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John George Diefenbaker.

Anecdote

Prime minister to the rescue

In 1959, animal lovers throughout Canada were horrified to hear that the 250 wild ponies of Sable Island had been declared "surplus" by the Crown Assets Disposal Corporation in Ottawa. What was going to happen to them? The media were full of rumours that they were to be shot and turned into dogfood! Was it possible that the government could do such a cruel and heartless thing? Not only was it inhumane, it was also destroying part of our natural heritage; the wild horses had been on Sable Island for at least 200 years!

Prime Minister John Diefenbaker was inundated with hundreds of letters from school children, pleading with him to spare the ponies. The prime minister was an animal lover himself; furthermore he could see that the issue was a potential public relations disaster for the government. Cabinet reversed the Crown Assets decision in June 1960. Diefenbaker announced in the House of Commons that not only would the horses be spared, but the government would also ensure that the herd was protected and preserved.

Once again, the prime minister was flooded with letters from the children, this time thanking him for saving Sable Island's ponies.


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

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