by Lachlan MacKinnon, Will Langford, and Andrew Parnaby
Warm tributes for Allan J. MacEachen poured forth after his death — from politicians, journalists, and colleagues. Prime Minister Trudeau was especially effusive. And rightly so. MacEachen’s parliamentary career and legislative record was unrivalled in 20th century Canadian political life – “peerless” in the prime minister’s words. He was also deeply loved by the people of Cape Breton.
Yet amidst the tributes and reminiscences, contrarian Parker Donham struck a somewhat discordant note via Twitter: “AJMcE’s impact on #CB monumental but transient. Coal. Steel. Heavy H2O. Sheep. NEP. All gone. Was self-reliance also a casualty?”
Many of the tributes stressed Allan J’s national contributions – namely universal healthcare. Others highlighted the ways in which he stuck up for the region. Indeed, an official obituary described how MacEachen’s “first-hand exposure to the vulnerability of working families in early 20th-century Canada” prompted him to battle for miners’ pensions, minimum wage reforms, and other areas of social spending.
Certainly, these accomplishments had a nation-wide impact, but what of his contributions to the island, specifically? Were these impacts, as Donham asks, transient?