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Canadian Political Parties | A History

These are academic notes from my days at McGill University. Enjoy!

Conservative Party of Canada

  • Discussion: Conservative Party of Canada
    1. aspects of conservative ideology
      1. past
        1. emerge from larger quarrel between landed rural aristocratic vs newly urban mercantile power 
        2. traced to the aftermath of english civil war tories supporters of the crown and church of england
        3. Tory used as an isult to those more supportive of the crown than parliament and the anglican church vs other protestants
        4. then put to loyalist in US 
        5. french revolution; got a bust from Bruke, reflection on french revolution 1790, if reform in the absract not a bad thing it had to be done in a gradual organic way
        6. argued that a society was the product of a slow and infinite process of historical dvp, the revolution in france were wrong to throw out the old for something new
        7. aftermath of french rev. Cons upheld of the institution of aritotacracy, monarchy and church power, oppose constitution and reps. Gvt (cont europe)
        8. William Pitt premier, revived tory faction dominates parliament. This tory faction was united in its opposition to the French rev and the tinkering with time honored english institutions
        9. split in 1820’s of rights of protestants and christians
        10. tories later accepted the reforms of the whigs, 
        11. say taht there tasks was to maintain what remained of the institutions
        12. tory democracy, Disraeli argued that the tory aristocrats and the not liberal plurocrates where the real friends of the workers, and to bridge britains social class differences due to there acceptance of hiearchicahl
        13. moderate vs radicals squable gave the liberals there win, du to claiming the middle ground, ended up being a more moderate vs a more radical version of liberalism 
        14. 1830’s in the US the american whig party (more cons, than british) aruged that it was natural for a few to have the wealth and power
        15. acused democrates, who advocated more liberal democracy, as putting the poor vs the rich and pandering to the riches
        16. British North American context, 1791 constitional act
        17. british reaction to weak exectuive power in the american colonies, by strenghtening hte aristocrates and the monarchy
        18. realtively weak elected assembly
        19. Horrowitz argues taht there was a tory influence in Canada’s political culture, a tory touch was imported by the loyalistes, tories rejected american liberalism due to its emphasis on democracy and individual
        20. tories had vision of an organic community that required the sacrifice of individuals critisized thtat there is little evidence of tory connection between the tories and the conservatives of the 19th century
        21. Hrrowitz accused of abusing the term of tory, trying to force all political ideas into black white, liberal conservative argument when there was a lots of shade
        22. paints tories and paternalistic aritocrats 
        23. Cdn tories were simply a self seeking elite concerned about enriching htemselves and there family, (Smith, Stewart)
        24. not champions for a common good, but of an individual ideology to willing to sacrifice common good for own individual powers,
        25. building personal fortunes at public expenxe
        26. 1820s and 1830,s were associated to chateau clique and family compact, leaders of busines elites that were aligned with monarch, hostile to dem, this group was dubbed tories, simply conservative liberals using ties to the crown to promote own interest
        27. there version of liberalism was more conservative that the US version but was still liberal 
        28. Patriotes; embraced the american democratic ideals , but rallied agaisnt commercial linked power,civi humanist values, wanted to maintain agricultural community to stop from bads of capitalist industries
        29. The reinvigoration of the catholique church
        30. they had opposed papino du to anti-church, they came and favored a partnership between churhc and state rather than subordinate role
        31. 1871 programme catholique, rejectied principle of church and state and to oppose liberalism as a political doctrim, catholiques were ordered to vote for conservative (certain) or abstain
        32. Castors or Programiste advocated a mroe exclusionary approach to politics
      2. rise to present
        1. achievement of resp gvt in 1840’s fundamental change to united provinces, Baldwin and Lafontaine alliance began to fray
        2. out of the ashes of realignement , BNA tories began to moderate and a more central liberal coaltion came to be and included, conservative reforemers known as the bleu and a handfull of tories in the west, the new party liberal conservative party lead by August-Nobert Morin and McNab, they realised that if they wanted to keep power
        3. they need to put french and english interest together succeded by MacDonald and Cartier, leader of the bleu,rep stable majority of french people and english business leaders (wanitng to keep montreal as business centre)
        4. the MacDonald tories had a pro-british anti-us vibe
        5. opted for equal treatement of religions, gained support of catholic church and the main anglican denomination, even the anti-catholic orange
        6. bi-cultural linked together by powers and the spoils of econ force that it would create. Liberals conservative became champions of a united BNA, unstable leg was reason for wanting new politicla order to have more stability to have better econ evolution
        7. using patronage and nationalism claimed to be the natioanlist party and formed gvt in the gvt of the dominion, gained tupper tiley in the Maritimes
        8. years after confederation
        9. Carties dies in 83 but coaltion surives and dominates first 30 years of Dominion they were in power and controled patronage and other therefore able to increase its influence in both western canada and maritimes, closely linked to business community and railroad, became firts national party
        10. earned a reputaion for a party of great enteprise and the interest of the nation at heart
        11. it was these great enteprises and its close link to business interest htat caused the CPR scandal, Sir John A got donations from a company that was bidding to build the CPR,  
        12. fell from power but in 1878 elections the conservative regain power by successfully identifying with the cause of nation building through the NP adoption of protectionist tarrifs, rapid construction of national railway to have east west economy and increased immigration in the west
        13. description of liberal conservative party as the canadian party these econ policy mades sense due to recession and please Montreal and Toronto businessmen
        14. Macdonald vision of Canada was focused on created an industrial power, link to industrial power and loyalty to hte flag, the NP was being sold as a benefit to all Canadians but benefits were better for some
        15. 1891 elections ultimate example of cons as nation building rampid anti US and a lot of NP, claimed liberals could not be trusted with country and power, they said that there policy would result in the absorption of Canada in the US exemplified in the old flag, old policy the old leader, poster suggest common national purpose, tories won 1891 elections but MacDonald dies, beginning of crisis and downfall of conservative power, crisi for dominion as well
        16. cons and Macdonald identified as nation building
        17. John Abbott was chosen as leader because he was not particularly obnoxious, quickly replaced by Thompson who dies 94, then Bowell replaces then in 96 Tupper takes the healm, conservative fall to the Liberals
        18. victim of its own success, had succesed on one hand but then it could no longer act as a bridge builder between regions and econ interests
        19. cons had emerged as the centralizing power and party now faced liberal provincial rights movement of Mowatt and Mercier and liberals ran 4 major provinces, then loss of quebec meant that the cons lost there base of power loss of power in manitoba and NB due to language questions
        20. with death of Cartier bleu and castor unity was hard to keep castor became a virtualy autonomous party
        21. Chapleau came closest to replace Cartier, believe in econ dvp and benefits for montreal interested in nation building 
        22. never succeded in gaining Cartier level of influence and unity (1880’s) controversy over NWR and Riel, increasing tensions between french and english fraction the cons party, church hierarchy starting to oppose them as well due to some moderates, 
        23. this moderation of opinions opens door to liberal
        24. Chapleau given minor portfolio in Abbot gvt and took in personaly left Abbot and cons very weak in Quebec
        25. Manitoba school question made Chapleau leave the cons caucus still refused to return due to lack of remedial legislation adn that he could see the writting on the wall
        26. MacDonal was able to keep factions together but no other leader was able to keep the protestant english imperialist vs french catholics business 
        27. it did this by focusing on territorial and econ expansion, became more dificult with time 
        28. after death reatreated to protestant base and open doors for moderate liberals
      3. mistake to confuse conservative party and toryism
    2. the fundamentally ‘whiggish’ nature of Conservative party consistant with liveral ideology 
  1. the conservative party
    1. most succesfull due to attaching itself of national intergration19th century
    2. then when it reached its max they were’nt able to keep power

Ideological Currents (2): Liberalism in Canada

  1. Although liberalism became entrenched as the dominant ideology of the Canadian political order in the 19th century, the Liberal Party was slow in emerging as a potent political organization;
  2. It was only as debates over liberalism in Canada came to be resolved in the latter years of the century that the Liberal Party was able to establish itself as a national political party;
  3. The other crucial element to the rise of the Liberals as a national party was that, consistent with their ideological similarity to the Sonvervative Party, the Liberals adopted their core policies and became identified with the process of national integration. The result was that the Liberals were able to replace the Conservatives as Canada’s dominant national party.

John Locke

  • Liberalism can be traced to John Locke
  • an industrial bourgeoise ideology, a bid for a share of the power in British aristocracy
  • Liberalism varied from country to country
  • at its core, Liberalism is reflected by the notion that man is able to govern himself and control himself, so it is opposed to absolute monarchy and advocates parliamentary or representative government, bound to the rules of law, subscribed to the notion of natural rights (foremost of which is property that includes life and goods)
  • tended to advocate laissez-faire (minimal governmental involvement in the economy) including free trade at the international level

Liberalism in Government

  • until the 1840s it was kind of an insult to be called a Liberal
  • mid to late 1860s, the British Liberal Party became well-established 
  • ideas carried by the French Revolution
  • in the United States, liberalism was at the heart of the political culture, e.g. Jacksonian democracy “Equal rights for all, special privilege for none”
  • don’t equate liberalism with democracy, not all liberals were democratic, e.g. they did not all support universal suffrage, that only is accepted later 


  • standard manifesto of human rights

The Canadian Case

  • liberalism influenced the reforms, the reaction against the colonial government
  • argued that the BNA Act entrenched an oligarchy
  • American Republican ideology influential
  • Mackenzie sympathized with Jacksonian ideal, reflected in demands for elected legislative
  • calls for responsible government
  • like British liberals, wanted to extend the democratic franchise, wanted to turn appointed positions into elected ones, wanted to inform the constituents and have equal votes
  • British North America class largely subscribing to liberalism

Ian MacCae

  • writes of the emergence in BNA of “liberal order” that sought to realize the political and economic principles
  • argues that liberty, equality, property, became the dominant philosophy
  • argues that liberalism is a secular religion
  • the interaction of ideas in liberalism imported from the UK and America
  • notes that this was a very highly qualified type of liberalism, champions the cause of the individual, but with limits, e.g. who has a stake in society (those with property, only men, no Aboriginals or Japanese or Chinese…and only some Catholics, only some French)

The Rise of the Liberal Party

  • like the Conservatives, can trace its roots to the Baldwin-Lafontaine union breakdown
  • Clear Grits based out of southwestern Ontario including Toronto, inspired by American liberalism, championed by MacKenzie, challenges the coalition for being too elitist and conservative
  • “grits” a Masonic term to build a better society
  • Clear Grits especially upset by undue French Catholic influence, so advocated “representation by population”, banking on western Canada being able to dominant eastern Canada based on population growth, in contrast to equal representation for eastern and western Canada
  • Clear Grits protested big business in Montreal
  • there were also more moderate reformers led by George Brown, editor of the Toronto Globe, drawn from British liberal tradition, representation by population, supported by Toronto business
  • “the Rouge” were led by Papineau, members of the professional class of the Canadien population, influenced by French liberal tradition, especially 1848 Revolution, were nationalist Canadien, had favoured BNA’s annexation to the US as a means to Canadien self-government, opposed Confederation which they saw as subjugation of the Canadien, strong anti-clerical
  • mutual excluding agenda of French and English made it difficult for the party emerge against the Conservatives
  • coalition led by George Brown and Antoine Aime-Dorion: the Reformer Liberals, to bring about the confederation, but it broke down
  • in the first decade of the Confederation there was no Liberal party, simply a grab-back, united only in their opposition against the MacDonald government which was forced to resign from a scandal
  • 1874 the Liberals led by Mackenzie (not William) argued for a more moral, limited, frugal, government, made up of Ontario liberals (inspired by British liberalism) and the Quebec Rouge, which had moderated themselves to accept federalism and the Canada Firsters, a group of independent nationalists who had criticized Macdonald for the coercive means of consolidating Confederation (including William Blake, former Ontario premier) and the Ministerialists, who supported the government only to be on the government’s side of the house, previously supported Macdonald
  • the Canada Firsters quickly turned on Mackenzie for not doing enough to strengthen and consolidate the new dominion
  • this all prevented emergence of a strong party, no strong cabinet, uncharismatic leader
  • but did enact a number of reforms, e.g. new military college, the Supreme Court of Canada, did away with non-simultaneous elections, the secret ballot
  • took office in 1874 just as an economic recession began, government took a slower pace in building the railway, BC threatened to separate, by 1878 the coalition is turned out of office
  • two years later, Edward Blake succeeds Alan Mackenzie as leader
  • still not a truly national party, still Ontario-oriented, issues still had little attraction outside of Ontario
  • Blake broke with tradition in a couple key areas: tried to break the anti-Catholic, anti-French sentiment and the support for free trade (went closer to Macdonald)…but still was lacklustre 
  • took the leadership of Laurier to forge the factions into a party

The Laurier Liberal Party

  • Laurier was a former Rouge but his views on liberalism had evolved to espouse British liberalism over American liberalism of the Clear Grits
  • reflected in his speech in 1877 that responded that denounced the execution of Louis Riel and came to be seen as a better protector of French Canadiens
  • continuing tough economic times in 1880s weakened support for Macdonald
  • Laurier called for the abandonment of the protectionist tariff and called for free trade, result was the liberal defeat in 1891, for leading Canada into the arms of America, adopted to calling for less restricted trade (ambiguous) and won back power
  • they come to power as economic boom begins, Liberals benefit, emerging trans Canada economy, economic nationalism is the one issue amongst with Canadians will rally around, so the Liberals adopt it as their own, back the construction of two new trans continental railways (in addition to the CN), a liberal business alliance based on urban centres, new immigrants voted for Liberals, the party of state building and national consolidation, also successful because they were increasingly able to count on support from Quebec, shed their anti-French heritage in Ontario, reflected in Mowat’s policies in Ontario to benefits Francos and Catholics in Ontario, also benefited from the decline of the Conservative party’s fortunes, able to attract moderate Quebec Conservatives like Chapleau and Tarte, the party of French-English cooperation
  • the change of government in 1896 was primarily a change of names rather than of policies or leadership styles, the triumph of liberalism in Canadian political culture, whether liberals associate with either party, all of these individuals espoused classical liberalism from Britain adopted to BNA realities, as long as they continued to represent the rural farmers they were no match for the business-minded Conservatives, Mackenzie had failed because he had not granted enough consessions towards this group, only won with agrarian support, switched their support to the Conservatives and brought them back to power (?)

