Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson (second right) and cabinet ministers Pierre Trudeau (left to right) John Turner and Jean Chretien talk in Ottawa on April 4, 1967. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Mitchell

Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson (second right) and cabinet ministers Pierre Trudeau (left to right) John Turner and Jean Chretien talk in Ottawa on April 4, 1967. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Mitchell

Who was the best prime minister of the 20th century?

Poll suggests a regional divide in Canada

There appears to be a regional divide in how fondly Canadians view prime ministers past, according to a poll that might shed light on today’s politics.

The survey from the non-profit Association for Canadian Studies found respondents were divided in their choices for the best prime minister of the 20th century, with Pierre Trudeau receiving the largest share of votes at 15 per cent.

He and Brian Mulroney were the most popular picks in Quebec — but francophone Quebecers favoured Mulroney while anglophones in the province favoured Trudeau.

And in the West, respondents chose Lester B. Pearson more often from the list of eight prime ministers who served long stints in office between 1900 and 2000.

The Leger online poll conducted the week of Nov. 11 surveyed 2,295 Canadians but cannot be assigned a margin of error because polls from Internet panels are not random samples.

Association president Jack Jedwab notes Pierre Trudeau was chosen by respondents in parts of the country key to current prime minister Justin Trudeau’s electoral successes.

“Justin Trudeau, who in many ways articulates the key pillars of his father’s vision … is today popular with the same constituents as his father is in the survey,” Jedwab says.

He adds that younger Canadians, Ontarians and anglophone Quebecers have positive evaluations of Pierre Trudeau’s legacy, “and may also determine how Justin fares in the future.”

Pierre Trudeau, a Liberal, was prime minister from 1968 to 1984, minus nine months in opposition in 1979. Mulroney, a Progressive Conservative, was in office from 1984 to 1993. Pearson, a Liberal, was prime minister from 1963 to 1968.

Other prime ministers on the list of options included Robert Borden (prime minister from 1911 to 1920, as a Conservative and then at the head of a coalition during the First World War), William Lyon Mackenzie King (a Liberal with three stints between 1921 and 1948, totalling more than 21 years), Wilfrid Laurier (Liberal prime minister from 1896 to 1911), Jean Chretien (Liberal prime minister from 1993 to 2003), and Louis Saint-Laurent (Liberal prime minister from 1948 to 1957).

Respondents in the survey who were older than 55 selected Pierre Trudeau, Pearson and Laurier above others on the list of prime ministers presented.

READ MORE: Chretien says Trudeau has handled blackface issue properly

Jedwab notes most respondents under age 35, the oldest of whom were teenagers at the end of the 20th century, either didn’t recognize the names on the list or felt uncomfortable ranking them.

The findings show the effect the years are having on how we remember prime ministerial performance, he says. People over age 55 likely remember Pierre Trudeau’s time in office, while those who are just hitting that age got the right to vote around the time the elder Trudeau left office for good in 1984, Jedwab says.

“Increasingly, what we hear or read about Trudeau and the other prime ministers can make the difference in our evaluations and who happens to currently be in power will have a bearing on that.”

John Diefenbaker, Kim Campbell, Arthur Meighen, R.B. Bennett, John Turner, and Joe Clark were not included in questions, though both Bennett and Diefenbaker served longer as prime minister than Pearson did.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau speaks at a news conference in Ottawa on June 19, 1972. Beside him is cabinet minister Jean Chretien. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Bregg

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau speaks at a news conference in Ottawa on June 19, 1972. Beside him is cabinet minister Jean Chretien. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Bregg

Just Posted

Surrey RCMP is investigating after a serious three-vehicle crash at the intersection of King George Boulevard and 128th Street Thursday afternoon (May 6, 2021). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Police watchdog investigating serious collision in Surrey

Incident happend May 6 at King George Boulevard and 128th Street

Surrey Fire Service firefighters quickly contained a fire on 75A Avenue. (Shane MacKichan photos)
PHOTOS: Surrey firefighters extinguish second house fire in Newton

Second fire incident reported in Newton Sunday morning

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of May 9

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Vancouver Giants celebrated a Justin Sourdif goal Saturday night in Kamloops. Giants dropped a 3-1 decision to Kamloops, a game that clinched the 2020-21 B.C. Division banner for the Blazers. (Allen Douglas/special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Vancouver Giants drop 3-1 decision to Kamloops

Third-period rally should have come sooner, said coach of Langley-based team

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country’s crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
IHIT investigating after man killed in Burnaby shooting

Police looking for more information on fatal shooting

After Bobby Henderson apologized online for his comments to a Toronto reporter, the Langley Rivermen announced that he was no longer team coach and general manager and in fact, had ‘parted ways’ with the franchise in March. (file/Twitter)
Former Langley Rivermen coach and GM apologizes for comments to Toronto reporter

Bobby Henderson blames stress due to the pandemic for his ‘disparaging’ remarks

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

Most Read