Lester B. Pearson also Known as Bowles “Mike” Pearson, prime minister 1963–68, statesman, politician, public servant, professor (born 23 April 1897 in Newtonbrook, ON; died 27 December 1972 in Ottawa, ON). Lester Bowles “Mike” Pearson, prime minister 1963–68, statesman, politician, public servant, professor (born 23 April 1897 in Newtonbrook, ON; died 27 December 1972 in Ottawa, ON.
Pearson has been Canada’s foremost diplomat of the 1950s and 1960s and formulated its basic post-WWII foreign policy. A skilled politician, he reconstructed the Liberal Party and as prime minister tried to maintain Canada’s national unity. Under his direction, the government executed a Canada Pension Plan, a universal medicare system, a unified armed force, along with a new flag. Back in 1957he received the Nobel Peace Prize because of his diplomatic efforts in easing Britain and France’s departure from Egypt during the Suez Crisis.
Early Life and Career
Son of a Methodist parson, Pearson spent his youth moving from one parsonage to a different before registering in history at the University of Toronto. With the outbreak of the First World War, he enlisted in the Canadian Army Medical Corps and in 1915 was shipped to Greece to join the Allied armies fighting the Bulgarians. After two decades of stretcher-bearing, he transferred into the Royal Flying Corps in England. His army career came to a sudden end when he was run over by a London bus and invalided home.
After getting his BA at the University of Toronto in 1919, Pearson was undecided about a career. He attempted law and business, won a fellowship to Oxford, and has been hired from the University of Toronto to teach background, which he united with tennis and coaching football. Pearson also married and soon had kids. Finding a professor’s wages insufficient, he joined the Department of External Affairs (currently Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development). By 1928 he had trained himself as a perceptive observer and an able writer, both useful qualities in his work. Pearson quickly attracted the interest of the deputy minister, O.D. Skelton.
Representing Canada Abroad
In 1935 he had been sent to London as the first secretary at the Canadian High Commission, giving him a front-row chair as Europe drifted towards the Second World War. He had been profoundly influenced by what he saw and attached great value to collective defense in the face of dictatorships and aggression. In 1941 Pearson returned to Canada. He was sent to Washington as second-in-command at the Canadian Legation in 1942, in which his easygoing nature and personal charm made his great success, particularly with the media. In 1945, he was appointed Canadian ambassador to the United States of America and attended the founding conference of the United Nations (UN) at San Francisco.
Deputy Minister of External Affairs
In September 1946, Pearson was summoned home by Prime Minister Mackenzie King to become deputy minister (or even undersecretary) of external affairs. He continued to take a strong interest in the UN but also promoted a closer political and economic relationship between Canada and its chief allies, both the US and the United Kingdom. He strongly supported a Western self-defense organization, even though he expected that its presence would convince the Soviet Union (what is currently mostly Russia) that aggression would be futile.
Minister of External Affairs
From the time NATO was set up, Pearson had left the civil service to get politics. In September 1948he became minister of external affairs and afterward represented Algoma East, Ontario, at the House of Commons. As a minister, he helped lead Canada to the Korean War as a contributor to the UN army as well as in 1952, served as president of the UN General Assembly, in which he strove to obtain a way to solve the conflict. His attempts displeased the Americans, who believed him too inclined to compromise on hardpoints of principle. His greatest diplomatic achievement came in 1956 when he proposed a UN peacekeeping force as a means for easing the French and British out of Egypt during the Suez Crisis. His plan was executed, and as a reward, he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957.
Leader of the Liberal Party
The St-Laurent authorities were widely blamed for not standing by Britain in 1956. The Liberals were defeated, St-Laurent resigned as chief, and in a convention, in January 1958 Pearson defeated Paul Martin, Sr. The Liberals faced a minority Conservative government under John Diefenbaker, and in his very first act as leader of the opposition, Pearson challenged Diefenbaker to resign and turn the government over to him. Diefenbaker ridiculed the notion and in the following general election, the Liberals were reduced to 49 of the 265 seats in the Commons. Pearson began the slow task of rebuilding the party. With the assistance of parliamentary debaters like Paul Martin and J.W. Pickersgill, and party employees like Walter Gordon, Mitchell Sharp, and Maurice Lamontagne, he re-established the Liberals as a federal party. From the 1962 general election, Pearson increased the party’s total to 100 seats. Back in 1963, the Diefenbaker government collapsed over the dilemma of nuclear weapons, and in the subsequent election that the Liberals won 128 seats to make a minority government.
Lester B. Pearson Prime Minister 1963–68
Pearson took office on 22 April 1963. His administration was expected to be more businesslike than Diefenbaker’s but proved instead to become accident-prone, effectively aborting its original budget. Much of Parliament’s time has been spent in bitter partisan and private wrangling, culminating at the interminable flag disagreement of 1964. Back in 1965, Pearson called a general election but again failed to secure a majority. In the following year, the Munsinger scandal erupted with even more partisan bitterness.
The year 1965 marked a breaking point in his administration, as Finance Minister Walter Gordon departed, and Jean Marchand and Pierre Trudeau from Québec became prominent from the Cabinet. Pearson’s attempts in his first semester to conciliate Québec and the other provinces together with”co-operative federalism” and”bilingualism and biculturalism” were superseded in his second term with a company federal response to provincial demands and from the Québec government’s efforts to usurp national roles in global relations. When, during his centennial visit, French President Charles de Gaulle uttered the separatist slogan”Vive le Québec libre” into a crowd in Montréal, Pearson issued a formal rebuke, and de Gaulle immediately went home. In December 1967, Pearson announced his intention to retire and in April 1968 a Liberal convention picked Pierre Trudeau as his successor.
Lester B. Pearson Legacy
For all its shallow chaos, the Pearson government left behind a notable legacy of legislation: a Canada Pension Plan, a universal medicare system, a unified armed force, plus a new flag. But, its approach to the problem of Canada’s economically deprived areas was less successful and its heritage, which comprised that the Glace Bay heavy-water plant, was decidedly mixed. Not all these initiatives proved profitable and some were costly, but they represented the high point of this Canadian welfare condition that generations of the social tribe had dreamed of. In retirement, Pearson worked on his memoirs and about a study of international aid for the World Bank.