About William Lyon Mackenzie King
William Lyon Mackenzie King, PC, OM, CMG (December 17, 1874 – July 22, 1950), also commonly known as Mackenzie King, was the dominant Canadian political leader from the 1920s through the 1940s. He served as the tenth Prime Minister of Canada from December 29, 1921 to June 28, 1926; from September 25, 1926 to August 7, 1930; and from October 23, 1935 to November 15, 1948. A Liberal with 22 years in office, he was longest-serving Prime Minister in Canadian history. Trained in law and social work, he was keenly interested in the human condition (as a boy, his motto was "Help those that cannot help themselves"), and played a major role in laying the foundations of the Canadian welfare state.
According to his biographers, King lacked the typical personal attributes of great leaders, especially in comparison with Franklin D. Roosevelt of the U.S., Winston Churchill of Great Britain, Charles de Gaulle of France, or even Joey Smallwood of Newfoundland. Voters did not love him. He lacked charisma, a commanding presence or oratorical skills; he did not shine on radio or in newsreels. His best writing was academic. Cold and tactless in human relations, he had allies but very few close personal friends; he never married and lacked a hostess whose charm could substitute for his chill. His allies were annoyed by his constant intrigues. He kept secret his beliefs in spiritualism and use of mediums to stay in contact with departed associates and particularly with his mother, and allowed his intense spirituality to distort his understanding of Adolf Hitler.
Historians conclude that King remained so long in power because he had developed wide-ranging skills that were appropriate to Canada's needs. He was keenly sensitive to the nuances of public policy; he was a workaholic with a shrewd and penetrating intelligence and a profound understanding of how society and the economy worked. He understood labour and capital. He had a pitch-perfect ear for the Canadian temperament and mentality, and was a master of timing. A modernizing technocrat who regarded managerial mediation as essential to an industrial society, he wanted his Liberal party to represent liberal corporatism to create social harmony. King worked to bring compromise and harmony to many competing and feuding elements, using politics and government action as his instrument. He led the Liberal party for 29 years, and established Canada's international reputation as a middle power fully committed to world order. A survey of scholars in 1997 by Maclean's magazine ranked King first among all Canada's prime ministers, ahead of Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier. As Granatstein (2004) notes, "the scholars expressed little admiration for King the man but offered unbounded admiration for his political skills and attention to Canadian unity." On the other hand, Stewart has found that even Liberal activists have but a dim memory of him.