Nickname created for Liberal Prime Minister Louis St-Laurent from an article entitled “Uncle Louis Can’t Lose!” published during the 1949 federal election. The author of the moniker is lost in the mists of time but the term itself captures the avuncular and frankly paternalistic persona of Liberal Prime Minister Louis St Laurent1 (1948-1957).
The comfortable, cuddly nomenclature was not an obvious choice for St. Laurent. Prior to being drafted into cabinet by Mackenzie King during the Second World War in the wake of the sudden death of Quebec Lieutenant Ernest Lapointe, St-Laurent was one of Quebec’s sharpest and most influential corporate lawyers.
However, “Uncle Louis” successfully captured the spirit of a benign pere-de-famille, presiding over the great boom of the 1950s, and presiding, Chairman-of-the-Board-style over a hard charging cabinet of heavies such as CD Howe, Lester Pearson, and Jimmy Gardner. The image mirrors the political climate south of the border in the same era, with Dwight Eisenhower running the US administration in a similar, no-nonsense, no-flash, and down-to-business manner.
Arguably, the term “Uncle Louis” also made the notion of a French Canadian Prime Minister (St Laurent was only Canada’s second) more palatable in much of English Canada, where anti-French attitudes were common in the era.
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