John G. Diefenbaker : the political apprenticeship of a Saskatchewan politician, 1925-1940
John G. Diefenbaker is most often described by historians and biographers as a successful and popular politician. His uninterrupted presence in the House of Commons, and pursuit of the top political post within his party, and the country following 1940, testify to his lifelong ambition to represent the "common man." But for all the time that he spent in Ottawa, he spent a significant amount of time and energy as a political failure in Saskatchewan. For fifteen years prior to 1940, Diefenbaker struggled in Saskatchewan to win public office in federal, provincial and civic politics. This era of Diefenbaker's political career, more accurately referred to as his political apprenticeship, has been largely overlooked by historical and political analysts. Whether by oversight or design, they instead focus on his post-1940 achievements. When they give a cursory glance to his pre-1940 political endeavours, other factors and forces such as the impact of the Great Depression on the Conservative party, strength of the Liberal machine in Saskatchewan, and internal divisions within the provincial party are blamed for causing his failures to obtain public office. But what about the man himself? Closer scrutiny of Diefenbaker's participation in the 1929 provincial election, in which his party went on to form the government with the help of the Progressives, Independents and moral support of the Ku Klux Klan, and the 1938 provincial election, in which Diefenbaker led the party into saw-off negotiations with the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, implicate him as a major contributor to his political failures and those of his party. Diefenbaker was more than just a political casualty, prior to 1940; he must share the blame for fifteen years spent as a political apprentice in Saskatchewan politics. The principal sources of information for these findings lay in primary material from the personal and party collections housed in the Diefenbaker, National and Provincial Archives. Supplemental material came from Diefenbaker's biography and numerous secondary materials covering the political lives and circumstances of Saskatchewan politics prior to 1940.
Master of Arts (M.A.)