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Biography of the Day


Responsible Government

Sir John A. Macdonald

From the Red River Settlement to Manitoba (1812–70)

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sir George-Étienne Cartier


The Fenians

Women in the DCB/DBC

The Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences of 1864

Introductory Essays of the DCB/DBC

The Acadians

For Educators

The War of 1812 

Canada’s Wartime Prime Ministers

The First World War

A Strong Central Government


Among the Fathers of Confederation, none believed more fervently than did John A. MACDONALD in a strong central government with a powerful executive body [see A New Union]. His biographers point out:

“Macdonald’s private agenda for the future of the new federation went much farther than the [British North America] Act revealed. It was not just that a provincial government was to be ‘a subordinate legislature.’ The provincial governments, he maintained, had been made fatally weak and were ultimately to cease to exist.… In December 1864 he told Matthew Crooks Cameron* that ‘if the Confederation goes on[,] you, if spared the ordinary age of man, will see both Local Parliaments & Governments absorbed in the General Power. This is as plain to me as if I saw it accomplished but of course it does not do to adopt that point of view in discussing the subject in Lower Canada.’”

Over the next 50 years, attempts to exert federal power encountered varying degrees of resistance from the provinces. This section outlines provincial counter-attacks against the central government and charts the latter’s role in the growth of the country and the expansion of its activities during the First World War.

For more information on the case made by the Fathers of Confederation for a strong central government, consult the biographies in the following list.

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