The Two-Party System

  • both parties were ideologically similar, convergence to the centre, as party became more national it was less likely to take a position that would offend a side, gaining power was contingent on appeasing all
  • by dawn of 20th century, a two-party system like America’s, where each party seeks the support of all, a state-building party, a party of national consolidation

Getting the Message Out: Politics in the Early Mass Media

Main Arguments:

  1. The emergence of political parties and the press in Canada were intimately linked. Politicians and parties relied on the partisan press to get their message out, and the partisan press benefited from government and party patronage.
  2. Although close, the party-press relationship was conflict-ridden. (Still is.) While the emerging political parties strove to obtain and maintain newspapers that would be their mouthpieces, this was increasingly problematic as newspapers moved to assert their independence.
  3. Canadian political parties and the press were linked by, and owed their parallel rise to the ideological ascendancy of liberalism, however, the implications of liberalism, especially liberal capitalism (e.g. market forces), contributed to the undoing of the Victorian-era relationship between press and party.



  1. The Party-Press Relationship up to Confederation
  2. The Party-Press Relationship after Confederation
  3. Evaluating the Party-Press Relationship: The Significance of Patronage
  4. Evaluating the Party-Press Relationship: The role of Party Organs
  5. Conclusion 

Up to Confederation

  • by 1858, the province of Canada was served by 20 daily newspapers, 18 tri-weekly newspapers, 15 semi-weekly newspapers, and 156 weekly newspapers (a lot!)
  • the sole medium of mass communication
  • editors frequently found themselves catapulted in political careers
  • politicians frequently found it necessary to become owners of papers
  • how many politicians got their start in journalism? included William Lyon Mackenzie and George Brown (founder of the Toronto Globe, which became the voice of the Clear Grits) and Alexander Mackenzie and Wilfrid Laurier
  • the newspaper provided politicians with political education, organization
  • growing importance that politicians attached to newspaper support is evident in the increasing funds spent on newspapers and printers, 1/5 of government spending in pre-Confederation Canada, an important source of revenue that encouraged close cooperation between the parties and press
  • this accomplished 3 important tasks:
    • created a communication system that could tie together local supporters, keep them informed, essential to party cohesion
    • propaganda instruments, boosting party leaders and their policies
    • endless critique of a party’s opposition, a means to build up and a means to put down

After Confederation

  • partisan papers defined the party line, advertised for the party, and for the emerging party system
  • an uneasy institutional marriage
  • in the mid 1880s, 37 weekly and daily papers went to the PMO
  • schmoozing, flattering, patronage towards the journalists
  • journalists were power brokers, clients and bosses
  • Brenton McNabe claimed his active political work on the Conservatives was integral to his journalistic duties, they were one and the same, one fed the other
  • adopting a party name gave a paper instant readership
  • partisan politics was just another complication that had to be dealt with
  • dominance of the partisan press
  • most centres had both a Liberal and a Conservative paper
  • only 6 newspapers were allegedly independent
  • the strength of the partisan press suggests that 19th century newspapers were the handmaidens of political parties
  • fear and greed
  • but don’t overstate matters
  • the partisan stance of many newspapers was often little more than a marketing strategy
  • there are too many examples of allegedly partisan newspapers of criticizing the parties to whom they were supposedly subordinate to make the claim that they were subordinate

The Significance of Patronage

  • the political operators?
  • newspapers continued to receive subsidization after Confederation
  • parties punished and rewarded their enemies and friends
  • in 1880, an editorial denied that subsidization meant subservience, because the rising operating costs of an urban daily newspapers far exceeded any patronage obtained from the government 
  • in the years that followed, evolution
  • papers service a commercial market and cannot survive on patronage alone, e.g. management important
  • significant patronage only a pipedream 
  • the fact that patronage was declining in the importance in newspapers is seen in the fact that even if the party in power changed, the stripes of the papers didn’t change, they stuck with the original ideology
  • Toronto Mail, a Conservative newspaper, became increasingly assertive, Sir John A. tried to increase funding towards it and then tried to withdraw it but neither technique prevented it from criticizing the Conservatives
  • the emerging highly competitive market conditions outweighed the benefits of patronage
  • checked the practical control that politicians had over papers
  • disappearance of scores of local papers and increase in urban dailies

The Role of Party Organs

  • e.g. The Toronto Globe, which had a unique status in the early Liberal Party by serving as the mouthpiece of the Clear Grits
  • Clear Grits “the party of the newspaper” (shows how great the paper was)
  • e.g. The Montreal Gazette championed the cause of McDonald’s Conservatives
  • Edward Blake went to extreme lengths to preserve the Toronto Tribune with the aim of making it court the Catholic vote in Ontario
  • ensures a party voice during elections
  • in Saskatchewan, the provincial Liberal government of Thomas Scott established a German language paper, the Saskatchewan Courier, to court to Germans (second-largest immigrant group) to the Liberals
  • in Quebec in 1880, Wilfred Laurier established L’Electeur (later Le Soleil) and financially backed it, issued almost daily directions, had control over its editorial policy
  • La Patrie taken over by a Liberal Minister 
  • Le Canada established by the Liberals as a mouthpiece in Quebec
  • La Press established by the Conservatives
  • William Lyon McKenzie King tried to establish a paper in Ottawa but failed, showing that the concept of the party organ (which oversimplifies a complex relationship between parties and press) was over
  • they sponsored newspapers, they gave patronage, they retained control over editorial policies
  • after 1880, only the Toronto Empire was an organ, no other paper in Ontario that filled the profile:
    • in the hands of a few politicians
    • regular and direct intervention in the editorial policy by the party
    • complete financial dependence on the political party

The Undoing 

  • exercising a more independent role
  • resisted by the politicians
  • concept of party organ implies a degree of centralization and resources on the part of the parties that in reality did not exist at this time
  • difficulties that both parties had in maintaining a party organ in the Toronto market, seen in effort to control the Toronto Mail, the Toronto Empire (in course pack)
  • growing ideas of professionalism and the dictates of Liberal capitalism were seriously diminishing the scope and value of partisanship 
  • editors came to resent the image that politicians were subservient
  • result is a deterioration between the Toronto Globe and the Liberal Party
  • Toronto Evening Star (becomes the Star) was to be the new Liberal Party organ
  • efforts by political parties to ensure reliable mouthpieces in the media were in fact declining, costs outweighed benefits
  • the only way that political parties could retain their influence was if that newspaper was not commercially successful (i.e. nobody was reading it and it needed cash)
  • this ran counter to the principle of a party getting involved in a newspaper, it would be pointless if no one was reading it, even if circulation increased, the importance of the funds they were getting declined in the ratio
  • also problematic for the continuation of party organs was the evolution of the newspaper business, the number of dailies had peaked, rising costs of running one, intense competition, urban markets could no longer support multiple papers and small communities could not even support one
  • evolved from being an advantage to a disadvantage
  • papers needed to be non-partisan, if there’s a limited number of readers, you need to broaden your circulation, to remain partisan denied growth
  • also related was an increasing professionalization of the newspaper business, a separation between the journalists
  • as a result, the partisan nature of the Canadian newspaper business began to decline
  • Canada’s political parties did not have the resources to prevent this
  • the leadership of the two political parties was isolated, one less means by which to get their message out, they were now denied a primary vehicle of communication
  • ultimately this disruption of the Victorian era relationship contributed to the organizational weakness of the two national parties
  • it also undermined electoral support, lost the propaganda machine

“Not Won by Prayers Alone”: The Patronage System

  1. It is impossible to understand the emergence, consolidation, and functioning of Canadian political parties without examining the role of patronage. The two national political parties relied on patronage to expand and strengthen their presence throughout the Dominion. In so doing, patronage became an important vehicle of national integration.
  2. The close ties between political parties and the business sector were reflective of the centrality of patronage in helping spread and establish the liberal project in Canada, but also led to a number of scandals.
  3. While patronage served an integrative function in terms of both political parties and Confederation, it also (paradoxically) reinforced parochialism and led to the neglect of crucial issues about the nature and operation of the Confederation project. Increasingly, the patronage system could not be sustained in the face of Canada’s linguistic and regional cleavages, and the country’s socio-economic evolution.

Background and Patronage in BNA

  • what is patronage?
  • e.g. Walpole using appointments to organize core supporters in British parliament
  • Andrew Jackson did away with permanent positions and introduced the concept of turnover to democratize the civil service and avoid entrenched corruption, known as Jacksonian Democracy, contrasts to the Canadian case, lead to the “spoils system” and the emergence of the phrase “to the victor belong the spoils”, allowed Jackson to organize his supporters and reward them with public office appointments
  • in BNA at the heart of responsible government debates, who should control patronage, the transfer of patronage from those who wielded it to those who wanted it, gaining access to the spoils of power, encourage participation in emerging party system, if you want something accomplished (political favour) you have to go to the party in power, a sword of revenge against political opponents, a threat to keep supporters in line, the result was that the spoils system was introduced in the BNA civil service, patronage became the guiding principle of civil service appointments, party loyalty, little concern for efficiency
  • in the 1850s/60s there was no party staying in office long enough to benefit from the potential of patronage

Patronage in the Age of McDonald – National Integration and National Scandals

  • Confederation created a bonanza of patronage
  • every province was going to obtain or retain (ON, QC) its own legislature
  • in addition, a whole new level of government, the national legislation
  • whole new slew of appointments
  • additionally vast new public works projects (to purchase the support of voters), e.g. transcontinental railway
  • Conservative Party was in power first, had access to the spoils of power, could consolidate its position and expand its support, explains why the Conservatives emerged first, Macdonald was a master in the art of patronage
  • after 1867 election, Nova Scotia sent nearly all anti-Confederation MPs to Ottawa, but Macdonald wooed them all, a cabinet seat for Joseph Howe, converted to the Conservative cause and Confederation
  • benefits flow exclusively from loyalty to the Conservative Party
  • people take care of what  takes care of them
  • on the ground, Macdonald’s own riding of Kingston, patronage distributed in bureaucratic fashion, local party workers evaluated and recommended to the MP (Macdonald) for appointment based on service, an employment agency
  • system deliberately excluded outsiders in terms of geography and partisanship
  • patronage given only to local figures who could prove their loyalty
  • operated at all levels: judgeships and other senior appointments
  • Macdonald thought politically neutral civil service was naïve, outdated
  • civil service colonized by the political party
  • Gomery Inquiry: interest of national unity, convergence of interests, scandal and corruption
  • need for money
  • kickback: a company or individual who has received a contract will automatically give back a percentage of the earnings to the party
  • business-political symbiosis, business gain and political profit 
  • at the heart of the emergence and dominance of Liberalism
  • like the press-party relationship, difficult to say who was the patron (boss) and client in the relationship because each side had power over the other, each side had the ability to punish and reward, each side exploited the other’s needs and abilities to advance their own interests
  • The Pacific Scandal, 1872-74: two rival business groups made a bid to build the Canadian Pacific Railway, one from Toronto and one from Montreal, enormous project, Macdonald holds off on a decision until after the election so he could hit up both consortiums for a donation, after 1872 he forced them to conglomerate, Americans were forced out, and in anger made public the details of what had gone on, Conservatives forced out of office and Mackenzie came to power

