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John George Diefenbaker

1895 - 1979

Thirteenth Prime Minister of Canada (1957-1963). "Dief the Chief" was a successful criminal lawyer who ran for political office five times before finally winning a seat in the Canadian House of Commons in 1940. He became leader of the Progressive Conservative Party in 1956, and was a fierce leader of the Opposition leading into the 1957 election. During that campaign, his theatrical style helped win a minority government, followed by a majority in the election of 1958. Diefenbaker's government focused on the "progressive" side of the agenda, and introduced or refined social programs to the increasing ire of conservative party members and voters. He won a minority government in 1962, despite growing resentment of him in the party and country, but lost the subsequent election of 1963 to the Liberals. The growing split between conservatives and radicals in his party led to his losing the leadership to Robert Stanfield in 1967, but he remained a PC Member of Parliament until his death.


The day that Parliament becomes a slot machine into which you may drop a slug and out comes legislation, freedom ends.

quoted in Canadian by Conviction, by Brune and Bulgitch, Gage Publishing
Parliament is more than procedure - it is the custodian of the nation's freedom.

What is the difference between the Conservative caucus and a porcupine? Well, you see, a porcupine has all of its pricks on the outside.

Some say to me: 'History? What does it mean? What are you concerned about the past for?' And my answer to that is a simple one - he who does not know the past can never understand the present, and he certainly can do nothing for the future.

Nov. 1, 1971
... dogs know best what to do with polls.

I cannot visualize Canada without French Canada. I cannot visualize French Canada without Canada. National unity based on equality must be the goal.

Everyone is against me - except the people!

1963 - used often during the 1963 election campaign
Those were the days when the only protection a Conservative enjoyed in the province of Saskatchewan was under the provision of the game laws.

Apr. 29, 1966 - from a speech in the Canadian Parliament
There can be no dedication to Canada's future without a knowledge of its past.

Oct. 9, 1964 - quoted in the Toronto Star newspaper
As long as there is a drop of blood in my body they won't stop me from talking about freedom.

Jun. 3, 1962 - from a speech in Sudbury, Ontario
The object of Confederation was not to produce Siamese twins in this nation.

Sep. 1967 - from a speech at a Progressive Conservative leadership convention
When the Prime Minister of Canada went to Washington he was treated with about the same consideration by the president as his two dogs were except that he was not lifted by his ears.

Mar. 21, 1967 - from a statement in the Canadian Parliament
Freedom includes the right to say what others may object to and resent. ... The essence of citizenship is to be tolerant of strong and provocative words.

Apr. 9, 1970 - Hansard, Canadian Parliament
Parliament is more than procedure - it is the custodian of the nation's freedom.

Sep. 22, 1949 - from a speech in the Canadian Parliament
I would never have been Prime Minister if the Gallup poll were right.

Feb. 25, 1970 - quoted in the Toronto Star newspaper
[Upon the retirement of Newfoundland MP and fierce opposition thorn Jack Pickersgill] Parliament without Pick will be like hell without the devil.

1967
I modeled myself from the beginning on Theodore Roosevelt. He was a remarkable man, and did more than anyone else to express the true concept of Americanism. My concept of Canadianism is modeled after that.

Jun. 8, 1962 - quoted in Time Magazine
Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong.

Governments propose, and oppositions dispose.

Nov. 2, 1962 - from a speech in the Canadian Parliament
I am the first prime minister of this country of neither altogether English or French origin. So I determined to bring about a Canadian citizenship that knew no hyphenated consideration ... I'm very happy to be able to say that in the House of Commons today in my party we have members of Italian, Dutch, German, Scandinavian, Chinese and Ukrainian orgin - and they are all Canadians.

Mar. 29, 1958 - from a speech in the Canadian Parliament
I was criticized for being too much concerned with the average Canadians. I can't help that; I am one of them!

Sep. 1967 - from a speech to a Progressive Conservative convention
You cannot deny an individual the right to think as he will. The offence is not in being wrong, the offence is in doing wrong.

Oct. 16, 1970 - from a speech in the Canadian Parliament
My friends, you say, 'Give 'em hell, John!' I never do that. I tell the truth and it sounds like hell. It simply sounds that way to the Grits.

Mar. 13, 1963 - speech in Moncton, New Brunswick
[The Liberals] Never in Canadian history has there been a government so prone to be prone.

Jan. 20, 1966 - Hansard, Canadian Parliament
I do not say that everything I did was right, but what I do say, Mr. Speaker, is that what I did was honest.

Mar. 24, 1966 - from Hansard, Canadian Parliament
We shall never build the nation which our potential resources make possible by dividing ourselves into Anglophones, Francophones, multiculturalphones, or whatever kind of phonies you choose. I say: Canadians, first, last, and always!

Jun. 04, 1973 - Hansard, Canadian Parliament
Whoever has charge of commenting on the news controls the future thinking of the nation.

Aug. 24, 1946 - from a statement in the Canadian Parliament