Sir John Alexander Macdonald was the dominant creative mind which produced the British North America Act and the union of provinces which became Canada. As the first prime minister of Canada, he oversaw the expansion of the Dominion from sea to sea. His government dominated politics for a half century and set policy goals for future generations of political leaders.
Joseph “Joey” Roberts Smallwood, CC, premier of Newfoundland (1949–72), journalist (born 24 December 1900 in Mint Brook, NL; died 17 December 1991 in St. John's, NL). The leading proponent of Confederation in Newfoundland in the 20th century, Joey Smallwood played an important role in bringing the province into Confederation in 1949. He served as Newfoundland and Labrador’s first premier for nearly 23 years, and is sometimes referred to as “the last Father of Confederation.” During his lifetime, he was also called “the only living Father of Confederation.”
John Napier Turner, PC, CC; sprinter, politician, lawyer, prime minister (born in Richmond, England, 7 June 1929). Turner is best known for his early political service as federal justice minister and finance minister, and for the 1988 free trade election battle with Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Turner's 11-week term as prime minister is the second shortest in Canadian history, after Sir Charles Tupper (10 weeks).
Dwight Ball, pharmacist, businessman, premier of Newfoundland and Labrador 2015 to present (born 21 December 1957 in Deer Lake, NL). Ball became premier at a time of economic crisis. After several years of prosperity, slumping oil revenues required his government to bring in unpopular austerity measures to fight a burgeoning provincial debt.
Jean Drapeau, CC, GOQ, lawyer, politician, mayor of Montréal 1954¬–57 and 1960–86 (born 18 February 1916 in Montréal, Québec; died 12 August 1999 in Montréal). Jean Drapeau’s longevity as a politician was such that during his 29 years as mayor of Montréal, seven prime ministers and nine Québec premiers took office. He gave Montréal its largest piece of urban transit infrastructure, the Montréal metro, and two of its greatest moments: a 1967 World Exposition celebrating Canada’s centennial that drew 50 million visitors, and the 1976 Olympic Summer Games. However, he also presided over the decline of Montréal as Canada’s business capital and largest city.
Sidney Alexander “Sandy” Silver, ninth premier of the Yukon (2016–present), teacher, musician, volunteer and politician (born 15 October 1969 in Antigonish, NS). Sandy Silver became a member of the Yukon legislature in 2011, leader of the Yukon Liberal Party in 2014 and premier of the Yukon in 2016. Under his leadership, the party won 11 of 19 seats in the 2016 election, an increase of 10 seats.
Alanis Obomsawin, OC, GOQ, filmmaker, singer, artist, storyteller (born 31 August 1932 near Lebanon, New Hampshire). One of Canada’s most distinguished documentary filmmakers, Alanis Obomsawin began her career as a professional singer and storyteller before joining the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) in 1967. Her award-winning films address the struggles of Indigenous peoples in Canada from their perspective, giving prominence to voices that have long fallen on deaf ears. An Officer of the Order of Canada and a Grand Officer of the National Order of Québec, she has received the Prix Albert-Tessier and the Canadian Screen Awards’ Humanitarian Award, as well as multiple Governor General’s Awards, lifetime achievement awards and honorary degrees.
Michael Deane Harris, Progressive Conservative premier of Ontario 1995–2002 (born 23 January 1945 in Toronto, ON). Mike Harris is considered a pioneer of the modern conservative movement in Canada through his “Common Sense Revolution” policies, which created a great deal of controversy, but have had a lasting influence on Ontario politics. Among the policies his government implemented are municipal amalgamation, the “sunshine list” of public sector salaries and Ontario Works.
William Maxwell Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook, financier, politician, author, publisher (b at Maple, Ont 25 May 1879; d at Cherkley, Mickleham, Eng 9 June 1964). The son of a Presbyterian minister, Beaverbrook later claimed that his religion lay at the root of his worldly success.
Mauril Adrien Jules Bélanger, politician (born 15 June 1955 in Mattawa, Ontario; died 16 August 2016 in Ottawa, Ontario). Member of Parliament for the riding of Ottawa-Vanier from 1995 to 2015, he was successively Minister responsible for Official Languages, Associate Minister of National Defence, Minister responsible for Democratic Reform and Minister for Internal Trade. Bélanger was especially known for his campaign to rewrite the words to the national anthem, “O Canada,” to remove sexist language.
Lucien Bouchard, G.O.Q., lawyer, politician and premier of Québec (born 22 December 1938 in Saint-Coeur-de-Marie, Québec). Not long before the ultimate failure of the Meech Lake Accord, Bouchard resigned as minister in the Mulroney government. With a group of Liberal and Conservative members of Parliament, he formed a new party, the Bloc Québécois, whose goal is to represent the interests of Québec in the House of Commons. A key figure in the 1995 Québec referendum, Bouchard succeeded Jacques Parizeau in January 1996 as premier of Québec, a position he held until March 2001. He then returned to practising law.
Laurent-Olivier David, lawyer, journalist, newspaper owner, writer, politician (born 24 March 1840 in Sault-au-Récollet (Montréal), QC; died 24 August 1926 in Outremont, QC). David was responsible for founding the Monument-National and was the author of a number of biographies of famous Canadians.
Richard W. Nerysoo, activist, politician, premier of the Northwest Territories 1984–85 (born 1953 near Fort McPherson, NT). In 1984, Nerysoo became the youngest-ever premier of the Northwest Territories (a position known as “government leader” until 1994) and the first Indigenous person to hold that position. Unrelenting in his efforts to uphold Indigenous rights in the Northwest Territories, Nerysoo participated in the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry and was active in a variety of Indigenous political organizations, including the Indian Brotherhood of the Northwest Territories and the Gwich’in Tribal Council.
Daniel Johnson, GOQ, business leader, politician and premier of Québec (born 24 December 1944 in Montréal, Québec). The Vice-President of Power Corporation of Canada from 1978 to 1981, Johnson also served as a member of Québec’s National Assembly for over 25 years. After the resignation of Premier Robert Bourassa, Johnson was elected leader of the Quebec Liberal Party, and on 11 January 1994, he became the 25th premier of Québec. However, he held on to this position for only eight months: in September 1994, the Liberals lost the Québec general election to the Parti Québécois. Johnson then served as leader of the Official Opposition for nearly three years, successfully leading the “No” camp in the Québec referendum campaign of 1995. He left politics in May 1998 and subsequently worked as a lawyer and as a negotiator for the government of Québec, while also sitting on several boards of directors.
Paul Alfred Davis, 12th premier of Newfoundland and Labrador (2014–15), leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador (born 17 June 1961 in St. John’s, NL). Davis won leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party in September 2014, succeeding Tom Marshall as premier. However, in the November 2015 provincial election, Davis and the Progressive Conservative Party were reduced to seven seats in the legislature. Davis continued as leader of the PC Party but announced his intention to resign in October 2016.
Thomas (Tommy) Ricketts, soldier, pharmacist, Victoria Cross recipient (born 15 April 1901 in Middle Arm, White Bay, NL; died 10 February 1967 in St. John’s). During the First World War, Private Tommy Ricketts was the youngest soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award for bravery among troops of the British Empire.