From Mackenzie to Laurier

  • Mackenzie never understood Macdonald’s patronage
  • a failure as a politician because he was not a good practitioner of the art of patronage
  • e.g. Mackenzie refused to purge the civil service of the Conservative’s appointees
  • as a clear Grit he stood for reform
  • clash between reality and values
  • Mackenzie annoyed and alienated his supporters who did not have access to the spoils of power because he was too honest
  • he occasionally gave into the pressure of party members
  • the result of his ambivalence was that the Liberals failed to establish themselves with a national presence and they lost the next election
  • only under Laurier when the Liberals adopted the same principles as the Conservatives in terms of patronage that they emerged as a national party
  • remarkable similarity between how the system worked under Macdonald and Laurier
  • under Laurier, patronage minister to Quebec (?) Israel Tarte coined the phrase “Elections are not won by prayers alone”
  • use of patronage with economic boom in the West established the party in the West
  • integrate newcomers into the political system, specifically the Liberals, e.g. rural communities in the Prairies
  • patronage system extended to the provinces, e.g Ontario under Mowat

The Civil Service and Reform

  • the Canadian case was the worst of all possible outcomes in a sense: in the US, you have at the heart an aversion to government; and in the UK, patronage appointments increasingly passed to a more independent civil services and it is less of an organizing principle in contrast to emerging ideologies like the rise of the Labour Party; but in Canada you have an active government involved in economic development with two parties without ideological differences driving them, all that remains is patronage
  • the civil service is a stable career, you need ties to a political party to get there
  • reform was a long time coming
  • civil service reform became an issue in the US after the assassination of Garfield by a man disappointed by his lack of patronage appointment, list drafted of civil service jobs whose applicants had to be examined, UK did the same thing
  • Royal Commission investigated civil service three times, drew attention to the evil of patronage and recommended reforms, some were adopted but they were piecemeal and easily bypassed, political parties saw patronage as crucial to their operations and were unwilling to give it up
  • American criticism of the spoil system influenced Canadian thinkers as did the British example especially by Loyalists to the Empire
  • growing pressure also result of scandals
  • in 1907, the Conservative leader Robert Borden presented the Halifax Program which proposed the curtailing and in some cases ending of patronage, he was not a fan of party politics, thought patronage was a distraction, proposed that the civil service be professionalized, examination for civil service posts 
  • Civil Service Amendment Act 1908 adopted by Laurier, more impressive on paper, only a few cosmetic reforms
  • despite Borden’s misgivings, in 1911, he was elected and did not dispose of the tool because party argued it was essential, led to tension within the party
  • did not really end until the War, the War Effort called for efficiency, the patronage system was undermined, the formation of the Union Government in 1917 was a coalition of Conservatives and pro-conscription Liberals, aspired to non-partisanship and the effective war effort, patronage under attack 
  • Union created new rules including sharing the spoils, civil service depoliticized by the Civil Service Act of 1918 which cut the legs out from under patronage, this was the beginning, it curtailed the use of patronage in what had been a wide-open area
  • conversely it helped to increase patronage at the provincial level because there were no reforms made there


  • on the one hand, it helped to create and maintain political stability which was essential for the success of Confederation
  • for a long time it helped parties to attract and remain supporters, solid base
  • consistent with Allan Gordon in the course pack
  • national parties united by patronage used by leaders to run their electoral machines and break down local interests and integrate them into the Canadian system
  • parties were not representative of a region or religion or creed, they expanded to serve all
  • this achievement is somewhat deceiving
  • reciprocal arrangement between politics and business undermines Gordon’s theory
  • entrenched a political culture which was designed to neglect problems of cleavages, it encouraged the persistence of localism in a way, patronage made every local political organization jealous of its territory and suspicious of outsiders, created hard-working local constituency organizations linked to Ottawa but divided outsiders, more interested in their ridings and the patronage dispensed there
  • internal domestic peace
  • avoidance of serious debate on issues that fundamentally divided Canadians like linguistic debates
  • system of buying off support was convenient for politics but not Canada
  • as project of national integration continued, the parties that had used the benefits of the patronage system were increasingly unable to use patronage to mend political cleavages
  • patronage was its greatest strength and its greatest weakness of the post-Confederation party system

Women’s Suffrage

  1. Women as political beings before suffrage
  2. The suffrage campaign
  3. What happened in Quebec

Enfranchisement/Suffrage – the right to vote

Citizenship – rights, responsibilities, obligations, identity

Before Women had the Right to Vote (1880-1940)

  • still considered themselves citizens
  • suffrage debate began in WWI
  • didn’t emerge out of nowhere
  • women were political actors, activists even before they had the formal right to vote
  • an action becomes political if the intention is to use any form of power to govern, shape, reform the society in which you live
  • she studied 12 womyn in Montreal of the upper class (resource-rich)
  • transition was from a very private, enclosed sphere to a much more public sphere while insisting in the rhetoric of the day
  • one discourse was the idea of separate spheres (public and private) in parallel with the idea that men and womyn have different natures and so exist in a particular sphere, e.g. womyn are naturally maternal and moral so they raise the family at home
  • womyn used the maternalist discourse to launch themselves out of the private sphere, said they had talents and natural abilities that men didn’t
  • at this time Canada had urban slums, rising infant mortality…womyn used this argument to argue that womyn were needed to “mother” society
  • we think of it as an equal rights campaign but this was not always the argument used
  • womyn’s involvement in charity in Canada took off in the early to mid 19th century, a religious task, moral, a safe way for womyn to fill their spare time
  • some people are double-dipping, some people are being missed, some people aren’t being helped by it, talk about how to improve the system
  • charity was impulsive and unorganized (giving money on the street) whereas philanthropy was well thought out, got to the root of the problem (matching skills to jobs)
  • 1893: World Fair in Chicago, a model of a modern city, industrialization will lead to great things, for the first time there was a womyn’s pavilion, womyn were involved in all kinds of aspects of the Fair, first meeting of the International Council of Womyn, all female visitors were invited to hear its vision of womyn being a powerful force
  • several Canadians at this meeting went home very fired up
  • coincides with the arrival of a new Governor General whose wife was very powerful and active, went on a trip across Canada, energetic, was the president of the International Council of Womyn, got the National Council of the Womyn of Canada underway
  • the Council was an umbrella organization
  • shows that womyn saw themselves as citizens, as political actors, who wanted to take part in the development of Canadian society
  • a philanthropic organization that became political
  • one problem was how womyn were being treated in the factories, brought to the attention of the Council, which set up a committee to study it by going into the factories and speaking with the womyn and the managers and experts, decided womyn should have a minimum wage, limited hours, should have stools to sit on, etc. but the big idea was womyn factory inspectors 
  • can’t have a bill introduced in parliament
  • strategy: invite MPs to dinner or tea and bring up the issue, organize public events like Harvard experts to speak about the issue, held meetings with premiers, were successful
  • this is a joint anglo-franco effort before WWI, the elite middle class learned both languages
  • they’re gaining political experience and support networks
  • power in numbers

Beginning of the Suffrage Movement

  • boring relative to the British movement, had a different shape, these womyn considered themselves ladies and used logical arguments, politicking, press coverage
  • most of the womyn did not use an equality argument, actually used mostly the maternalist argument, womyn bring different qualities to society
  • the vote was the means to an end, the end being prohibition
  • 1867: property-owning males over the age of 21
  • Toronto Womyn’s Literary Club, 1876, intentionally misleading name, discussion was of how to get the vote, rename themselves the Womyn’s Suffrage Organization and around the turn of the century make their mission known
  • originated in large urban centres, e.g. Montreal and Toronto
  • but the first places to be successful were small towns and rural settings especially in the Prairies where they got the provincial vote early on under Liberal governments
  • some explanations: the Prairies were a place of significant immigration particularly from Nordic countries where womyn already had the right to vote; the frontier mentality, rough living conditions, womyn were in the field working just as hard as the men, sense of equality
  • 1918: womyn get the right to vote in federal elections
  • as nurses, civilians, factory workers, womyn proved their worth in WWI, they were fighting on the home front, did they part, gained a lot of respect
  • PM Borden (the Union government) gave them the vote to pass his conscription policy, starting with expanding the franchise to all those effected by the war, e.g. the wives of men who were fighting or who had fought overseas, female nurses


  • 1791: the Constitutional Act stated that all land-owning persons were allowed to vote, did not exclude womyn, first place where womyn could vote, until 1849 when it became exclusive
  • suffrage movement began in urban centres (Montreal) in contrast to rural Quebec which was more traditional than the rest of Canada, more religious
  • WWI was a difficult period for anglos and francos
  • 1922: really gets underway, 400 womyn meet with Premiere Tashrow (?), but they were dismissed, he had been presented with a church-organized petition the day before which protested enfranchisement
  • St-Jean in 1927 transformed it to a working class phenomenon, made progress in the 30s, until DuPlessis (Union Government), very conservative and traditional, has no time for womyn’s suffrage, gets the Liberals warmed up to the idea
  • 1939: womyn invited to the Liberal convention
  • coincides with start of WWII
  • argument used held that if womyn’s suffrage was endorsed, conscription would pass, and the governments could work together
  • when the Liberals were elected, they granted the right to vote
  • France didn’t grant the right to vote until 1942, after Quebec, French heritage cited as a reason for holding out, in contrast to Britain
  • January 24, 2007

The ‘National’ Question on the Eve of Crisis

Conference – MacKay article, readings for this week

Main Arguments:

  1. Canada’s two post-Confederation national parties owed their success to bridging the regional and cultural differences between Canadians. 
  2. Consistent with the broader international trends of nationalism and imperialism, however, both the Conservatives and the Liberals found it increasingly difficult to bridge Canada’s cleavages.
  3. A series of interrelated disputes throughout the late 19th and early 20th century related to “national integration” and questions regarding Canada’s “national” character undermined the two main political parties and led to the mergence of potential challengers. This was the precursor to the collapse of the post-Confederation party system that would occur during the First World War.

The National Question: Background

  • local and personal ties were at the heart of traditional, rural, agrarian societies but they began to break down in the context of liberalism, capitalism, industrialization
  • nationalism replaced it, sense of belonging to a greater collectivity, in a period of profound social upheaval
  • emerges first culturally: every nation had a distinct language, history, worldview, culture of its own that needed to be preserved
  • lead to political nationalism: every nation should have a sovereign state, the nation would be governed by members of their own, the cultural expression of a people, the key to survival and success
  • e.g. unification of Germany, of Italy, the decline of the Austrian Empire and the Ottoman Empire, Irish nationalism, American nationalism and its Civil War in the 19th century 
  • intense territorial competition reflected in colonialism, done on behalf of the nation
  • Canada desired a separate existence from the States, what was the Canadian nation, two culturally distinct nations living in one state, self determination, nationalism, the concept of a nation-state, how can nations share one state
  • Lafontaine and Baldwin proposed a biracial nation that overcame cultural differences
  • Macdonald said no party could endure without being “French-ified”
  • Chapleau believed that French-Canadien interests would be best served within Confederation, it is necessary to speak with one voice
  • Laurier made the Liberal Party the dominant party in Quebec 
  • keep economic expansion in the forefront of voters’ minds, the one thing that the French and English could agree on, distract the groups from their linguistic and religious differences
  • homogenous parties (one religion, one ethnic group) not developed
  • the political parties bridge the divides, power machines, don’t necessarily stand for anything

The Provincial Rights Question

  • the relationship between federal and provincial
  • system meant to provide part of the answer to the National question: two levels of government, provincial government to take care of cultural issues and federal government to address state issues
  • in practice, questions raised immediately about the power relationship between French and English across the country
  • Macdonald preferred a strong national authority to consolidate Confederation, saw provinces and their bids for power as rivals, his centralizing efforts provoked reactions at the provincial level, reflected in the growing strength of political parties at the provincial level
  • e.g. Ontario Liberal Party, led by Mowat, considered the father of the provincial rights movement
  • in the early years, Conservative Party’s dominance in Quebec kept its national ambitions in check

Worldviews Compared: Imperialism, Anti-Imperialism, Nationalism

  • Canadian Imperialism: centred chiefly in Ontario, advocated reform of Canadian nationalism, goal was independence from the States, best achieved by having strong ties with the British Empire, not in a subordinate status, but as a partnership (equal partners), Canada would be an active contributor to imperial defence and have a saying in the running of the Empire, anglo-centric, Ontario-centric, this ignored French Canada’s desire for autonomy and detest for the Empire
  • Anti-Imperialism: French and English, said imperialism was at odds with nationalism, couldn’t be reconciled, saw the imperialists as a reactionary remnant of colonial-minded individuals, argue that Canadian imperialism could not be reconciled with independence, largely 
  • Nationalisme: French Canadien nationalists, strong commitment to Canada’s defence, Canada was either independent or part of the Empire but not both, concerned about the status and rights of French Canadiens, some were Quebec-centred and some wanted a French presence everywhere, the awareness of being a minority
  • result is a series of disputes between these rivalries

