#101 – Crime Ministers: Arthur Meighen

Arthur Meighen was a shitty Prime Minister.

First off, he was the one who bought the extreme stupidity behind the Citizens’ Committee of One-Thousand and their argument that the Bolsheviks were planning to paint Winnipeg red. He also created the Canadian National Railway, an amazing institution that is now owned mostly by Bill Gates and which continues to create endless delay in creating acceptable mass public interurban transit in Canada. He came to power after Borden resigned in 1920 only to lose power only a year and a half in. Somehow, pissing off Quebec (with mandatory conscription during the War), pissing off labor (see: Winnipeg), and pissing off farmers (tariffs) doesn’t get you elected. Who knew?

Meighen continued to fail after the Chanak Crisis, when he stood accused of blindly supporting British interests despite the whole institution of Parliament and the idea that maybe Canada would want to have some input into a crisis nowhere near Canada and which had no impact on Canada. The accusation of slavish loyalty to Britain comes from his being quoted as saying “ready, aye ready, we stand by you” as his ideal response to Britain offhandedly suggesting that it may want to use Canadian troops. Taking a small note and having it blow up in your face is something special.

Yet this veritable Wile E. Coyote of a Prime Minister had a hard-on for hating Mackenzie King, and so despite being drubbed so hard that he lost his own seat, he won a byelection and came back to Parliament. From there we have little to say about him – he was the immediate beneficiary in the King-Byng Affair when antiquated British tradition was allowed to override democratic principles and put Meighen back in the PM’s chair. Which he then lost immediately, because this is Arthur fucking Meighen son. He then quit the game, bitter and spiteful towards Mackenzie King.

Being the head of two radically unstable governments and being the man responsible for setting up the pins that Jean Chretien would knock down is not the best legacy. The bonus part with the Winnipeg General Strike isn’t good either, even if he didn’t actually issue the go-orders to crush the strike. A forgettable two reigns, the latter installed by the flaccid Governor-General’s office through slavish loyalty to British norms and customs despite being a totally different group of people, for a forgettable person. His rule was not only inconsequential; it was a slapstick comedy of errors.

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