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MacLean, Donald (1877–1947)

Donald Maclean, leader of the Conservative Party and His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition from 1918 to 1921, was born in 1877. A lawyer by profession, he first won election to the Legislature in the war-time election of 1917, one of only seven successful Conservatives at a time when his party expected to do much better, given a Conservative government in power in Ottawa and the reports of two royal commissions the previous year which had confirmed the charges of corruption levelled at the Scott administration by the Conservative Member for Prince Albert, J.E. Bradshaw. A year later, when W.B. Willoughby resigned his seat to accept an appointment to the Senate, the remaining Conservative MLAs chose Maclean as leader. The major issue Maclean raised in the Legislature concerned language, in particular the need to make English the paramount language of instruction in the schools of the province, and Premier Martin did amend the School Act to limit severely the use of other languages in the province’s schools. Nevertheless, this issue alone was not sufficient to bring down the government or even turn the Conservative party into a viable contender for power. In fact, events had overtaken Maclean and his tiny band of followers by the early 1920s: by this time activists in the farm movement had decided to enter provincial politics directly, and public opinion shifted to their political arm, the Progressives, as the more likely group to defeat the Liberals. Maclean saw the writing on the wall, and in April 1921, two months before the upcoming election, he resigned his seat and the leadership of his party to accept an appointment to the bench, where he remained until his death in 1947.

Patrick Kyba

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