Origin: CNE Archives, 1927 CNE Annual Report
Prime Minister Mackenzie King opened the CNE twice as Prime Minister, the first time is pictured here in 1927(see his address below). The second was 20 years later in 1947, when the fair re-opened after having been closed during the Second World War. This picture would have been taken in the second of his three terms as Prime Minister of Canada (1921-1926; 1926-1930 and 1935-1948). Mr. King (1874-1950) was Canada’s longest serving prime minister. He steered Canada through industrialization, much of the Great Depression, and the Second World War. By the time he left office, Canada had achieved a greater independence from Britain and a stronger international voice. Under his leadership, Canada also implemented policies such as unemployment insurance in response to industrialization, economic distress and changing social realities. View the Prime Minister’s signature in the CNE’s Opening Day book.
The Opening Day Address
delivered by the Right Honourable William Lyon Mackenzie King
Prime Minister of Canada
August 27, 1927
The Canadian National Exhibition of 1927, affording as it does a panorama of Canadian progress, and marked by the erection of an Eastern Gate commemorative of the Diamond Jubilee, constitutes a fitting climax to the memorable incidents which, in the history of our country, will ever be associated with this year. It has appeared to me that, at this time and in this place, it would be most fitting were I briefly to review a few of the features which have served to give historic interest and value to the celebration we are now about to conclude.
Celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation
During the last session of Parliament, as all present are aware, an Act was passed making provision for a National Committee to plan a suitable commemoration of the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation. From a nation-wide observance of the birth of the Dominion, it was hoped that the Canadian people would come to have a more intimate knowledge of and a deeper interest in the history of Canada, a new pride in their national heritage, and above all, a consciousness in larger measure of national unity. High as were the aims of the National Committee, it can be said today that the most sanguine expectations of its members have been surpassed in the memorable success of the celebrations throughout the Dominion. It is safe to predict that, through the general recognition it has afforded our country’s attainment of the full stature of nationhood, the present year will be remembered as one of outstanding significance. Let me make mention first of what the celebration, in one form or another, has brought forth by way of increased knowledge of our history. Foremost are the publications of the National Committee and the Departments of Government, both Federal and Provincial, which review the progress of Canada in the last sixty years, and which give in historical outline the main political, constitutional and economic developments. They are part of the permanent literature which, from now on, will serve as sources of ready reference. Next, there is the vast wealth of descriptive and historical material which has been published by the daily and periodical press. This has been supplemented in no small degree by individual publications, both of institutions and persons, touching upon many phases of our industrial, commercial and social life. In the universities and schools, special attention has been given to historical studies, and from one end of the Dominion to the other, there have been competitions in essay writing and oratory on Canadian subjects. Last, but by no means least, a special issue of Jubilee stamps has sought to convey its historical message through the medium of His Majesty’s Post. When we begin to reflect on what all this has meant in the way of revived intellectual interest, the fruits of which have been permanently preserved, we begin to see how vast, in one of its phases only, has been the nationwide education effect of the celebration.
Canada: A Country Of Its Own
In two most important directions, the celebration has served to arouse a new interest in Canada as a country of one’s own — “our own, our native land.” First, there is the influence of the celebration upon the children, the rising generation; and secondly, its influence upon the newcomers, especially those of foreign origin. The imaginations of both children and adults have undoubtedly been stirred, and their interest in Canada and its history deepened and broadened. The unprecedented extent to which the celebration was carried out by the voluntary effort in which all alike participated, was, in this particular, a factor of supreme importance. The National Committee was far-sighted in so largely encouraging voluntary effort, and seeking to lend only such guidance as would serve to give unity and harmony to the whole. The National Committee salary list merely covered a necessary supervision of routine. Practically all the planning, organization and executive work was done by persons who were glad to offer their services as a patriotic gift. At the time of the Tercentenary Celebration in Quebec, the planning for and direction of the pageantry was undertaken almost altogether by persons from outside Canada. In the Diamond Jubilee Celebration, pageantry on a considerable scale was carried out in almost every community, but the organization, artistic work, and direction of these pageants were undertaken locally. They were carried out extremely well. The whole accomplishment revealed an advance in artistic taste, organizing ability, and patriotic feeling, that is of the greatest significance. It is gratifying to notice that a pageant of Canadian progress will constitute the spectacular evening display of this year’s Exhibition. Nothing finer could have been conceived in the way of an educational and patriotic appeal. The National Committee was far-seeing also in seizing the occasion as an opportunity for placing patriotic plaques in our public and separate schools, emphasizing the idea of “Canada our country” and in distributing commemorative medals to all school children participating in the celebrations. It seems to me that this generation of school children will have a new and wholly different feeling and attachment to Canada. I am told that in the West, the commemorative medals are particularly valued, and they are looked upon by children of newcomers as a sort of passport to a common citizenship with the children of native Canadians. The extent to which adult newcomers, particularly in Western Canada, participated in the various celebrations was truly remarkable, and had a kindred effect. Some of the best celebrations were held in communities in which there were scarcely any persons of either Anglo-Saxon or French origin.