The Northwest Rebellion

  • 1885
  • rhetoric in English Canada, especially from Ontario Imperialists, treated the rebellion as a test of Canada’s nationhood
  • Metis cast as enemies of Canada and its control over the northwest
  • Ottawa’s response (execution of Louis Riel) alienated French Canadiens
  • half of Quebec Conservatives either voted in support of or abstained from a motion put forth that condemned the execution
  • Trudel: “The nation’s duty compels us to break the tradition of the past 20 years”
  • Mercier was a member of the Parti Nationale, an effort to bring together Quebec Conservatives and Quebec Liberals, put the French interest ahead of the party interest, Mercier called for a sacred union between French Canadiens
  • a second Parti Nationale is a provincial party, those who opposed Macdonald’s handling of the Northwest Rebellion, ride a nationalistic wave to victory in the election, in office they were notable because Mercier used it to strongly serve the notion of political autonomy for Quebec, challenge to Ottawa’s authority, but falls from power in 1891 and the Liberals return to power
  • the French Canadien nationalist cause endured, the Northwest Rebellion was the beginning of the end for Conservatives, Liberals increasingly had to seemingly favour autonomy for Quebec
  • the rise of the Parti Nationale is indicative of growing nationalist tensions between the English and French, who has power, who will lead

Linguistic and Religious Rights (pre-1900)

  • Equal Rights Association formed (ironically named)
  • by the 1890s, movements to extinguish French education and linguistic rights outside of Quebec, e.g. Manitoba, Ontario, and New Brunswick
  • Manitoba had been founded on an equal basis, equal government funding for French and English, but migration from southwest Ontario (Clear Grit country) upset the balance, the Liberal government halts funding to Catholic schools
  • Conservative government under pressure to intervene in Manitoba’s government, controversy, accelerated the Conservative Party’s decline in Quebec, helped propel the Liberals into power, able to bridge linguistic/cultural/religious cleavages 
  • Laurier, rather than Ottawa restoring rights, looked at the numbers, pragmatic, provided for instruction and bilingual instruction where the numbers were
  • Laurier Liberals seized power at the height of these French-English tensions, reinforced by the imperialist world views

The Boer War and Rise of the Nationalism

  • imperialist war
  • French Canadiens absolutely opposed
  • English demanded participation
  • Laurier’s government at risk of falling, would be replaced by an Imperialist government
  • how to offend the least amount of people?
  • sent only 1000 soldiers to South Africa, but Ottawa will only pay for the transport and clothing, after that Britain picks up the tab
  • upcoming election
  • trying to preserve national union
  • of course, both sides too it as either “too little” or “too much”
  • Henri Bourassa was a predominant Liberal critic, accused him of caving, setting a precedent for participation in Britain’s colonial wars, he resigns in protest, but it immediately reelected as a national Liberal, an advocate of French Canadien nationalism and a critic of imperialism, a French Liberal
  • Laurier re-elected because they were still a better option than the imperialist Conservatives

Linguistic and Religious Rights (post-1900)

  • League Nationalist established, for provincial autonomy (Quebec’s) and make sure that Canada was truly a partnership between French and English
  • a movement, not a party
  • Bourassa not a big fan of parties (the dictates of party discipline)
  • the League Nationalist supports independent candidates or party candidates who support their ideals 


  • calls for a reconnaissance rather than a synthesis
  • not just particular events, fragments
  • sense of general patterns
  • tracing Liberalism from its inception to Neo-Liberalism
  • Liberalism the dominant ideology by adopting, morphing
  • connect the dots to get an idea of what Canadian Liberalism is
  • the older approach is simplistic, this would be more sophisticated
  • Gramscian concept of “passive revolution”, e.g. Harper’s announcement of funding for alternative fuels 
  • passive revolution vs. the great Canadian compromise as explanation for Confederation
  • Liberalism is mostly about individual rights
  • civic humanism: organic social order, a competing ideology emerging as the ancien regime was collapsing, popular in the UK, US, France, a concept of the relationship between citizen and society recalling ancient approach, e.g. Greece, rather Conservative with Liberal aspects, hierarchical 

The Suffrage Movement

  • the vote not granted out of the goodness of their heart but to preserve the order
  • Liberal ideology reflected in recognizing women as citizens when they are property owners, originally debated in 1867 or thereabout, but shot down because giving women a voice would undermine married women and possibly prevent marriage altogether
  • Quebec argued this should be a provincial decision rather than a federally imposed one
  • motivated by conscription
  • Arthur Meighen’s quote about giving the vote to women and not alien men show what he judged to be grounds for Canadian civil rights, strategic, strict definition of Liberal individual
  • the vote a means to an end
  • political parties as gatekeepers, e.g. Person’s Case
  • women didn’t rush the gate, act as a united force, little discernible change on the ground

Linguistic and Religious Rights (post-1900)

  • The Autonomy Bills established Manitoba and Saskatchewan
  • allowed for separate Catholic schools
  • but Laurier retreated under pressure, new legislation severely curtailed linguistic and religious schools
  • Manitoba School Act 
  • Bourassa, etc. fuelled their nationalist fire
  • pressure that the Western Liberals imposed and that the Nationalists in Quebec imposed shows that the Laurier government had an even more difficult time bridging Canada’s divides
  • Laurier Liberal’s difficulties only grew with international developments

The Naval Debate

  • 1909: Anglo-German rivalry provoked a naval arms crisis
  • New Zealand gives UK cash to buy battleships, Australia decides to build its own navy (take care of its own defence in order to relieve pressure on the Brits)
  • what should Canada do?
  • debate: assist the British, respond to imperialist sentiment, but now in a way that would anger the Nationalists in Quebec or the imperialists
  • Borden supported Laurier establishing Canada’s own navy, but leaving the door open to making an emergency cash contribution to the Brits if needed (Australia and New Zealand combined)
  • but this bipartisan cooperation evaporated…divisions with the parties and country
  • Borden faced severe criticism from Conservative imperialists in Ontario who said that ‘This is an emergency, they need money, they have the expertise, let them build the ships’ whereas Canada’s own navy would be inferior
  • Monk saw both options as entangling Canada in the empire
  • Borden breaks with Laurier, calls for an immediate cash contribution and a Canadian voice in determining imperial defence and as a way to respond to the anti-imperialists says that Canadians should be able to express their voice on the issue, i.e. a referendum before a permanent policy is adopted
  • Naval Service Bill, 1910, controversial by imperialist and linguistic lines
  • English Canada: Laurier’s Navy a betrayal of the imperial cause
  • French Canada: another betrayal of Canada’s self-governance and autonomy, Ottawa doing London’s bidding
  • Bourassa becomes a rival to Laurier’s leadership in French Canada, the pragmatic Laurier to the more doctrine Bourassa 
  • Bourassa founded Le Devoir in 1910, mouthpiece for the Nationalist cause

The Reciprocity Election

  • calls for reciprocity and free trade (Laurier has still not delivered)
  • Liberals go for “restricted reciprocity”: reciprocity in the agriculture sector, but the protectionist tariff to remain in effect for the manufacturing sector, a marrying of the best aspects of the national policy but answering the grievances of rural Canada, America agrees, very popular initially
  • concerns about the rate of North America continental integration, what does this mean for the future, especially the relationship with London, how close is the US
  • unrestricted reciprocity means the American takeover of Canada, trade between Canada and the US (north-south rather than east-west) would reign, national sovereignty undermined
  • “The Toronto 18”: claimed that they previously supported Laurier, had a vested interest in the national policy, declared they were opposed
  • Clifford Sifton bolted from the Liberals 
  • opponents appealed to a higher principle: imperialism, Laurier was depicted as anti-imperialist and therefore anti-Canadian, that by increasing ties with Americans he was threatening Canada’s independence 
  • Summer 1911: Laurier facing opposition, an obstructionist parliament withholding approval of the legislation, he calls an election
  • quickly becomes a referendum on the Liberals foreign policy, growing attacks of reciprocity in English Canada 
  • a crucial alliance between the imperialists and the anti-imperialists
  • Quebec Conservative Party was beginning to detach itself from its federal cousins, tied to a party dominated by imperialists, considered anti French-Canadian
  • an opportunity created because the Quebec Conservatives began to make common cause with the League Nationalist to gain votes in Quebec
  • Borden begins to think of Bourassa as a possible solution, to Borden the thought was that maybe a joint effort between the imperialists and anti-imperialists could challenge the Liberals
  • the Borden Conservatives refused to run candidates again Bourassa’s Nationalists
  • Liberals vs. Nationalists in Quebec
  • Bourassa wanted to cooperate to defeat Laurier and his naval policy, but this did not mean that he wanted Borden’s naval policy, he wanted to be the kingmaker, deny both the Liberals and the Conservatives a majority, use this leverage to bring about the changes it wanted
  • but a Conservative majority is elected, 118 seats, the Nationalists win only 16 seats, far short of the balance of power
  • looks like the torch was just passed back again
  • but really marks the end of the post-Confederation system, Borden achieved victory through his alliances, but not a solid foundation for a governing coalition in the long run, base still in Protestant Imperialist Ontario
  • Conservatives try to pass their emergency cash contribution, 7 Nationalist Conservatives from Quebec saw this as a betrayal of Canadian self-government, Liberals reenergized, block the legislation that the Conservatives try to pass using their majority in the Senate
  • growing strength of French Canadian nationalism
  • on the eve of WWI, two national parties responsible for Confederation, increasingly victims of the efforts that their actions for consolidation had provoked, victims of the question of Canada’s national identity and destiny, neither party in the position to claim that it was capable of bridging them, events overseas about to heighten the significance of the nationalist question (Empire, power relations between French and English) 

especially aspecially 

The Great War and Crisis in Canada’s Political System


  1. Conflict abroad caused conflict at home. The wartime clash between imperialist and anti-imperialist worldviews, and accompanying cultural tensions, had far-reaching consequences for Canada’s political parties.
  2. The Liberal disintegration, the emergence of Union Government, and the results of the 1917 election brought the post-Confederations party system to an end. The relative political stability since 1867, characterized by the lengthy times in power of two inclusive, pragmatic, pan-national parties, disappeared
  3. The triumph of Unionism represented a victory for the imperialist-nationalist vision for Canada; as such, it ultimately contributed to disunity, owing to the marginalization of French Canada, which had long-term implications for Canadian party politics.

Union Sacree? Canadian Politics from War’s Outbreak to 1916

  • Laurier gives his support to the battle cry
  • coming from the leader who had consistently preached ‘limited participation’ 
  • like the Boer War and the Naval Debate, it appeared Canada would enter the war, even Bourassa gave his qualified support
  • the fact that the cause was just (Germans had betrayed Belgium’s neutrality, Britain was in danger); participation was voluntary (Borden promised conscription would not be enacted); the assumption that the war would be short (over by Christmas); the fact that the national unity within the House of Commons was stronger than outside the House (masked divides)
  • “Union Sacree” put to the test, as it became clear that the war would not be over by Christmas, increasing pressure from Britain, massive Canadian casualties, voices of dissent, breaking of bipartisan unity, series of patronage scandals to boot
  • growing concerns about the Conservative Party’s fortunes, beyond declining support in Quebec, increasingly unpopular across the country, by the end of 1916 only in control in Ontario
  • this prompted Borden to propose the extending of parliament, Laurier agrees to one more year, neither of them wanted to go to the electorate during the war, partisanship only increased, the façade that existed in 1914 collapsed

The Collapse of the Union

The Battle over Language

  • renewed questions over the power relationship between French and English over war
  • 1912: Ontario government introduced Regulation 17 which severely curtailed the use of French as the language of instruction within Ontario schools, limited the teaching of French to the first two years of primary school, Franco-Ontarians outraged, violation of the Canadian Constitution, the Nationalists supported the Franco-Ontarians, an attempt of assimilation, marginalization
  • Borden refused a petition that called on Ottawa to disallow this law, said education is a provincial responsibility, the federal government is not going to interfere
  • matter brought before the House of Commons, divided along linguistic lines, French Canadians supported the resolution to veto the law

