It was on this day in 1911 that Wilfrid Laurier resigned as Prime Minister following election upset by Robert Borden, however, Canada’s 7th Prime Minister remains to this day an important figurehead in Canadian banknotes.
Laurier has been featured on several of Canada’s banknotes over the years. He is the first Canadian prime minister featured on the $5 Polymer note, when the new Polymer series was first released in April, 2013. But, this was not the first time Laurier has been featured on a new style of banknote.
According to Wikipedia, in 2005 the Canadian government polled its citizens on the idea of retiring the five-dollar note, replacing it with a five-dollar coin. The money saved in making the coin would then fund the Canadian Olympic team. Canadians resoundingly rejected and ridiculed the idea of a five-dollar coin. Some pointed out the note’s most recent redesign took place only four years prior, while many others were averse to the idea of carrying yet another coin in their wallets and pockets.
Laurier is depicted on several banknotes issued by the Bank of Canada, including the $1,000 note in the 1935 Series and 1937 Series; tTe $5 note in the Scenes of Canada series, 1972 and 1979, Birds of Canada series, 1986, Journey series, 2002 and in the current Frontier series, 2013.
Laurier’s picture on so many of Canada’s banknotes comes as no surprise, as stated in a Wikipedia autobiography on the prime minister.
Canada’s first francophone prime minister, Laurier is often considered one of the country’s greatest statesmen. He is well-known for his policies of conciliation, expanding Confederation, and compromise between French and English Canada. His vision for Canada was a land of individual liberty and decentralized federalism. He also argued for an English-French partnership in Canada.
“I have had before me as a pillar of fire,” he said, “a policy of true Canadianism, ofmoderation, of reconciliation.” And he passionately defended individual liberty, “Canada is free and freedom is its nationality,” and “Nothing will prevent me from continuing my task of preserving at all cost our civil liberty.”
Laurier was also well regarded for his efforts to establish Canada as an autonomous country within theBritish Empire, though he supported the continuation of the British Empire if it was based on “absolute liberty political and commercial”.
Laurier is the fourth-longest serving Prime Minister of Canada, behind William Lyon Mackenzie King, John A. Macdonald, and Pierre Trudeau.
A 2011 Maclean’shistorical ranking of the Prime Ministers placed Laurier first. Laurier also holds the record for the most consecutive federal elections won, and his 15 year tenure remains the longest unbroken term of office among Prime Ministers. In addition, his nearly 45 years (1874–1919) of service in the House of Commons is an all-time record for that house. Finally, at 31 years, 8 months, Laurier was the longest-serving leader of a major Canadian political party, surpassing King by over two years.
Laurier was Leader of the Opposition until his death in 1919.