When he entered politics, Laurier never thought that he would quickly become the Liberal Party leader. During this era, he did not believe that he had the makings of a leader. This impression of feeling like a fraud would haunt him throughout his life.
Yet Laurier knew how to rally people around him. Level-headed Laurier sought to satisfy the majority without displeasing the minority. Thus, he managed to lead the members of his party through elections right to the House of Commons in Ottawa.
A resolute man, he faced adversity without fear. He knew how to address problems, take his time to verify the possibilities and seek the less restrictive solution for the majority of Canadians.
As part of the opposition or at the head of the country, Laurier breathed new life and the wind of modernity into the Liberal Party. During his era, his style and methods were challenged.
Today, we can affirm that he was the father of modern Canada and that he brought liberalism to another level.
Even 30 years after the creation of the country, Canadians, and Francophones in particular, failed to embrace a sense of belonging to Canada.
Wilfrid Laurier, le pays avant tout avec André Pratte, Les publications universitaires #19, Productions EBICO
[Heading: 1896, National Uncertainty. Mr. André Pratte and a reporter talk to each other in a library]
Reporter: Wilfrid Laurier became the Prime Minister of Canada in 1896 [a portrait of Wilfrid Laurier is displayed] when the country had only seven provinces. [A map of Canada showing the extent of Rupert's land is displayed] The future of the country was uncertain; did this reality have an impact on his political actions?
André Pratte: Absolutely, and it is the key to understanding his approach. You stated that he came to power in 1896. Even before looking at what Laurier did, one must realize that Canada was only 30 years old. Confederation had taken place in 1867. [Robert Harris's artwork cover "Fathers of Confederation" is displayed] Indeed, Canada did not really exist in the minds of many. It was like an agreement, a contract of sorts. But among Francophones and Anglophones, there was no true awareness of what Canada was or could be.
Then, in stepped Laurier, the first French Canadian Francophone Prime Minister - almost a miracle in itself, because no one had ever imagined that Canada would ever be anything else than an English country. At the time of Confederation, even French Canadians simply wanted Confederation to guarantee that there would be a province, Quebec, where Francophones would be the majority and would manage things of importance to them. The rest of the country would be English. When Laurier became the party leader and then the Prime Minister, the surprise was general - among Francophones and Anglophones alike. All of a sudden, Canada had become a country where Francophones might perhaps play a role, limited not only to their province, but encompassing the entire country.