Post-War Politics   1946 -1984
Federal Politics

     After leaving military service, Pearkes decided to go into politics, partly out of a desire to assist war veterans.  In June 1945 he won his first federal election, representing the Nanaimo riding, which at that time included Saanich, Esquimalt and the Gulf Islands.  He became the Conservative party's Defence Critic, and over the next twelve years made speeches in the House of Commons criticizing the Liberal Government's defence policies and stressing the need for the armed forces in Canada to become more efficient and integrated.


     In 1957 the Progressive Conservatives won the federal election, and Prime Minister John Diefenbaker appointed him Minister of National Defence.  Click on the image to read the telegram Diefenbaker sent on February 28th congratulating his new cabinet member.  (ACC 74-1 Box 10.6)  Image size 36KB


     As Defence Minister, Pearkes faced one of his first crises, the cancellation of the Avro Arrow interceptor aircraft. Pearkes also helped approve the proposed agreement for the North Atlantic Air Defence Command (NORAD), which he considered to be one of the highlights of his political career.  Throughout these years in Ottawa Blytha Pearkes was also busy; she was active in the Wives of Progressive Conservative Members and Senators, and helped her husband in his election campaigns.

     In 1959 and 1960, Pearkes devised a policy for Canada to acquire nuclear warheads such as carried by the Bomarc and Lacrosse missiles. He thereby clashed with Howard Green, Secretary of State for External Affairs, who did not want to see Canada become an atomic power.  Pearkes also found that Prime Minister Diefenbaker seemed uninterested in military matters, and as Green exerted pressure on Diefenbaker, the Prime Minister became more reluctant to commit to Pearkes' policy. George Pearkes later said in a 1967 interview, "I stood firm, and I still stand firm, that the defence of this Continent is indivisible between Canada and the United's one thing."
(Interview #61, April 5 1967 ACC 74-1 Box 6)

     Eventually, Pearkes decided to retire from federal politics and accept an offer to become the next Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia.  In October 1960 Pearkes was sworn in, and he and Blytha moved into Government House in Victoria.

To read transciptions of George Pearkes describing the Bomarc system,
click here.

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