The Pragmatist: Canada After Confederation
When Canadian confederation became a reality on 1 July 1867, Wilfrid LAURIER accepted it and adapted to it. He stated his position on various issues of public interest. A moderate Liberal, he sought to define himself more clearly as a politician and distance himself from ideological extremism.
In his long ascent to power, Laurier tried to adapt his moderate liberalism to the taste of the electorate. His first campaign showed the practical nature of the future prime minister of Canada:
“To the local Catholic clergy, who called him a Rouge and a revolutionary obsessed with liberty, Laurier responded with a balanced platform addressing the current major election issues. It touched on education, colonization, and agriculture, for which funding had to be increased, on the abolition of the Legislative Council, and on industrial development, the cure for the scourge of emigration. On the evening of 11 July  his 750-vote majority took some of the sting out of the provincial Liberals’ defeat.”
A few years later, after delivering a speech about his view of political liberalism on 26 June 1877 in Quebec City, Laurier became a nationally renowned politician:
“[Laurier knew] the time had come to explain his party’s liberalism as clearly as possible. His approach was pragmatic, his ambition partisan in that he wanted to help create a modern party system and a modern form of government where the Liberal party would occupy its rightful place on the political chessboard of the province. He spoke brilliantly, sometimes with passion but more often with logic, occasionally resorting to easy eloquence. No, he assured some 2,000 listeners, ‘Liberal Catholicism is not political liberalism.’ No, the Liberal party is not ‘a party composed of men holding perverse doctrines, with a dangerous tendency, and knowingly and deliberately progressing towards revolution.’ No, there is no ‘moral difference’ between Liberals and Conservatives. To make his own position clear, he defined his liberalism: ‘I am one of those who believe that in all human affairs there are abuses to reform, new horizons to discover and new forces to develop.’… He concluded: ‘The policy of the Liberal party is to protect [our] institutions, to defend them and spread them, and, under the sway of those institutions, to develop the country’s latent resources. That is the policy of the Liberal party and it has no other.’”
To learn more about the political ideologies in Canada during Laurier’s time, please explore the following lists of biographies.