Conscription and the Liberal Collapse

  • call for 500 000 soldiers from a population of only 8 million 
  • things not looking good for the Allies
  • Americans introduced a draft, put pressure on Borden to do the same, a vital member of the British Empire, but political difficulties like during the Boer War
  • needed Liberal support, Laurier’s support, through the formation of a coalition government that could enact conscription
  • Laurier first rejects the offer on the grounds that by 1917 a Liberal return to power seemed in sight, voters unhappy with the war effort, the one-year extension up, warned that the English population was not fully in favour of conscription anyway, “The voice of Toronto is not the voice of God”
  • Bourassa’s support for the war effort had eroded after Resolution 17
  • James Massey criticized Quebec for its low enlistment rates and questioned its commitment to Canada
  • Laurier does not want to leave the field open to Bourassa, rejects Borden’s offer, asks for the national referendum on the issue, buy him time to build a coalition
  • during the Regulation 17 debate the Liberal caucus had split, the Western Liberals voted with the Conservatives while the rest voted with Laurier (Ontario only barely)
  • John Wilson openly supported the Conservatives, wanted them to become the national party of English Canada, only they could be trusted with the future of the country, the British population was the only true Canadian population, an imperialist, Quebec had forfeited their right to the nation
  • sections of Liberal caucus tired of Laurier’s leadership, argued Canada needed a new liberalism to better respond to industrialization and urbanizaiton, came from Ontario and the West, advocated social programs like old age pensions and employment insurance and womyn’s suffrage and prohibition
  • Laurier feared these new Liberals were trying to impose a new mode on the Liberal Party, trying to marginalize French Canada, undermine the Liberal claim to being a pan-Canadian national party
  • Military Service Act split the Liberals on linguistic lines, the anglos sided with the government overwhelmingly, only 7 supported Laurier’s call for a referendum on conscription
  • result was the Liberals could no longer claim to be a binational party
  • MPs had more power back then, less whipped
  • English supported conscription, French opposed it, beginning to see the breakdown of the system, polarization along ethno-linguistic lines

The Rise of “Unionism”

  • Why did it take so long to form a coalition government?
  • 1. Laurier’s bipartisan pledge, no need for coalition, the parties seemed to agree at the onset of the war
  • 2. Self-interest, the Conservatives are in power for the first time since 1896, don’t want to share the spoils of power, on the other side, Laurier was more charismatic than Borden and believed he would overtake them, the Conservative weakness would allow the Liberals to return to power
  • 3. The scope of the crisis was not large in the early years, the war would be over soon
  • this had all changed by 1917, concern became how to manage the war effort
  • the Ontario caucus of the federal caucus begins to pressure Borden to form a coalition with the “patriotic wing” of the Liberal party
  • John English (historian) describes the establishment of the Union government as the result of the efforts of an English-Canadian nationalizing elite centred from Canada’s urban centres especially Ontario to bind together an increasingly fragmented Canada
  • mid-October 1917: 12 Conservatives, 9 pro-conscription Liberals form the cabinet
  • 1917 election results: essentially a one-party election, Liberals in Quebec, and the Unionists in the other provinces, but the vote was closer than the seat distribution suggests, Quebec returned anti-conscription Liberals and the rest of Canada returned pro-conscription Unionists 
  • Laurier Liberals were now anti-conscription, largely French-run
  • neither party could claim to be “national”
  • Wartime Elections Act disenfranchised thousands of immigrants who would likely have voted Liberal and the enfranchisement of womyn was designed to support conscription
  • Military Voters Act allowed for soldiers to vote in any riding, encouraged to case their ballot in close ridings
  • so the victory goes to the imperialist-nationalist vision of Canada and the Unionist cause
  • it had already come from within, a marriage of convenience

The Disunity of Unity

  • gradual disintegration
  • died with Borden’s resignation
  • new leader tried to keep up the façade by renaming the party the Liberal-Conservatives
  • the national government that Unionism represented ultimately meant the domination by the arrogant majority for too many Canadians
  • Laurier dies in 1919, Bourassa increasingly seen as depassé
  • unity is a pipedream
  • Nationalists increasingly focus on the Quebec nation
  • implications for the two mainline parties
  • Laurier’s anti-conscription meant Quebec would stay Liberal
  • King was seen as a supporter of Laurier, wins the leadership, but party had been reduced in its seats
  • by the time the Union government came to an end not one provincial government was controlled by Conservatives
  • Conservatives identified with the unionist, pro-conscription cause by Quebeckers

Challenging the Establishment? Part 1: A Progressive Response

Main Arguments:

  1. The rise of the Progressives may be understood as the manifestation of a widespread rejection of “politics as usual”, combined with an agrarian reaction, centred especially in (but not limited to) Western Canada, against the national political and economic system build by the Conservatives and Liberals;
  2. The Progressive Party’s greatest strength was in a sense its greatest weakness: its populist, mass-based origins, meant it ultimately failed as a party, due to its divisions among its members over its raison d’etre and its role in the system of Canadian party politics, against which it was reacting;
  3. The legacy of the Progressive Party, however, lived on in terms of encouraging the two traditional parties to be more democratic. Even more significantly, the rejection of “politics as usual” and sectional discontent would re-emerge in the 1930s and beyond in new challengers to the Liberals and Conservatives, confirming the demise of the post-Confederation two-party system.

The “Progressive” Challenge to Party Politics

  • the League Nationalist is an example of a popular mass-based approached, the emergence of extra-parliamentary parties
  • the reaction of groups and individuals against the national establishment, e.g. womyn’s attempt to gain power in the political system and the competition between English and French Canadians
  • understand that this is the product of disillusionment with the existing political order, embodied with the demand for reform
  • American Progressives strongly opposed corruption, called for political reform, believed that the status quo was corrupting democracy, efforts to reduce the power of political machines and party bosses through innovations of direct democracy, e.g. the recall, the initiative, primary elections
  • Canadians saw government as advancing the interests of the party and its friends, not the national cause, inspired by Americans, wanted greater control over their representatives and greater input
  • Canadian Council for Agriculture called for the public ownership of utilities, graduated income taxes, Senate reform, direct democracy, and proportional representation in 1916
  • movement seen in number of independent candidates in Saskatchewan’s provincial election in 1912 which increased threefold
  • NPL wanted representatives to be accountable to their constituents
  • 1913: WJ Rutherford called for a new political party that would make politics “a holy thing” in Canada
  • people disenchanted with the two-party system
  • Canada becoming more urbanizae


  • seen as a bit of an outsider, from Nova Scotia, felt politics as usual was not working, didn’t want to be dominated by the Conservatives
  • reached out to the progressives to build a new coalition, e.g. the suffragists
  • pragmatism, compromise, moral order the new way
  • Union government argued that is embodied all interests, no need for another party
  • John English (historian) argued that Borden saw unionism as more than a political party, it was a political movement, popularly based, to lead to a non-partisan upheaval of the way politics was done
  • promised to abolish patronage

The Agrarian Revolt and Western Discontent

  • the rise of the Progressive Party was also a reaction, a sectional revolt
  • the other part of the explanation for its rise
  • American farmers had revolted, felt that the two parties were not responding to their needs, lead to the establishment of the American Populist Party
  • in the decade after WWI, farmer’s parties established in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, sense that the rural community was being marginalized in rural life
  • politicians of Canada envisioned the West as the hinterland of Toronto and the East as the hinterland of Montreal
  • Western settlers who purchased land from the Canada Northwest Land Company, purchased tools from another company that was also protected by the government, higher costs
  • National Policy tariff 
  • economically subservient condition combined with the precarious conditions of the wheat economy fuelled resentment, Western Canada’s needs ignored, kept in a state of dependence
  • democratic wakeup: settlers arriving in Alberta are predominantly Americans who experienced the agrarian revolt there, Jacksonian Democracy; in Saskatchewan the settlers are predominantly Brits who experienced uprisings; in Manitoba they are south-western Ontarians where the notion of agrarian democracy is well advanced through the Clear Grit ideas
  • this contrasts to the East, which was more Whig-ish
  • Western discontent growing as debt of farmers increasing, the low international price of wheat not increasing as quickly as manufactured goods, Liberals not moving on  reciprocity (which they wanted: free access to the American market and cheaper goods through free trade or freer trade)
  • farmers began to organize, inspired by the American example
  • 1905: first farmer’s grain market established
  • 1911: Western concerns on the national agenda, seemingly, after Laurier toured and saw how angry farmers were, Liberals finally move on reciprocity, but they were subsequently defeated
  • farmer’s influence seen as waning, they are marginalized, central big business dominates
  • this increased during the war, Westerners initially hoped that the Union government would be more national, end patronage, show democracy, the promise that conscription would not be applicable to farmers (food an essential part of the war effort)
  • couple months after election Germans have a breakthrough on the Western front, crisis, Unionist government revokes the exemptions granted to rural Canadians, 1918
  • and still no action on the tariff, if anything it was increased to help the war effort
  • and thousands of farmers had been disenfranchised by the Wartimes Election Act
  • at the end of the war, drought hits the West, especially southern Alberta and at the same time wheat prices collapse, so they are harvesting less wheat and getting less money for it
  • rapid post-war inflation, costs of living and doing business increasing
  • tariff issue takes on even greater resonance
  • “The New National Policy” – calls for free trade with the UK and US
  • Union government caught in the middle, opted to delay any action on the tariff 
  • Thomas A. Crearar, Western Liberal, resigned over it
  • result an emerging third-party challenge

The Farmers United: The Provincial Level

  • rural Ontario furious at the revocation of the conscription exemption and its seeming declining influence in provincial politics
  • UFO established, United Farmers of Ontario, with the United Farm Womyn and United Farm Young People
  • Oct 1919: UFO wins the most seats in Ontario, builds a coalition with labour members, under the leadership of E.C. Drury (from Barrie!?) forms a government
  • United Farmers of Alberta MP wins in a provincial bi-election
  • UF of Manitoba allows its members to organize, win a plurality of seats in the next election
  • Saskatchewan Liberals closely ally with the Sask grain growers association
  • Henry Wise Wood, UFA leader, feared losing control of it, just wanted it to be a pressure group to lobby the parties not a political party itself, but under pressure agrees to run some candidates, groups to elect representatives rather than individuals, e.g. lawyers and farmers elect representatives, only farmers can be elected by the UFA, they sweep to power, but Wood refuses to lead the party, doesn’t want to be personally involved in politics
  • success as provincial level followed by success at the national level

The Emergence of the National Progressive Party

  • Crerar insists it is not a farmer’s party, but for all who desire to see morality, reform, etc.
  • a distinct agrarianism in their policies, e.g. central demand was tariff reform, and easier access to credit for farmers, provincial control over national resources, more services to rural areas, abolition of party discipline and patronage, direct democracy
  • did not campaign as a national party in 1921
  • Liberals and Conservatives in a state of disarray in the West, King tried to pose as a friend of the farmers and accused the Progressives of causing class tension, Conservatives advocated the National Policy
  • in 1921, voters rejected both of the old parties, Conservatives won 50 seats, Liberals formed a minority, the Progressives won 25% of the popular vote and 64 seats to be the second largest party in government, however it was short-lived due to divisions within the new party and its raison etre, was it a party or a popular movement or…
  • the Manitoba wing led by Crerar favoured a pragmatic course of action, saw the Progressives as disbanding once the King government granted some concessions
  • Alberta argued progressivism had to fundamentally challenge the political establishment, break with the past, much more principled/doctrinaire view
  • serious implications
  • they seeded their role as Opposition to the third-place Conservatives
  • did not form a coalition
  • they lost their two best means to directly influence the political process
  • King dismisses the farmers, the progressives as “Liberals in a hurry” and only introduced sufficient concessions to keep himself from being defeated, e.g. reduced the tariff on farm machinery
  • the Conservative Quebec wing totally opposed to forming a coalition with the Progressives, no alliance formed, tricky balance

Progressive Decline

  • party split in 1924 over the question of supporting the Liberal budget
  • pragmatism triumphed: Forke voted against an amendment that would have brought established progressive policy into law in order, King government would have dissolved, Conservatives might have come to power
  • 6 left the caucus to sit as independents
  • no money, no national organization
  • only 24 Progressives (West of Ontario) elected next election
  • Liberal-Progressive alliance to keep Liberals in power
  • 1926: only 9 Progressives left, disappear over the following years as the organized farmer’s protests of the 1920s faded, internal divisions, return of prosperity, some drifted to the Liberals, retired, or sat as independence
  • 1923: UFO fell from power in Ontario
  • UFA out by mid-1930s, the last provincial party
  • 1926 resulted in the return of majority government, marked the completion of the transformation of Canada’s party system that had begun with the Union government
  • Liberals and Conservatives had rallied support, extra parliamentary support, used conventions to elect leaders (small nod to democratic ideal)

Challenging the Liberal Order, part 2 – The CCF and the Left

Main Arguments:

  1. The rise of the CCF followed a long tradition of diverse, but ultimately ineffectual political activism from Canadian labour. It was only the profound dislocation of the Great Depression that led to the emergence of a viable, national left-wing party;
  2. Beyond its socialist aspects, the CCF was a manifestation of the same agrarian populism and sectional resentment that gave rise to the Progressives;
  3. While the CCF presented a national vision challenging the political establishment, its early record was less spectacular than that which the Progressives, or its Prairie rival, the Social Credit Party experienced. Moreover, there were serious questions about how French Canada fit into the CCF’s alternative “national vision”.

