Early “Black Friday”

Its Time for Dief pamphlet published by the PC Party. Cover of a pamphlet from Diefenbaker Centre. n.d. (1957?)

Black Friday: It’s Time for Diefenbaker Government. (An apparently 1957 election campaign) pamphlet published by the PC Party. Cover of a pamphlet from Diefenbaker Canada Centre. n.d.

The cover of the pamphlet shown above speaks to an earlier – and, frankly, to a more logically negative – meaning associated with the term “Black Friday” than is typical in 2015.

The text in the pamphlet (shown below) makes it clear that the Friday referred to here (in 1956)* was the one on which Louis St. Laurent’s federal government used its majority to impose closure on the (TransCanada) Pipeline Debate in the House of Commons.**

Closure has been imposed by governments of both Grit and Tory stripes over the years. Indeed, the Conservative governments of the recent Harper regime used this parliamentary procedure – which was intended for use only in exceptional cases – almost as a matter of course. Given the regularity with which Harper imposed closure, Dief was doubtless busily doing calisthenics in his grave (his famous jowls a-quivering), in recent years.***

Text from It's Time for Dief pamphlet. From Diefenbaker Centre. n.d. (1957?)

Text from Black Friday: It’s Time for Diefenbaker Government (apparently 1957 election campaign) pamphlet. From Diefenbaker Canada Centre. n.d.

vpl 60206 Prime Minister John Diefenbaker at a conference table 1958 Eric W. Cable photo for Province Newspaper.

VPL – 60206 Prime Minister John Diefenbaker at a conference table 1958 Eric W. Cable photo for Province Newspaper. (Diefenbaker was PM by the time this image was taken; the month it was made isn’t shown, so it isn’t clear whether Dief was the leader of his short-lived minority government (in 1957) or of his majority government that emerged from the 1958 election.

Notes:

*This wasn’t the last occasion on which “Black Friday” was used for political rhetoric in Canada. Just two years later, for example, Diefenbaker was Prime Minister with a very comfortable majority. On Friday, February 20, 1959, he rose in the Commons to announce that the Avro Arrow and Iroquois engine development programs were being cancelled. And closure was imposed.

**For examples of Dief’s speech-making style from this period, listen to one or more of the (free) audio files available from the Canada Diefenbaker Centre. If you are familiar with protestant preaching from days of yore, you will recognize some similarities in Dief’s public speaking style.

***One of my favourite Diefenbaker stories was told by Canadian constitutional expert, Eugene Forsey, in his memoirs. Forsey notes that he’d dropped in for a visit with Diefenbaker on Parliament Hill after Dief’s days as leader and during the period when Robert Stanfield was leader of the Progressive Conservative party. Dief was holding forth on how Stanfield ought to be making a statement on a subject that Dief considered important, but…

‘[i]nstead of that, he’s taking a two-week immersion course in French.’ Then John’s eyes started to shoot sparks and I said to myself: ‘Here comes one of his best.’ Sure enough, out it came: ‘Eugene, we Baptists know all about immersion [pause], but we don’t stay under for two weeks!’ (Eugene Forsey. A Life on the Fringe, 115).

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