We can blame Cousin Oliver.

It is all Oliver Mowat’s fault. The myopic Father of Confederation had a mainly rural and agrarian Ontario to oversee in the early years of confederation. His picture hangs over our desk today, not as a distant relation but in the form of a preserved and framed, full front-page of a Saturday Globe published in 1893.  The lead story recognizes Sir Oliver’s then 21-year tenure as Ontario’s premier.

But Ontario is a very different place today than the Province of Upper Canada that came into the Canadian confederation 150 years ago this July 1. Cousin Oliver would probably have something snarky to say about the picture of his one-time colleague Canada’s first Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald on the same wall. The two of them had very different views of confederation. Our preference is the country as foreseen by Sir John.

Yet, it was Sir Oliver who won those early battles taken to London that defined this country. He saw Canada as an outrider to the British ship of state. He saw us as a supplier of raw materials to English industry. He wanted strong provinces that could dictate to a national government of convenience. The British adjudicators of the time agreed with Sir Oliver.

But Sir John had his revenge. He built the national links of steel that drew Canada into one. His Canada was from sea to sea.

Give Oliver the credit he deserves in building Ontario into the powerhouse of confederation. It was his short-sightedness that left us with a constricting constitution that is so unsuited to the needs of our modern Canada.

Who knew in 1867 that Canada would outgrow the concept of the Commonwealth? Who knew in those early years of confederation that Canada could become a production powerhouse to help change the course of European and World Wars?

Let’s give Oliver the credit he deserves. He was a wily politician. He took George Brown and Edward Blake’s early Liberals and led them for 24 years as Premier of Ontario. He put together a voting coalition that included Catholics and working class voters. It was said about him that he was supported strongly by both the liquor interests and the prohibitionists. Cousin Oliver was a Liberal.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

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