Background – The Rise of Organized Labour and Socialism

  • the belief was that legal equality espoused by the Liberals was insufficient without social and economic equality
  • the Communist Manifesto argued that capitalism would collapse
  • rise of a French socialist party in France
  • first Labour MP elected in Scotland (Keir Hardie)
  • 1923: British Labour Party formed the government
  • the rise of socialism and organized labour in Canada resembled the situation in France and Italy: low percentage of organized workers, slow formation of trade unions
  • movement was divided: in Quebec, competition between the TLC and the Catholic movement; Western labour movement was more radical and resented American influence in the TLC
  • tried to form One Big Union, idea was that all workers (skilled or unskilled) would be banned together, like International Workers of the World
  • Trade Unions Congress (TUC)
  • Trade and Labour Congress (TRC)

Economic Upheaval and Labour Activism in Canada

  • after WWI, labour unrest is universal, vicious cycle of economic disruption, hit the European and North American economies in particular, unemployment and inflation
  • e.g. 1918: $1.60 to purchase what $1 purchased in 1913, worker’s wages not keeping pace, standard of living declining
  • 1919: week-long Winnipeg General Strike, set off sympathy strikes, class tension, but some dismissive attitudes
  • radical social gospellers, e.g. Woodsworth and Irvine, thought that church-based social reform was too conservative, not going far enough

Labour: The Political Reaction, 1890s-1930

  • an incentive for labour to enter into electoral politics, built on a lengthy but ineffectual history of labour in politics, e.g. Socialist Party of BC held the balance of power in the BC legislature in 1903, the formation of the Socialist Party of Canada, in Ontario in 1919, 11 labour MPs elected
  • labour unions try to establish party at provincial levels across the country
  • farmer/labour coalition form the opposition in Nova Scotia
  • on the federal stage, 22 Labour candidates in 1917 run, but none elected, poor planning, dominance of the Liberals and Conservatives
  • Canadian Labour Party did not see success, the TLC was accused of being too Conservative by the provinces and in return the TLC thought the provinces were too radical
  • Communist Party founded by radical members of the socialist party, strong tensions between the Communists and CLP, part ways at the end of the 1920s
  • Progressives went on the record to say that they opposed militias to break strikes, but did not support an open alliance with Labour, not in farmer’s interest
  • Woodsworth and Irvine the first labour MPs to not ultimately be absorbed by the Liberals
  • when the Progressives splits part, 6 of its more radical MPs formed the “Ginger Group” which increasingly cooperated with Woodsworth and Irvine
  • coalition between the Labour movement and the UFO did not go well, not much progress in the Ontario legislature 
  • a vital, active Canadian left, but ultimately politically impotent because of their divisions, e.g. a dozen labour and socialist parties in Toronto alone
  • barely survive the 1920s, a blip on the map
  • what was needed was encouragement for unity…which came with the Great Depression
  • seems that the capitalist system is indeed collapsing, no country immune
  • Canada’s radical groups and labour groups worked together to unite the non-Communist left, as already happening in Parliament with Woodsworth, Irvine, and the “Ginger Group”, who became “The Commonwealth Party” in 1922

The Rise of the CCF

  • Conference of Western Labour Parties held in 1929, when they meet again two years later in the Depression, motivated, agreed to form a national labour party, extended an invitation to various farmer’s organizations to join, recognized that labour and farmers were ultimately facing a similar plight, marginalized by the Liberal capitalist system, their joint action was demanded
  • important participants: Gardiner (UOA), Coldwell, Williams, and Tommy Douglas, also the League for Social Reconstruction, an intellectual brain trust of the CCF, a group of left-wing intellectuals, writers. etc. with a Christian background
  • Aug 1932 conference in Calgary brings together the labour movement and the farmer movement, synergy, they agree to federate and form a new movement that will champion the cause of socialism
  • The Co-operate Commonwealth Federation to be a social movement for change, radically change the way Canadian society functioned, challenge the Liberal establishment
  • draft a statement of purpose in 1933 at their first official meeting, The Regina Manifesto, advocates the eradication of capitalism, the peoples to control the state, the state to regulate the economy and provide a wide range of social services, public ownership of all financial establishments and public utilities, aimed to ensure that democracy governed the party rather than the party officers who were to be elected annually, policy conventions
  • hourly pay falling an average of 2/3rds, collapse of international commodity prices, drought in Saskatchewan
  • within 3 years of its founding, CCF the number 2 party in BC, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, with seats in Manitoba and Ontario as well
  • no support in Quebec or Maritimes
  • at the federal level, in 1935 they ran 119 candidates however does not have the same electoral breakthrough as the Progressives or as the provinces, only 9% of the popular vote, elects only 7 MPs in the West
  • yet the CCF the true opposition to King’s Liberals, they are advocating the most radical changes, the Conservatives had just significantly lost the last election and are in disarray
  • success: section 98 of the Criminal Code which allowed the government to arrest and deport immigrants that they deemed a threat to national security scratched (reaction to Winnipeg General Strike)

Evaluating the CCF

  • socialists, as demonstrated in Shawn Mills’ article
  • but in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Sinclair argues that the CCF party was in the populist Prairie tradition (like the Progressives) and consistent with the dominant presence of the middle class
  • CCF not interfering with the primary means of production, the family farm in Saskatchewan, not attacking capitalism per se but those aspects of capitalism that were affecting the farm
  • Dan Horowitz argues that the apparent popularity of socialism in Canada can be contributed to the “Tory touch”, Canada more receptive to the organic view of society, collective aspects
  • but if Canada is so receptive to a collectivist, socialist approach, why didn’t the CCF make more progress at the federal level?

Challenging the Establishment, part 3: Social Credit and the Union Nationale

Main Arguments:

  1. The rise of Alberta’s Social Credit Party and Quebec’s Union Nationale may both be understood as Depression-era reactions against industrial capitalism and the respective political status quo in each province;
  2. While both parties came to power criticizing industrial capitalism and even demonstrated some left-leaning attributes, fundamentally, their concern was not so much to challenge the established liberal order, but to correct it, ensure it endured, and that more radical solutions were not attempted;
  3. Both parties were successful because they responded to Albertans and Quebecers’ search for scapegoats and solutions. However, neither party delivered on the reforms they had promised, and both were quickly revealed to be fundamentally conservative in their governing style.

Background to the Rise of Social Credit

  • as the Depression continued, people searched for alternatives
  • e.g. rise of the right-wing Nazis and Roosevelt’s New Deal
  • Canada not immune
  • Social Credit: 1930s Alberta is overwhelmingly rural, most non-farm employment was still linked in some way to the agricultural economy, Big East business the scapegoat
  • UFA had evolved into a party like any other, increasingly Conservative in its reaction to the Depression, despite being elected on a wave of agrarian discontent a generation earlier
  • socialist nature of CCF appealing, but ultimately Social Credit
  • Social Credit theory developed by C.H. Douglas, rejected social collectivism, promised to cure capitalism through reform, answered why the system could be producing so many goods and yet there was poverty, the “A + B” theorem, the real cause of the Depression was that the real wages being paid to produce goods and services was always less than the total costs of production, i.e. it costs more to produce goods than people were earning to produce them, never enough money in the economy to purchase the goods that the economy was producing, solution Douglas proposed was to make up the difference, the government should provide every consumer with a “social credit”, i.e. an amount of money from the government that could theoretically cover the balance between the goods produced and the paid wages, a very rudimentary form of Keynesian economics, in periods of economic downturn governments should spend money, keep enough money in the economy for it to function
  • Alberta was fertile ground for this theory: UFA personalities had preached Douglas’ theory as part of their larger attack on the economic status quo

Background to the Rise of the Union Nationale

  • Montreal 1933: 1/3rd of the population on relief
  • 1920: agriculture only 1/3rd of the Quebec economy, declining
  • increasing industrialization, development of the natural resource sector
  • increasing foreign capital
  • culture: the social tensions were as cultural as they were economic, increasing industrialization and urbanization meant the marginalization of Francos, scapegoated the Anglos
  • French-Canadien nationalists concentrated on intellectuals, e.g. Lionel Groulx, who said the Depression was the result of foreign capital’s dominance, calls for reform, came from the new social thought in the Catholic Church: a Christian humanism 
  • Programme de Restauration Sociale (PRS): Catholic trade unions, farmer’s organizations, credit unions, patriotic and professional societies, universities, called for fundamental reform, including rural reconstruction (strengthen and extend the agrarian sector especially in northern Quebec); the labour question (protect workers, provide greater economic security for the working class); trust and finance (curb the power of private utilities and other large enterprises like the milk industry); political reforms (elimination of patronage politics, return to ethical politics hahaha) 

The Rise of Social Credit

  • delegates urged the UFA government to examine the Social Credit theory as a method to recover, government drags its heals
  • William Aberhart emerges as the leader of the SC political challenge, called for representatives, had a populist, non-partisan nature
  • each Albertan to receive a monthly government cheque to spend (like Klein!)
  • “All you have to know about Social Credit is that if you vote for it the experts will make it work”
  • effort to correct the weaknesses of liberal capitalism, bring stability
  • rapid rise
  • beyond the attraction of the $25, Albertans attracted to abolishing poverty, and it tapped into Western discontent with the East, the soft-totalitarian nature was attractive, call for charismatic leaders like Aberhart, a great communicator 
  • Aberhart drew a large share of religious community (Christian fundamentalism compatible with Social Credit), harped on his credentials like his Queen’s degree, but maintained a folksy, populist appeal, appeared in warn and patch-up coats, used improper grammar
  • SC’s success attributed to its advanced organizational structure, paralleled the UFA, SC brought together study groups, the “Social Credit League”, makings of a mass political movement, Aberhart and his followers able to convert some UFA organizations to SC, movement becomes a full-fledged party in April 1935
  • hint that what was billed as a reform movement had some reactionary elements, e.g. Aberhart and his lieutenants controlled the party (drew up the platform, vetted the candidates who were selected, preferred small businessmen, only 9 farmers selected to be SC candidates); opposed by the major corporate interests and some businesses (warned of economic disruption, inflationary pressures that would be inherent, government intervention in setting wages)
  • Aug 1935 provincial election, 56/63 seats went to the SoCreds
  • 15/17 elected federally
  • the popular vote disguised divisions within society
  • opted for the quick-fix, the heir to the populist reform tradition (i.e. tax the rich), Aberhart made clear that his reform was preaching reform not revolution, the CCF had not done itself any favours by aligning itself with unpopular UFA elements, getting the votes of angry people

The Rise of the Union Nationale

  • divisions among the Quebec Liberals, young nationalist intellectuals who pressured for social services and curb foreign control
  • Action Liberale Nationale formed (ALN) led by Paul Gouin, the grandson of the Parti Nationale founder, supported the nationalization of Quebec’s private power companies, break the dominance of foreign capital and address the marginalization of French Canadiens
  • to be addressed by a third way
  • new, no electoral experience, no party workers to run campaign
  • open to alliance offers…joined the Quebec Conservative Party, who had been in opposition since 1897, dissociated from the federal party, they too criticized the close ties between the Liberals and Big Business, foreign capital, etc.
  • Maurice Duplessis becomes leader of the Conservatives, as Taschereau’s Liberals faltering, merges with the ALN and other independent nationalists, a significant powerful nationalist party
  • Union Nationale meant Quebec voters presented with platform for significant political, economic, social reform
  • Taschereau’s Liberals recognized the threat too late, got a bare majority in next election, first substantial opposition in years
  • Public Accounts Committee revived under Duplessis, investigate, reveal patronage, government waste, e.g. more than 40 of Taschereau’s relatives employed by the government, and is forced to resign, Godbout takes his place, promises reform (like Martin coming to power)
  • new election in 1936, UN wins 76/90 seats
  • results a protest against an economic system and against political corruption, accompanied by a demand for the reform of Liberal capitalism to allow French Canadiens to regain control over Quebec’s resources

Reactionaries in Reform Clothing: Evaluating the SoCreds and UN

  • Aberhart realizes that Social Credit is impossible to implement
  • Social Credit Act passed, with a number of other measures, to implement the program, affects banking which is under the federal jurisdiction so it is ruled unconstitutional, Ottawa vetos other pieces of SoCred legislation
  • what is the social credit party if there is no social credit?
  • Conservative: from a protest movement preaching radical reform to a conservative, reactionary group that left behind its populist roots
  • Manning claims that SoCred provided Alberta with the most Conservative government
  • similar dynamic in Quebec
  • Duplessis a nationalist but not radical
  • his concern was not social and economic reform
  • but he promises to fight political corruption
  • does not promise specifics
  • in power, UN largely ignored its stated goal of reforming capitalism, becomes a right-wing anti-labour nationalist party, spends money to promote agriculture in northern Quebec, but neglects urban workers and poor in Montreal
  • a good friend of liberal capitalism
  • ALN disillusioned with the conservatism, withdraw their support, many turn to the Liberal fold
  • Duplessis has a free hand to run Quebec, few restrictions on foreign capitalists, attacks on left-wing activism (those preaching reform), few social services
  • once again, a party preaching reform that rose quickly to power on a wave of Depression-era discontent turned out to be a reactionary party that maintains the status quo of the liberal capitalist order

Canadian Politics during the Second World War: From Crisis to Reconstruction

  1. Canada’s party politics leading to and during the Second World War were influenced significantly by the memory of the political crisis that erupted over conscription during the First World War;
  2. Wartime issues, notably conscription, shaped party politics in Quebec, leading to the election of the Liberals in 1939, the advent of the Bloc Populaire in 1942, and ultimately, the return of the Union Nationale;
  3. While the CCF and the Canadian Left appeared poised to make a breakthrough during the war, Canada’s established political parties – notably the Liberals – were able to deflect the challenge by moving to the left, maintaining the dominance of liberalism (and Liberalism) in Canadian party politics.

