Characters > Historical

Right Honourable
William Lyon Mackenzie King
Prime Minister of the Dominion of Canada

Photo of William Lyon Mackenzie King

We first meet Mackenzie King when he drops by Inspector MacNutt’s office to discuss some disturbing news he has heard concerning Henri Bourassa. While Mackenzie King plays a small role in Fire on the Hill, he does meet Count Jaggi at Katherine MacNutt’s Christmas party, which he attends with Sir Wilfrid Laurier, and on the train to New York where the Count tries to pump him for information.


During the period covered in the novel Mackenzie King, the former Minister of Labour in the Laurier government, had lost his seat in the House of Commons (in 1911). He was travelling between Ottawa, where he continued to work for the Liberal party, and New York City where he worked for the Rockefeller Foundation and the New York City branch of Belgian Relief.

Born in Berlin, Ontario (changed later during the war to Kitchener), King worked as a newspaper reporter for the Toronto Globe while studying at the University of Toronto. In time he would obtain five degrees.

When he moved to Ottawa in 1900 he joined the civil service, where he rose to become the first deputy minister of Labour. In 1908, King was first elected as a Liberal party member in a by-election and was appointment as the first-ever Minister of Labour.

While he was Minister of Labour he led the passage of the Industrial Disputes Investigation Act and the Combines Investigation Act. The legislation improved the lives of millions of Canadian workers. He lost his seat in the 1911 general election to Sir Robert Borden’s Conservatives.

Industrial consultant, author

At the Rockefeller family’s invitation, he became the head of their new Department of Industrial Research. He advised John D. Rockefeller Jr. during the 1914 Ludlow strike and massacre at a family-owned coal company in Colorado. It was during this period that he made a lasting friendship with John Rockefeller Jr.

King did not serve in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) during the war, for which he faced some criticism. He was 40 years old when the war began and was not in good physical condition. However, he did help to keep industries running smoothly during the war.

He lived in Ottawa and travelled to the United States when he was needed.

Sources and further reading


William Lyon Mackenzie King, Parliament of Canada, Parliamentarian File, William Lyon Mackenzie King

William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canadian Encyclopedia

William Lyon Mackenzie King, Wikipedia


Hutchison, Bruce. Mr. Prime Minister 1867-1964. Toronto: Longmans Canada.