Broadcasting Unites This Vast Nation
The consciousness of national unity, which the celebration had so greatly furthered, has been, perhaps, its supreme achievement. This was due in a large measure to the completeness of the organization of local celebrations and to the similarity of methods of commemorating the Diamond Jubilee as arranged by the Committee. Especially impressive and unifying was the celebration on Parliament Hill on July the first, with the broadcasting of the Ottawa programme over the whole of Canada, and the Service of National Praise and Thanksgiving on July the third which extended from sea to sea. In its way, there has been nothing comparable to the nation-wide broadcasting of the proceedings on Parliament Hill, as effected through the co-operation of the railway, telegraph, telephone, and radio companies under the direction of the National Committee. For the first time in the history of Canada, the words spoken on Parliament Hill and the sound of its chimes and bells were carried instantaneously to, and heard simultaneously in all parts of this vast Dominion. Never before was a national programme enjoyed by citizens of any land over so vast an area. It is doubtful if ever before, the thoughts of so many of the citizens were concentrated, at one and the same moment, upon what was taking place on its capital, or those in authority brought into such immediate and sympathetic personal touch with those from whom their authority was derived. In the Confederation debates in the Legislature of United Canada in 1865, the Honourable Christopher Dunkin drew attention to what seemed, at the time, an inevitable impediment to national consciousness on the citizens of Canada. He said: “We have a large class whose national feelings turn towards London, whose very heart is there; another large class whose sympathies centre here at Quebec, or in a sentimental way may have had some reference to Paris; another large class whose memories are of the Emerald Isle; and yet another whose comparisons are rather with Washington; but have we any class of people who are attached, or whose feelings are going to be directed with any earnestness, to the City of Ottawa, the centre of the new nationality that is to be created?” After many years, this doubt as been dispelled, and the question has been answered by the voice of the Canadian people united in celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation. On the morning, afternoon, and evening of July the first, all Canada became, for the time being, a single assemblage, swayed by a common emotion, within the sound of a single voice. Thus has modern science for the first time in the great nation-state of modern days that condition which existed in the little city-states of ancient times, and which was considered by the wisdom of the ancients as indispensable to free and democratic government, namely, that all the citizens should hear for themselves the living voice. To them, it was the voice of a single orator, a Demosthenes or a Cicero, speaking on public questions in the Athenian assembly, or in the Roman forum. Hitherto, Ottawa has seemed to Canadians far-off, a mere name to hundreds of thousands of our people. Henceforth, all Canadians will stand within the sound of the carillon, and within hearing of the speakers on Parliament Hill. May we not predict that as a result of the carrying of the living voice throughout the length and breadth of the Dominion, there will be aroused a more general interest in public affairs, and a increased devotion on the part of the individual citizen to the common weal?