The Road to War

  • King’s Liberals followed a policy of appeasement, especially Quebec political opinion, mindful of what the last war had done to Canada and the Liberal Party (split), avoid a war, or limit the scope of Canadian participation
  • King relied on his lieutenant (French Canadian) for opinion
  • “Twin mantra”: parliament will decide and no prior commitments
  • Parliament will decide: the government will actually tell parliament what to decide, a stall tactic
  • No prior commitments: isolation sentiment
  • Canada would have to increase its defence spending, this revealed the depth of isolationist sentiment in Quebec, Quebec Liberals broke rank and voted against the party, Western Liberals argued the money should go to social spending
  • Canadian opinion in flux
  • King made a very pro-British speech, seemed to be going towards the imperialist-nationalist view of Canada
  • if the Liberals fall, a Union government likely
  • two months later, following the German occupation of Czechoslovakia
  • two speeches: King frustrated that Canada called upon to fight in Europe every 20 years, Lapoint speaks against conscription
  • “No neutrality, no conscription” pact
  • Canadian parliament declares war after Britain, only four MPs opposed, one of which was the CCF leader Woodsworth, at odds with the majority of his party, Nazi aggression had to be addressed, CCF previously pacifist, Woodsworth stands alone, a bit of a split, he resigns as leader and Coldwell takes over
  • the scope of its participation had to be decided, King wanted to avoid an all-out war effort (Borden’s all or nothing approach), preferred a limited liability approach

Conscription Crisis, part 1

  • French Canadians had accepted entry into the war on the grounds that conscription would not be enacted, but young French Canadians actually flocked to the recruiting offices, motivation of employment after the Depression
  • Duplessis tries to revive nationalist fears, federal ministers intervene in the Quebec provincial election, promises that so long as the Liberals are in power in Ottawa there will be no conscription, Union Nationale are defeated, Liberals come back to power
  • King’s luck continues into the new year
  • Jan 1940 the Ontario legislation passes legislation that criticizes Ottawa’s limited liability 
  • Manion (Conservative leader after Bennett), certain level of non-partisanship, Parliament not sitting as this time, assured by King that there would be no election until after parliament had met in Jan 1940, keeps his word, but calls a snap election after one day
  • Manion was anti-conscription 
  • Liberals win election, Manion loses his own seat and resigns, by Jun most of Europe has fallen, it appears Britain is on the verge of being invaded, limited liability collapses
  • a second Canadian division sent oversees 
  • calls for conscriptions begin
  • National Resources Mobilization Act: introduces conscription but just for domestic service
  • some Liberal members express misgivings about this trend, but King assures them there will not be oversees conscription, still generally accepted in Quebec, but the role of ministers like Lapointe was crucial
  • pressure grows, Minister of Defence pushes for it
  • Meighen returns to leadership of the Conservatives, calls for conscription and a Union government, like WWI
  • Lapointe dies, King loses this support/opinion 
  • spread of the war to the Pacific, West Coast concerns, increasing pressures all over
  • 1942 culmination: King announces a plebiscite, asking Canadians to release the government from its pledge, Quebec is generally opposed, evidenced by the emergence of the pressure group Ligue pour la defense du Canada, country splits along linguistic lines, profound division, King declares “Conscription if necessary but not necessarily conscription”, NRMA revised to permit overseas conscription but not require it, debate causes serious splits in cabinet and caucus, bill passes, government supplies, Liberals stay united and in power
  • conscription issue continued to have reverberations in Quebec politics

Rise of the Bloc Populaire Canadien

  • to defend French Canada’s interests, seen as losing its autonomy, especially given close relationship between federal and provincial Liberals
  • advocates Canadian neutrality, independence from Britain
  • led by Maxime Raymond at the federal level and Laurendeau at the provincial level
  • emerges in the wake of the plebiscite
  • 5 MPs in parliament, but disappears from the federal scene by the end of the 1940s
  • power struggle between its younger and older members
  • takes votes away from the Liberals at the provincial level and UN return to power
  • significance in history lies in fact that it was indicative of the socio-cultural transformation and the evolution of French Canadian nationalism
  • 1944 defeat and the return of Duplessis occurred just before the conscription issue re-erupted as a crisis

Conscription Crisis, part 2

  • King stated in Fall 1944 that overseas conscription would not be enacted
  • but Canadian forces facing a reinforcement conscription, not enough volunteers, men being killed
  • Liberals divided along linguistic lines
  • King suspects there is a plot against him to get his job, he fires his Minister of Defence to reduce the pressure, brings in McNaughton, but he quickly begins suggesting overseas conscription as well, mentions that if it is not enacted King will be faced with wholesale resignations from the military, a revolt, as threatened the English Canadian MPs
  • looks like parliament heading towards rupture, division of First War, but does not play out, King able to retain the support of his Quebec MPs due in large measure to the threat of a Union government, King gives a powerful speech in parliament addressed to his own party
  • Conservatives use this opportunity to demand more conscripts, strategy is that if the Liberals bow to the pressure they will alienate Quebeckers and if they don’t they will alienate the Anglos
  • unfortunately for the Conservatives the war ends just before the 1945 election and the Conservatives call for conscripts to fight in the planned invasion of Japan, serious mistake, English Canadians not emotionally connected to this war
  • Liberals share of the popular vote declines 5-10% but still hold on to their majority
  • Conservatives get less than 30% of popular vote, 66 seats

The Centre Can Hold: The Left Challenge and Establishment Response

  • Liberal economic strategy after the war influenced by classical liberalism
  • 1930s priority was a balanced budget and resisting federal responsibility for social welfare (that’s provincial jurisdiction)
  • King refers the Bennett New Deal to the Supreme Court, wants the court to rule the legislation unconstitutional, the JCPC has the final word, obliges him, it infringes on provincial power
  • King appoints a commission to examine two things: the economic basis of Confederation (financial relationship between the levels) and the power relationship (distribution of powers between the levels)
  • Relief Act, 1936, cuts the level of grants in aid to the provinces in order to balance the federal government, the relief camps are closed, King Liberals concerned that they were breeding discontent and dependency and radicalism
  • Liberals create a National Employment Commission to examine the unemployment problem, to King’s horror it recommends a Keynesian response, some deliberate deficit spending in 1938, but really King not breaking with classical liberalism, a result of cabinet pressure, throws a bone, some public works, would take the war to change this
  • money spent during the war that wasn’t spent during the Depression, a wartime economic boom, seems to support government intervention can ensure prosperity and social security, seems to support Keynesian economics, pressure on King
  • Ottawa should have constitutional and taxation powers to create a welfare state, King resisted, but did adopt unemployment insurance to prevent agitation 
  • it was the challenge from the left that moved the Liberals away from liberal economics
  • socialism received its greatest support when prosperity returned, those enjoying prosperity more generous, wanted it to continue
  • radical movements come when expectations rising
  • CCF becomes a major political force in the 1940s, e.g. Arthur Meon loses his seat to the CCF candidate, to the West of Ontario for the first time
  • CCF forms a minority government in Ontario, polls find it the most popular party in the country, under Tommy Douglas elected in Saskatchewan as the first avowedly socialist party in North America 
  • provokes the transformation of Canadian parties
  • Meon resigns, wants a leader that can sweep the West
  • discussions in Port Hope in Sept 1942, The Port Hopefulls, Conservative party talks about adopting social welfare legislation like medical insurance, adopt the Port Hope agenda
  • name changed to Progressive Conservatives under new leader
  • as for the Liberals, the CCF challenge, shift to the left, espouse reform liberalism: continuation of free market but responds to demands for full employment and social welfare, endorse the report on social security for Canada, want to prevent socialism, different from the CCF agenda, e.g. no endorsement of public ownership or a maximum income, a baby bonus introduced, popular in Quebec where birth rate high and support low, King ensured that the first baby bonus cheques would not arrive until after the next election in 1945, incentive

The Nationalist Impulse in Canadian Party Politics in the 1960s

Main Arguments:

  1. The rise and fall of the Progressive Conservatives led by Diefenbaker may be interpreted as the manifestation of a growing nationalist reaction in Canadian political life of post-1945 international trends and their implications for Canada, notably in terms of relations with the US;
  2. Returned to power in 1963, Liberal Party fortunes were also linked closely to this nationalist reaction playing out in Canadian political life;
  3. The impact of nationalism on Canadian party politics was not limited ot the federal level; in addition to responding to these same post-war international conditions, there was a growing reaction in Quebec to Canada’s internal political dynamic. This response would have a major effect on party politics on both the Quebec and federal political stage.

The Growing Nationalist Concerns about Canada-US Relations

  • the forces of globalization (economic interdependence, cultural exchanges) undermining state sovereignty and its ability to respond effectively to transnational issues
  • Canadian policy shaped by this evolution
  • one of the chief reasons for the post-war economic boom was the strengthening of ties between corporate Canada and corporate America
  • Ottawa was in debt because of the war years, reliant on American capital
  • Americans could ensure economic boom continued
  • the international economic order that fell apart in the war began to be reconstituted under the preponderance of American economic power (multi-lateral trade, communication and transportation advances, economic interdependence)
  • in the two decades after the war the value of foreign trade grew exponentially, rose largely from the spread of MNCs
  • Huntington: “ushered in the American Empire”
  • the older post-Confederation east-west economy (Canada and Europe) was increasingly oriented within North America
  • the PCs embraced this growing economic integration, the CFF even supportive, a means to fund the welfare state
  • growing concerns in the 1950s about the implications for Canadian sovereignty, culture
  • the opposition parties take a closer look at Ottawa’s foreign investment policies, Liberals are compromising the Canadian national interest, trading its long-term economic development for short-term political advantage
  • Liberals hold a public inquiry on the issue, the Gordon Commission released its report in 1957, foreign investment in and of itself not a good thing, opposition parties put Liberals on the defensive, Gordon Report was a watershed in Canadian life, it legitimated concerns about American influence in the country
  • new project: construction of a national pipe line, growing American influence in the project, the PCs and CCF criticize the Liberals for selling out to the Americas, this debate combines with the Suez Crisis
  • Liberals accused of siding with the Americans against Canada’s two mother countries, Britain and France intervene, and Canada seems to side with America by engaging in UN peace talks instead (oh fuck off)  

The Rise and Fall of the Diefenbaker Reaction

  • connection between the fact that Diefenbaker was capitalizing on this sense of marginalization and the larger political sense generally shared by Canadians that Canada as a whole was becoming marginalized, a periphery of the American Empire
  • Tories call for a reduction in Canadian dependence and a revitalization with the UK and the Commonwealth
  • Diefenbaker: “Create a new sense of national purpose and national destiny” (challenges the Liberal continentalism)
  • Canadian electorate agrees, they want a country developed by themselves according to their own destiny, a nationalist reaction to transnationalism
  • in office, the PCs have a difficult time realizing this vision, stemming the tide of transnationalism and globalization
  • D’s nationalism was trumped by his anti-Communism (means that Canada-US defence relations are going to continue) and his commitment to private enterprise (liberal capitalism) 
  • in the military sector, the adoption of NORAD and the development of the Development Production and Sharing Program (enables companies within Canada to bid on equal terms with American firms within the military industrial complex)
  • in the economic sphere, D promises to divert 15% of its American imports to British imports, diversify, but this never happens, Canada committed to multi-lateral trade, government intervention frowned upon, D does not rise to the debate that Britain and Canada should establish a free trade agreement
  • tension between D nationalist reaction and North American integration demonstrated most dramatically when Ottawa requested to accept American nuclear warheads on Canadian soil, seems to have agreed, but Kennedy and D had a poor relationship, growing pressure to clarify, and ultimately the issue is resolved in 1963 when there is a cabinet revolt (Minister of Defence resigns) and the government falls
  • the election is about the growing nationalist reaction, Canada’s place in the world
  • Pearson under fire for flip-flopping on the issue of the nuclear warheads
  • D tries to portray himself as the defender of Canadian independence
  • the first election in Canadian political history in which a dramatic appeal to nationalism (anti-Americanism) did not carry the day 
  • Liberals come to power
  • Grant sees this as the death of Canadian nationalism, an independent Canada (see course reading)

