A national historic site, the Laurier House (pc.gc.ca), 1km east of the Laurier Bridge, is the former home of prime ministers Sir Wilfred Laurier and William Lyon Mackenzie King. Laurier, Canada’s first French-speaking prime minister, served from 1896 to 1911, while Mackenzie King, his self-proclaimed “spiritual son”, was Canada’s longest serving – from 1921 to 1930 and 1935 to 1948. Notoriously pragmatic, King enveloped his listeners in a fog of words through which his political intentions were barely discernible. The perfect illustration – and his most famous line – was “not necessarily conscription, but conscription if necessary”, supposedly a clarification of his plans at the onset of World War II. Even more famous than his obfuscating rhetoric was his personal eccentricity. His fear that future generations would view him simply as the heir of his grandfather William Lyon Mackenzie – who led the Upper Canada rebellions of the 1830s – eventually led him into spiritualism. He held regular séances to tap the advice of great dead Canadians, including Laurier, who allegedly communicated to him through his pet dog.
King’s possessions dominate the house; look for his crystal ball and a portrait of his obsessively adored mother, in front of which he placed a red rose every day. The house also contains a reconstruction of a study belonging to prime minister Lester B. Pearson, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in resolving the Suez Crisis. Pearson also had a stab at devising a new flag for his country and, although it was rejected, the mock-up he commissioned, with blue stripes at either end to symbolize the oceans, is on display here.