Canada: A Player on the International Stage
There were other incidents of the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation which will will hold for all time an historic association with our country and its Houses of Parliament. Each, in its own way, was declaratory of the position which Canada now holds in world relations and world affairs. In this year of Diamond Jubilee, Canada for the first time in her history, sent from her Government to a foreign poser, to be resident abroad, a Minister Plenipotentiary accredited by His Majesty the King; and for the first time in her history, Canada received from a foreign power, to be resident in Ottawa, a Minister Plenipotentiary accredited by the head of his country. It is, I am sure a source of no small pride to the people of this province and city, that the first person from Canada to hold the position of Minister of Plenipotentiary* to a foreign power should be a distinguished citizen of Toronto. The Fathers of Confederation may have been far-seeing. Men of vision they certainly were. I question, however, if any one of their number ever dreamed that within sixty years from the the time at which four provinces tributary to the waters of the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence, and the Atlantic were brought into one Dominion, the Prime Minister of great Britain and the Heir to the British Throne, would be speaking, on the same evening, in the Houses of Parliament of a Canada extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Although their visit has served to enhance our pride not only in our own country, but in the community of British nations united by a common allegiance to the Crown, the sure firm foundations of which rest upon similarity, if not identity of political institutions, customs and laws; and similarity as well of aims, ideals and aspirations.
Our Progress over the Past 60 Years
In our Jubilee year, we have witnessed anew the beginnings of discovery and exploration and the early development of settlement and colonization; we have seen the country grow within three centuries from a group of huts to a group of colonies, and, in sixty years, from a group of colonies to a nation in a galaxy of sister nations, and a nation among the nations of the world. In constitutional development we have witnesses a steady growth of freedom in the transition from non-representative to representative government. much restricted and curtailed at the outset, to responsible self-government as full and complete as that enjoyed by the parent state. From scattered communities, comprised of men of diverse racial origins and religious creeds. we have witnessed the gradual blending of all classes into a single people, preserving the richness of individual traits and characteristics, but united by a common aim and purpose. In other words, we have witnessed of achievement of nationhood itself.
The Nature of Nationhood
We sometimes think of nationhood as the distinctive achievement of statemen and scholars, forgetting that the strength of a nation is founded ultimately upon the integrity of its people, upon the stern discipline of thrift and industry, and upon the wise employment of the resources which are of the peculiar gift of Providence. If Canada to-day enjoys the blessings of prosperity, if we take up the responsibilities of nationhood with sure confidence in our ability to meet our obligations, it is because our people have been faithful in their stewardship, and have not buried their talents. The economic history of Canada since Confederation is an epic of perseverance and and courage in which the outstanding characters are the husbandman in his field, the artisan at his bench, the engineer whose faith has removed mountains, and the adventurers who have gone down to the sea in ships and have done business in great waters. In agriculture, manufacture, transportation and commerce, our progress during the past sixty years has been nothing less than phenomenal. From scattered and dependent colonies, we have passed through successive stages of economic development to the proud position which we occupy to-day, when the products of our fields, forests, and factories are carried to the far corners of the earth.
Canadian National Exhibition
If, in the Jubilee Celebrations, aught remained to complete the story of Canada’s development, that omission is more than supplied to-day by the portrayal on a national scale of our arts and industries, which it is the known purpose of the Canadian National Exhibition to present. Emerging from the agricultural fairs and industrial exhibition held in bygone years, it has come to be recognized not only as a great national exhibition, but in effect the greatest annual exhibition existing anywhere in the world. How fitting, therefore, that this year’s Exhibition should find a place as one of the many events to be associated with the celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of Confederations! Here, in miniature, we have a picture of the industrial and commercial life of our country, the story of its development in commerce and trade. Here will be found much that is descriptive of the extent and development and present position of the country’s natural resources. Its agricultural wealth, its forests, its minerals, and its fisheries, as well as of its great water powers. Here will be seen the processes whereby our raw materials are transformed, through the aid of capital and labour, into commodities available for human use. Here also will be seen the methods of world-wide production and distribution, and the means whereby, in our own and other lands, the interests alike of producers and consumers are served.
The Exhibition Declared Open
It is with the greatest possible pride, as well as pleasure, that, at the request of its President and Directors, I invite the people of Canada and other lands to view this Canadian National Exhibition, and, to that end, now declare the Exhibition to be open.
*A person, especially a diplomat, invested with the full power of independent action on behalf of their government, typically a foreign government.
Please Note: The headings above were not part of the Prime Minister’s original address. They have been inserted here to make the text easier to navigate for the reader.