In Dec 1941 St-Laurent was approached by PM Mackenzie KING to become minister of justice. He had no political experience but felt it was his duty to accept, and in Feb 1942 he was elected to the House of Commons representing Québec E. Alone among Liberal ministers from Québec, he was not pledged to oppose CONSCRIPTION and supported King in 1944 when he imposed it for overseas service.
King was grateful and, impressed with St-Laurent's logical mind, made him secretary of state for external affairs in 1946. St-Laurent represented Canada at international conferences and the UN. He promoted Canadian membership in NATO, believing that Canada must help resist Communist expansion.
As King's chosen successor, a selection ratified by a Liberal convention, St-Laurent became prime minister on 15 Nov 1948. He headed a Cabinet of exceptional competence, including Lester PEARSON in external affairs, C.D. HOWE in trade and commerce, Douglas Abbott in finance and Brooke CLAXTON in national defence. Old-age pensions were extended; hospital insurance was enacted; equalization payments among the provinces were approved; and Newfoundland formally joined Canada. Abroad, Canada garrisoned troops in Europe under NATO and sent forces to fight for the UN in Korea.
St-Laurent's grandfatherly appearance and his government's record caused the Liberals to be re-elected in 1949 and 1953 with overwhelming majorities. In 1954 a successful round-the-world trip seemed to tire St-Laurent; thereafter, observers noticed that he seemed removed from events around him. During his last year in office the Liberals suffered reversals in public opinion, partly as a result of the PIPELINE DEBATE in 1956.
In June 1957 St-Laurent's government was defeated by John DIEFENBAKER's PCs, and in Jan 1958 he retired from public life, returning to his law practice in Québec. St-Laurent was much admired for his decisiveness, patriotism and sharp mind, and was held in great personal affection by those who worked with him.
Author ROBERT BOTHWELL
Links to Other Sites
First Among Equals
Learn about the private lives and political careers of Canada’s Prime Ministers. Includes biographies, speeches, and other historical documents. A Library and Archives Canada website.
Grave Sites of Canadian Prime Ministers
Check this site for photos and information about specific grave sites of former Prime Ministers of Canada. From the website for the National Program for the Grave Sites of Canadian Prime Ministers.
Louis S. St. Laurent National Historic Site of Canada
This Parks Canada site commemorating the childhood home of Louis S. St. Laurent features a profile of the life and political career of the former Prime Minister. Also includes an extensive overview of the prominent domestic and international political issues during his tenure.
Inuit were moved 2,000 km in Cold War manoeuvring
This news feature chronicles the outcomes of the federal government's 1950's relocation of the Inuit to the High Arctic wastelands of Ellesmere and Cornwallis Islands, 2,000 kilometres from their home.
Shawnadithit grew anxious waiting for her uncle, Longnon, to return to camp at the junction of Badger Brook and the Exploits River, deep in the wilds of Newfoundland...