I'm getting on in years, and I remember quite a few.
John Diefenbaker. A real character, and great political entertainment. But a charlatan, and self-absorbed. He specialized in fake outrage. Not a helpful presence on the political stage.
Lester Pearson. He was a career bureaucrat, and he ran the country for the benefit of the career bureaucracy.
Tommy Douglas. A pipsqueak, the typical little guy with a chip on his shoulder.
Real Caouette. Seemed to be sincere in caring about the little guy. Unfortunately, he was crazy.
Robert Stanfield. They say he was a nice guy personally. Who knows? He did not seem to stand for anything. Cannot forgive him for endorsing “deux nations” and presenting himself as a prime minister for English Canada only, with a “Quebec lieutenant.”
Pierre Trudeau. A real leader, with real principles. Most vitally, he was a hero of the cause of federalism. Unfortunately, on other matters, he was authoritarian. He brought in the hate speech laws, he brought in “multiculturalism,” he suspended civil liberties in the October Crisis.
David Lewis. Had to support his “corporate welfare bums” campaign, an issue that made sense whether you are right or left. Genuinely bright, and I believe a man of principle. He spent much of his life fighting on the left against the communists and for democracy.
Joe Clark. Pure mediocrity. A political hack.
John Turner. Looked good on paper; probably suffered unfairly by following the charismatic Trudeau, after whom he came across as hopelessly inarticulate. Just an empty suit. But his leadership marked a watershed in Canadian political history: he turned the Liberals against free trade. He ended liberalism in the Liberal Party.
Ed Broadbent. One of the most viscerally insincere politicians ever. You always knew, when he began a sentence with “let me be frank,” that he was about to tell another whopper.
Brian Mulroney. Too interested in deal-making, without enough regard to the result. It was politics for the sake of politics, without a higher purpose.
Audrey McLaughlin. Achieved the NDP leadership for no reason other than that she was a woman. She might as well have been picked out of the phone book at random.
Jean Chretien. Likeable, but all tactics, no strategy. Dangerously unscrupulous. He broke a lot of china.
Paul Martin. A great finance minister, a lousy prime minister. Turned out to be as unscrupulous as Chretien, but without the likeability.
Preston Manning. Not sure what he accomplished for anyone but himself by splitting the conservative vote for a decade or so. It was not about ideology. He had none. In the end, with the Alliance, he simply wanted to re-form the Progressive Conservatives under his own leadership.
Alexa McDonough. She was somewhat more qualified than Audrey McLaughlin. I think maybe her breasts were larger.
Stockwell Day. Who cares? He gives the term “lightweight” a bad name.
Kim Campbell. She had no chance, given the unpopularity of Mulroney and how late in his term she took over. Her selection was a Hail Mary pass. A gimmick. Was she up for the job? Who knows?
Stephen Harper. Good, solid, reassuring but unspectacular. Sorry to see him go. A steady hand.
Stephane Dion. A good, honest man. Not a politician by nature. Which is to his credit.
Michael Ignatieff. Like Dion, cast off too soon by his party. Either might have matured into a fine leader, but the Liberals had become too prone to infighting. The legacy of Jean Chretien.
Jack Layton. Viscerally did not like him, seemed too slick. Deserves a lot of credit from fellow Canadians, however, for crushing the Bloc.
Tom Mulcair. Also cast off too soon by his party. He was the best they had. They’ll be sorry. In general, a leader should not be cast off after only one campaign.
Justin Trudeau. An embarrassment. Nothing commends him for leadership. We threw over Stephen Harper, Tom Mulcair, and Michael Ignatieff for this?