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Alone at the Top
The Path to Power
Leading Canada
Private Life
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Banner: First Among Equals: The Prime Minister in Canadian Life and Politics
Charles Tupper


Who's running this country, anyway?

Well one might have asked in 1896! At this time the Governor General's role in Canadian politics is more than ceremonial; it's up to him to appoint a successor when the prime minister resigns while in office. In January 1896, the Conservatives are fed up with Prime Minister Mackenzie Bowell's indecisiveness over the Manitoba Schools Question. A Cabinet revolt tries to force him to resign in favour of Sir Charles Tupper. But Governor General Lord Aberdeen has Liberal leanings and finds Sir Charles too "Conservative" for his liking. Furthermore, Tupper's reputation as a philanderer is too much for Lady Aberdeen, whose opinions have considerable influence on her husband. Lady Aberdeen suggests to her husband that he call upon the Opposition leader rather than Tupper, to be the new prime minister.

To prevent this disaster, the Tory Cabinet Revolt is called off and Bowell hangs on as prime minister. Tupper takes a Cabinet post and effectively leads the party from his seat in the House of Commons, which Bowell, as a Senator, cannot do. In April, Lord Aberdeen finally accepts Bowell's resignation and appoints Tupper Prime Minister. But by this time, the Conservatives have to call an election, which they subsequently lose. Thanks to Lady Aberdeen, Sir Charles Tupper serves the shortest term in office of any Canadian prime minister!

Source: Canada's Prime Ministers, 1867 - 1994: Biographies and Anecdotes. [Ottawa]: National Archives of Canada, [1994]. 40 p.

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