaigning for Canada more