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Canadian Post-Confederation History: Policies of Robert Borden and William Lyon Mackenzie King

The history of Canada is a versatile thing in the manner of its development and the way of political changes provided at the beginning of the twentieth century, in particular. The flow of reforms in internal and external dimensions was characterized by the historical peculiarities of Canada. Its social division presupposes living of two major ethnic groups of people, namely: English speaking and French-speaking ones. Moreover, the policy provided in Canada in Post-Confederation times made people of this country more self-conscientious about the changes and reforms which the country needed at that time.

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Two significant persons in the political life of the country are considered in the paper. They are Robert Borden and William Lyon Mackenzie King. Their policies are taken into account with all pros and cons in concrete actions which invoked changes afterward. There is no other way to surpass the political changes and programs without the political approach and the trends in the social and economic life of Canada. Internal and external ways in promotion of advantages for the society are discussed in terms of debates according to policies which Robert Borden and William Lyon Mackenzie King provided.

First of all, these two national leaders maintained their activities during the same period. They were political opponents. The mistakes of one were taken into account by another and vice versa. Such approach in the national policy of each leader was also colored with international changes and the appearance of World War I. In this case, the claim of Canada to go to war in 1914 and the policy of Robert Borden, who provided the War Measures Act, were significant (Craats, p. 44). The fact of conscription was a core element of Borden’s actions in terms of the war. This point was arguable within masses. Notwithstanding that the population was excited by the participation in the war, the major part of the Canadian society was against conscription. This was admitted by William Lyon Mackenzie King. He refused in his election campaign any reference to conscription and it was crowned with success for him.

While speaking about the economic relationships inside the country, it is necessary to mention that the problem of taxation was rather significant due to the high levels. Taking part in war supposed more production of war goods and the financial background for it. Thus, the “temporary” income tax was proposed for the support of the tax approach (Craats, p. 44). This helped make Canadian troops equipped and highly supported in war. Furthermore, this tax was fixed and never lifted as well by the year 1918 (Craats, p. 44). It was a time when Canadian troops were not volunteered.

Within the realities of World War, I appeared when Borden was in office, his opponent W. King tried to make every effort to overcome him. Borden in this prospect found another problem to be resolved apart from the military one. The ability of women to vote was at the top of Borden’s campaign. It helped him to won elections after the war. This victory was realized using a quantitative index. Such a circumspect step distinguished King from Borden in their ability to feel and shape the present needs of people. Thus, the issue of internal relationships was highly used and developed by King despite Borden. Borden strived mainly to make up better relationships in the foreign policy, but he also kept a strict eye on social elaboration between the English and the French part of the country. It could disturb in wartime the high spirits of volunteers. That is why a capacity of Borden to maintain debates in the society and prevent it from any break is noteworthy.

The peculiarity of the time during World War I and after was interesting and vital in the attempts of nations to influence their state patterns. In many countries, it was promoted throughout the publishing sources and literature. Some stand for the revolutionary changes (the Communist ideology); others tried to better develop the democratic flow of relationships (the US, Great Britain, etc.). In Canada, these steps of reformation nationwide were the main tools in hands of both Borden and King. Many authors wrote about new Canada with different shaping in internal and external relationships. This idea was realized in the works of such writers as Salem Bland, Stephen Leacock, C. W. Paterson, and others. The agrarian reform was mentioned in the works of two authors W. G. Good and William Irvine (Frances 237). Also, Christian principles of making affairs were at a high point of social discussion.

W. L. M. King supported the idea of Christian society within the urban-industrial society in Industry and Humanity (1918) (Frances, p. 237). The theme of educational reform was also one of the main tasks for the Government. In 1919 Borden’s administration faced the problem of the post-war demobilization. Here current Prime Minister was decisive about the ways of how to move the Canadian troops back from Europe and Great Britain. This moment of a so-called delay concerned with the business of Borden was taken into account by King. This political activist tried to find out ways to make the “closer dialogue” with the people “. By such tactics of gaining popularity, King can be recognized as an initiative person.

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Robert Borden was incapable to meet the challenges after the Great War. The Department of Soldiers’ Civil Re-establishment was not prepared to co-ordinate 300 000 people coming from war (Frances, p.238). Moreover, the veterans did not have proper treatment and material support from the Government. In this prospect, Borden was frustrated also due to the epidemic flow of influenza and deaths of more than 50 000 people (Frances, p.238). It was another weak point in policy promotion by Robert Borden. Of course, his opponent used this moment, so that to blame the government. Moreover, the oratory skills of King along with his reforms and concrete actions can be illustrated in his political career. This official was elected as Prime Minister six times until 1948. In this fact, Mackenzie King differed in contrast with Robert Borden. On the other hand, the policy which Borden provided was needful for Canada in conditions of war participation. Those challenges were hard to work out due to a lack of financial aids. From the other side of the issue, the agreement with the opposition headed by King could help.

