Last time, we talked about how Laurier failed to reform the civil service, which is the backbone of a modern state. The government was still run by corruption and nepotism at the highest levels and the short-term interests of a few were far more important in the House than long-term national improvements. This is still the country that allowed the head of a Crown corporation responsible for the collapse of a bridge and the deaths of dozens to go without a prison term, after all. We talked about how Laurier’s moves towards Canadian sovereignty over itself should have come with a similar impulse towards reforming the government such that it could handle those responsibilities – which includes ways to screen for the all-powerful voice of wealth in the Canadian state.
So, what happens when a guy decides to plunge into a war “for Canada!” without thinking? Well, you get people like Sam Hughes, the corrupt, ill-tempered, anti-French, foul poopstank of a Minister in charge of the militia. His legendary leadership saw Canadian troops equipped with boots made for South Africa (whose only similiarity to Vlaanderen is a distant linguistic hookup, which has little to do with footwear), the Ross Rifle (legendarily useless and prone to jamming), the MacAdam shovel-shield that was good at neither task, and the obsolete Colt-Browning machine gun with the awesome inability to aim. Errant potatoes in Flemish fields cowered at the sight of the ill-equipped Canadians.
Of course, Sam Hughes only promoted Canadian WASPs to the Officer Corps, ensuring that Canadian leadership was totally useless at the individual level. Hughes was so incredible that King George V took time out of his busy day doing whatever he was doing to personally order Borden to rein Hughes in. Which he did…after the war was half-over. Amazing! While Borden was busy making Canada’s all-Canadian contribution to the Canadian war effort as Canadian as possible, the industries supplying Canada demonstrated that they were utterly useless at their jobs and the government proved that it consequently was unable to supply troops with anything that worked.
And how does Canada feel about a man who basically failed to control an element in his own Cabinet who directly and negatively affected the Canadian war effort for years? Why, they stuffed him on the $100 bill, of course! Who doesn’t love Canadian-kwality goods on kids going to the meat-grinder that was the First World War? Such amazing guidance as that which alienated Quebec during the Conscription Crisis of 1917 when it wasn’t making the Quebecois feel unwelcome in the first place with the army being used supposedly as a way to unify Canadian interests with an abusive fuckstick at the helm?
Then again, as we’ll see, Borden had little use for those pesky Canadian citizens in his plan to create an amazing Canada. Thus begins that ignoble Canadian tradition!