OTD: Diefenbaker defeated over nuclear weapons policy

On today’s date in 1963, the House of Commons voted 142-111 in favour of a resolution of no confidence in the minority government of then-Prime Minister John Diefenbaker.

The resolution was spurred on by Diefenbaker’s nuclear weapons policy plus the resignation of Defence Minister Douglas Harkness. Parliament was dissolved the following day, on Feb. 6, by Governor-General George Vanier. Elections were scheduled for April 8.

“The end came at 9:04 p.m., when, after losing two want-of-confidence motions, the prime minister rose and said simply: ‘Mr. Speaker, I shall advise His Excellency, the Governor-General, tomorrow. I now move, seconded by Mr. Churchill, that his House do now adjourn,'” reads a Feb. 6, 1963, story by The Montreal Gazette.

“MPs of all parties cheered, banged desk-tops and hurled copies of Hansard across the chamber at one another as a week of drama, excitement and uncertainty came to an end.”

Negotiations with the Social Credit Party, which had enough votes to save the government, failed.

Diefenbaker later resigned after he was beaten by Lester Pearson, who fell five seats short of an absolute majority in the April 8 general election.

The 1980 Diefenbaker set also includes an official first-day cover cancelled in Saskatoon.


In 1980, Canada’s Post Office Department (now Canada Post) issued a 17-cent stamp (Scott #859) featuring Diefenbaker designed by Ottawa graphic artist Bernard Reilander.

The profile portrait of Diefenbaker was based on photographs taken while he was prime minister from June 21, 1957-April 22, 1963.

Printed in blue, the steel-engraved interpretation of Reilander’s artwork was produced by Yves Baril.

An official first-day cover cancelled in Saskatoon, Sask., was also issued as part of the set.

One year earlier, Diefenbaker died of a heart attack. It was about a month before his 84th birthday.

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