Big country, small dreams
Jason Kenney, who was the frontrunner for leader of the Conservative Party, has decided he’ll seek the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta instead. Meaning that he believes Justin Trudeau will be a two-term prime minister. Kenney did not want to languish as leader of the opposition for eight years.
One of the might-runs is Brad Wall, premier of Saskatchewan. But premiers don’t do well when they become federal leaders. Of the twenty-two men and one woman who have been PMs, only two had previously been premiers. Both were from Nova Scotia in the nineteenth century: Sir John Thompson and Sir Charles Tupper. Other premiers in the twentieth century have led federal parties, but never the country: Tommy Douglas, John Bracken, George Drew, Robert Stanfield and Bob Rae.
I’ve always been curious why premiers come up short. In the U.S., fully one-third of all presidents were previously governors, the equivalent of premiers. In recent years that includes Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. There have also been half a dozen generals who became president, but that’s explicable. The U.S. has a bigger military plus a civil war from which to generate leaders.
Perhaps Canadians assume that someone who’s run a province doesn’t have a vision of the country as a whole place. Perhaps it’s because most provinces have small populations so there’s no real base upon which to build. Or maybe its the lack of bilingual leaders outside Quebec. Most premiers are not fluent in both official languages. I’d be happy to hear other explanations for the decades-long dearth of premiers with national ambitions. Can no one dream big?