This official succeeded both in internal and external ways of policy promotion. The most significant point in Post-Confederation Canada was to adopt independence in the country and to break down the constant influence of Britain. That is why Mackenzie King achieved this point due to The Balfour Declaration. Among the main statements in it there was the recognition of the dominions as “autonomous communities within the British empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate to one another in any respect of their domestic or external affairs…” (Frances, p. 257).

In the year 1931, the final procedure in terms of Canadian autonomy adoption occurred (Frances 257). Thus, the appearance and signing of The Statute of Westminster gave Mackenzie King more points on popularity and current rating. It was similar to the Constitution adoption. What is more, it appeared in the time of the Great Depression in the world. However, until this moment due to the efforts of Mackenzie King the economy of Canada was improved due to the implementation of several reforms, as was mentioned above. In particular, the agrarian sector increased in the areas of its activities. Farmers were thankful to have huge hectarages of wheat. Thus, the country became competitive in the world arena after the post-war depression. Along with this pulp and paper were represented to be the most important export products by Canada. Mining developed as well in the 1920s.

In wartime, Mackenzie King projected the necessity of unions for the prevention of unemployment. That is why before World War II when the level of employment grew Mackenzie provided more jobs for Canadians. However, “employers fiercely resisted union attempts to impose collective bargaining, and many bitter strikes resulted from unions’ efforts to ensure recognition” (Frances, p. 325). This fact could not but worry Prime Minister King. His approach in wartime touched upon the facilitation of unions’ influence on workers and the further stop of strikes throughout the country at that uneasy time. In comparison with Borden King is also trapped in the situation of uncertainty in actions and incapability to define or predict the possible dangers of social instability.

Robert Borden distinguished themself in his manner and ability to make decisions quickly. He implemented the appropriate background in his administration so that to make the control of main spheres of the country perceived by him. He rarely lost control over the country during World War I. In this prospect, Mackenzie King also was a wonderful leader who could maintain stability in social relations employing not only economic improvements but also ethnic and religious ones. This point designates King in his policymaking. It also determines him as a great leader with diplomatic qualities in internal and external relationships.

Moreover, the trend of King to support families with monthly help of $6-$8 was needful to support babies in major states of Canada, where families suffered from the realities of World War II and because of the absence of men at home (Frances, p. 326). Prime Minister King stimulated the “baby boom” in Canada when every nation involved in war cannot even think of it. In times of Robert Borden being in office, the initiative to diminish the pressing on people in financial and material support was achieved differently. The taxation reform urged to improve the military financing without any look on the population diversity at that time and their obvious lack of governmental initiatives.

Both Prime Ministers were confronted with cruelty and uncertainty of the times at which they happened to rule the country. Their manners of decision-making presupposed reciprocal intentions to improve the situation in Canada. The only thing which was difficult to solve concerned the protectorate of Great Britain and building closer relationships with the United States. Both of them at some periods of being in office proved greater independence from Britain due to its weakened position in the world arena after World War II. Borden did it due to the votes given to women (Craats, p. 44); King, on the other hand, provided a straightforward documentary-proved process of making Canada autonomous and independent in domestic and foreign affairs.

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Industrial relations, religion, economic stability were announced in the election campaigns of both Prime Ministers. Their outlooks surpassed the main areas of great importance in wartime. However, Borden was faced with such realities once and notwithstanding his victory in elections after World War II he was not able to provide further growth of relationships. The people of Canada disagreed with his policy in some respects. Mackenzie King, on the other hand, was a person of strict actions in achieving the desired result. However, even being elected as Prime Minister six times he could not prevent the rise of strikes during World War II. This incapability of his can be compared with Borden’s incapability to support veterans after the war and to prevent the epidemics of influenza throughout the country at the very beginning.

To sum up, these two persons greatly contributed to the growth of the country’s economy at its stage of new changes and reforms which happened year by year during and between two wars. These impacts are felt more distinctively with the government of W. L. M. King. His initiatives to make the economy and society of the country better can be fairly considered as before Borden’s impacts.

Works cited

  1. Craats, R. Prime Ministers. Great Canadians Series. Great Canadians (Calgary, Alta.). Calgary, Alberta: Weigl Educational Publishers, 2000.
  2. Frances, R.D., Jones, R., and Smith, D.B. Destinies, Canadian History Since Confederation. Ed. 3. Boston, MA: Harcourt Brace, 1996.
  3. Frances, R.D., and Smith, D.B. Readings in Canadian History, Post Confederation, Ed. 4, Boston, MA: Harcourt Brace, 1994.

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