Sunny Ways


A phrase coined by PM Sir Wilfred Laurier in 1895, and revived by his successor Justin Trudeau 120 years later.

Laurier invoked the term “sunny ways” during the contentious Manitoba Schools Debate—a notorious setback in English-French relations—when the government of the new province outlawed the teaching of French in its schools.

Speaking in Morrisburg, Ontario, then-Opposition Leader Laurier (he would be elected Canada’s first French-Canadian Prime Minister the following year) invoked Aesop’s fable of “The Wind and the Sun,” implying that the Manitoba provincial government would be more likely to change its ways through a warm, “sunny” engagement than through the colder, presumably more blustery approach of the governing Mackenzie Bowell Conservatives.

Laurier’s compromise solution a year later would essentially guarantee French-language educations at schools with critical masses of francophone students.

As happens so often with a winning phrase, “sunny ways” soon transcended its specific situation and came to represent Laurier’s overall political persona as optimistic, positive-thinking uniter. This was very much what Justin Trudeau had in mind when he began using the “sunny ways” term – with full credit to Laurier – during the 2015 election campaign, most notably at his victory rally in Montreal on October 19th.

Trudeau’s “sunny ways” invocation cast him in sharp contrast to the message of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, one seen by some Canadians as a more somber government that sought to play on the fears of Canadians. In this sense, “sunny ways” was an apt description for the Liberals’ aspirational 2015 campaign.

“Sunny ways” may become as associated with Justin Trudeau’s prime ministership as “Just Watch Me” was with Pierre Trudeau’s or “King or Chaos” was with Mackenzie King’s.

Image source: Wikimedia


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