For some 30 years, a few of us were secretly warmed by the unique glory of having worked for Robert Lorne Stanfield: the man thoughtful Canadians came to recognize as “The Best Prime Minister Canada Never Had.”
A harmless little gift that happens rarely in any ruthless business.
Canada carried on united. Stanfield’s special recognition costs taxpayers nothing and, being permanently hypothetical, can never disappoint. It affirmed the tolerance of Liberals for losers, and it didn’t influence the fate of his Progressive Conservative Party or dim the luminous stature of the word “Trudeau” — the name of the prime minister who beat RLS three times.
Recently, however, this enduring conceit became a cloud: a prize that floats around according to the whim of op-ed writers in Canada’s paper of settlement: The Globe and Mail. John Duffy seized ample space this summer to invite former one-term premier of Ontario and interim leader of the Liberal Party of Canada Bob Rae to “lay claim to the status of The Best Prime Minister Canada Never Had.”
Treacherous waters, John.
No respected voice in the Liberal Party — Canada’s most successful closet conservative institution — should steal our hard-earned prize and, then, offer it airily to one of his own.
Counterfactual histories, as you must know, only cause trouble for winners.Your Party won’t restore its dominion by tormenting vanquished Tories or by sideswiping other coast-to-coast failures, including New Democrat leaders: Tommy Douglas and Jack Layton.
Besides, Robert Stanfield never laid claim to this meager prize and would have been annoyed if one of his high-profile admirers had taken up space in the Globe to make the case. He would have much preferred that he or she had done a better job of singing his praises before his last election, rather than after he lost.
Unless an equitable, regionally sensitive, transparent process is put in place to award — or re-award — the title on a regular basis, the fairest thing to do is leave this empty prize with Stanfield. Please.
After all, unlike Bob Rae and other promising losers, Bob Stanfield actually won four majorities as premier of Nova Scotia, then won a national leadership convention, and, thereby, was the official leader of the opposition when he was defeated time and again by the greatest Liberal campaigner of the last 100 years.