The Nationalist Element in Canadian Party Politics, post-1963

  • the continentalist version seemed to have carried the day, but nationalist sentiment continued, e.g. new Canadian flag
  • the dispute over which vision of Canada was going to prevail: Anglo-British (D) or North American
  • divisions between the Liberals and Conservatives over the flag
  • Liberals lured Walter Gordon (of the report) into their fold, had him run, Pearson endorsed the economic-nationalism that he supported, Gordon appointed Finance Minister, Liberals appear to be embracing economic-nationalism, but their embrace was not off to a good start when Gordon delivered a budget that reflected the strength of Canadian nationalism, e.g. designed to discourage foreign investment by implementing a “takeover tax” for example which added a charge for foreign firms purchasing Canadian firms and the taxes on dividends, reward for Canadian-owned companies
  • this economic nationalism provokes a negative response from the business community on both sides of the border
  • not implemented
  • Gordon calls for Canada to oppose the escalation of fighting in Vietnam, was not authorized to do so, outrage from Pearson and Paul Martin
  • Merchant-Heeney Report calls for Canada to work out its differences with America through private diplomacy
  • Pearson distances himself from this report, acknowledging the strength of Canadian nationalism
  • nationalist wing led by Gordon; continentalism led by Sharp (Foreign Affairs)
  • Watkins Task Force, report released in 1968, economic nationalist, shapes the discourse in the 1970s and beyond (implications for the Trudeau era to be discussed), as such Gordon created a new generation of leaders and the nationalist cause, a bridge between imperialist nationalism and the more recent economic nationalism, with an Anti-American threat running through

The Nationalist Response in Quebec Politics (pre-1960)

  • the elaboration of the Canadian national state provoked a response from Quebec (nationalist) reflected in the evolution of party politics within the province
  • rising from the wartime experience, moving towards a more technocratic state
  • at the federal level the Liberals favouring a welfare state from coast to coast to maintain peacetime prosperity, a new federalism, grants to universities, social programs
  • drew attention to the nature of the BNA and the division of Canada (power relationship, power balance)
  • an early reaction on the Quebec stage was the Bloc Populaire Canadienne, the Bloc was an attempt to elaborate an alternative to a federally-dominated welfare state, saw this as the thin edge of the wedge, first stage of Canada ultimately moving towards a unitary stage, implying the loss of Quebec’s autonomy
  • Bloc argued Canada was a political construct, needed a clear division of powers guaranteed
  • on one hand a more secular, urban, liberal Quebec nationalism and on the other a more Catholic, rural, Conservative Quebec nationalism
  • they argued that a strong Quebec state was needed to overcome this challenge to French survival, a powerful centralizing Anglophone welfare state administered by Ottawa (boo hoo) that would not take into account the needs and values of French society and therefore undermine it
  • Quebec should not be forced to choose between these, should be able to have both, in the form of a Quebec welfare state
  • the Bloc Populaire can be seen as a transitional party between the Union National and the more modern, secular nationalism of the Bloc Quebecois
  • because of these conflicting currents within it, the Bloc fails
  • main nationalist response articulated by Maurice Duplessis (Union National)

Note on Bryden Article:
Liberal Party Dynamics and the Achievement of Medicare, 1965

  • These great accomplishments occurred in spite of, not because of, Pearson
  • As an opposition party, the Liberals were more left-leaning (e.g. progressive social policies) than they were when elected (with Pearson at the helm in 63 and 65)
  • There were positive federal-provincial health-insurance discussions going on in 1965 that alarmed the Conservatives, with July 1 1967 the “realistic target date” for starting a national health-insurance scheme (oh, and the Centennial) 
  • Alberta represented a problem, Premier Ernest Manning objected to an arbitrarily universal scheme that limits freedom of choice
  • But social policies (or policy issues of any kind) did not play a major role in the 1965 election, in fact of more significance were scandals that had plagued the Liberals since gaining office, and the outcome was just two more Liberals, two seats shy of a majority government
  • The party moved to the right, Gordon resigned, and the Toronto Star commented: “The man Pearson chooses to fill the key post of Minister of Finance will largely determine whether the country’s economic resources will continue to be directed towards social reform and economic independence.” Sharp’s appointment caused some serious doubts over the future of medicare.
  • Hesitation clouded 1966, with fretting about the cost and priority of medicare and a one-year delay was announced, this was okay with the provinces, they were reluctant to commit themselves, costs, and the blame on federal shoulders was to their advantage
  • Sharp met with the provincial finance ministers, Quebec proposed the implementation of a national health insurance “gradually”, Sharp started to warm to this idea, Ottawa looked unwilling to discuss if it stuck to its own criteria
  • E.g.: Robarts stated that Ontario would not participate in the national medicare plan because “under present economic conditions Canada cannot afford the ‘universal’ scheme” and because his government was philosophically opposed to the idea of a compulsory plan.
  • Cabinet decided to go ahead with medicare for July 1, 1968, why it did not delay is unknown, as the PM appeared to have believed that all the provinces should be brought in at once even at the expense of some of the previously stated national criteria (so who was on board!!??)

“Lament for a Nation”

  • Canada sold out to economics and sacrificed its identity
  • fighting against globalization, not fighting for Canada
  • so when was the glory period?
  • Grant looks at French Canada as the only true culture, an example of nationalism, in contrast to Canada, the traditional nationalist tendencies
  • use of paternalistic language, the Liberals have taught the masses to accept the inevitability of this wave
  • we value of standard of living more than our autonomy
  • narrow definition of nationalism as economic

“Pearson and Health Care”

  • the Kingston Conference: start of a new direction, party renewal, after defeat
  • move to the left, reaction against the newly forming NDP, shift towards intervention
  • reaction from the top was negative, hesitant
  • the grassroots intelligentsia gaining strength and influence
  • the ensuing Liberal Rally reinforced the Kingston Conference, showed that the party had in fact lost touch with party members, the new leftist direction was affirmed

Politics in an Age of (Quiet) Revolution

Main Arguments:

  1. The Quiet Revolution – and its implications for party politics on both the Quebec and federal political stages, may be understood as part of the nationalist reaction to post-war international trends that we began exploring last class;
  2. The endurance of the “national question” and the ascendancy of neo-nationalism in Quebec political life led to a fundamental realignment of the party system in Quebec that included the decline of the Union Nationale, the Quebec Liberals taking a more nationalist stance, and the rise of the Parti Quebecois.
  3. The realignment on the Quebec political stage had implications for the federal political parties. The PCs under Diefenbaker were slow to respond to the implications of the QR; the Pearson Liberals were more conciliatory, but limited in their margins of manoeuvre owing to their minority situation. Ultimately, the QR and growing questions over Canada’s future provoked changes in the leadership of both of the main parties.

Background to the QR

  • stability and stagnancy at the federal level paralleled by stability and stagnancy at the provincial level in Quebec, Union Nationale in power from 44-60, autonomy still a pursuit
  • traditional nationalists argued that French Canada’s autonomy could be ensured if there was a return to pre-war federalism and provincial jurisdiction was respected
  • as Duplessis battled the “new federalism” of the 1950s trying to win back the provincial powers that Ottawa had tried to take over (e.g. taxation) there was concern rising among neo-nationalists who felt that Duplessis and the UN only had half the equation: yes, Quebec autonomy had to be protected, but at the same time the UN government was not doing enough to build up Quebec City so that Quebeckers could run the welfare state
  • neo-nationalists further concerned about foreign economic presence in Quebec
  • we need a dynamic, interventionist Quebec state, ensure that Francophones will be present in the private sector, the social and cultural institutions to ensure national survival
  • a homogenizing effect as Quebec increasingly integrated into the global economy… assimilation?
  • in response, the Tremblant Commission appointed, to examine the nature of Quebec’s relations with the rest of Canada, Commission’s report influenced heavily by the neo-nationalist position
  • political dominance of the UN at this time meant that the recommendations of the Commission, the appeals of neo-nationalists, increasingly fell on deaf ears, no action
  • UN able to perfect its formula for political success: it had no official membership, no internal mechanism for consultation or decision-making, consisted of elected members, defeated candidates, and their local organizations (which distributed patronage), so fairly decentralized on one hand, but power was highly concentrated
  • UN the classic case of a traditional party that became warn out from spending too many years in power, appropriate organization for the first half of the 20th century, but no longer, left vulnerable by neo-nationalist attacks
  • Paul Sauvé replaced Duplessis when he died, credited with getting the beginnings of the QR underway, but he died too
  • UN divided, weakened, under the leadership of Antonio Barrette, weakened within
  • opened an opportunity for the Quebec Liberals, the perennial opposition party, had a hard time staking out a Quebec-centric position, led by Godbout and Lapalme, portrayed as federal vassals, under their control
  • 1955: Quebec Liberal Federation established, the first specifically Quebec-structure that the Liberals had, suggests growing strength of nationalism in politics, the furthest that any Quebec Party had ever gone in terms of internal democracy, this re-organization helped the Liberals build support beyond their traditional ways, able to win an increasing proportion of the working class vote, also able to establish a stronger presence in the rural regions
  • Laplame eventually forced to resign, becomes House Leader, also given the task of developing a new platform, happens to be inspired by the Tremblay report
  • Lésage becomes the new leader, a former federal cabinet minister under St-Laurent, goes about building his “team of thunder”, including Rene Lévesque, determined to make the Liberals the rallying point for the anti-UN, the anti-Duplessis
  • now espousing the neo-nationalist ideal, campaigned on the slogan “It’s time for a change”, they win in 1960, but very narrow majority, efforts of the Quebec Liberals to increase their share of the rural seats to be credited
  • Quebec government grows exponentially, 6 new ministers, 8 public enterprises, including Hydro-Quebec, 
  • election called, hope to consolidate their position over the UN, “Masters of our own house” slogan, increase their seat count to 63, QR seems to be progressing quite nicely
  • before 1957, there was no distinct Quebec Liberal Party that was a member of the national Liberal federation, no distinct entity, instead the Quebec lieutenants overlooked affairs in Quebec, as the Lésage Liberals adopt a more federalist position problems were created, Quebec Liberals torn between the federal and provincial level
  • formal split between the two parties suggested, Lésage wanted to be dissociated from his federal cousins, the feds were concerned about the amount of power Lésage had, ability to dominate both Quebec and Federal Liberal parties
  • tensions paralleled amongst the Liberal members themselves, e.g. Lévesque, Aquin, and Gérin-Lajoie, who take a more assertive nationalist stance
  • results of the QR do not seem to be panning out as quickly as voters would like
  • growing reaction to the QR and to the Liberals was the UN, trying to work out of opposition, they had been significantly discredited by the results of the Salvas Commission (Duplessis and corruption scandal)

The Return and Decline of the UN

  • Daniel Johnson elected as new UN leader, seen as a triumph of the old party, but some attempts to modernize its structure and policy, e.g. holds first-ever policy convention in 1965, clear that it is shifting towards a more neo-nationalist tradition, rise in the party of younger members to leadership positions
  • the problems that arise from a first-past-the-post position, loss of Liberal support in 1966 election, partially to new independent nationalist parties, the UN wins a majority government but they do this with less votes than the Liberals had received in the election, the UN able to form the government with less than the share of the popular vote than they had received in 60 or 62, bizarre
  • UN promised a new relationship between Quebec and the rest of Canada, debate takes on a new intensity following the UN’s election, had divisions between its more federalist wing and its more nationalist wing, like the Liberals, ambiguity in Johnson’s “Equality or Independence”
  • after Johnson’s death, power struggle between nationalist and federalist wings, new leader is weak, not much confidence from party, party also weakened by student protests, growing labour strikes, increasing violence from the FLQ, controversy over linguistic rights in the late 1960s
  • the decline of the UN paralleled by the rise of the Parti Quebecois

The Rise of the PQ

  • RIN founded as a movement in 1960, transformed into a political party in 1963, drew conditions between the Quebecois and the decolonization of the third world countries
  • Ralliement National, group of dissident Social Credits
  • Quebec Liberal Party, group of more reform-minded Liberals discussing new direction, “Where do we go from here?”, during this meeting Levesque begins to talk about what will become known as sovereignty-association, nationalist pride, also holds that it would be more effective to end the federal-provincial fighting
  • Oct 1967: Levesque’s resolution defeated, walks out of party’s policy convention with a few supporters, a month later form the Movement Soverginete Association, a more independence-minded association, early fight over the language question (Levesque was moderate, conciliatory, anglo rights had to be protected and guaranteed, reflected pragmatism, a mainstream alternative)
  • some talks of a formal merger between the RIN and MSA but not fruitful, a coalition, individual members join the new Parti Quebecois
  • ambiguity of sovereignty-association vs. new party’s diverse, intellectual membership led by the charismatic Levesque, able to front an early challenge to the two major parties
  • four major parties contesting election for first time: Liberals shied away from any aura of separatism, Bourassa proposes profitable federalism (economic development and jobs), UN had not really redefined itself but pushing for special constitutional status, the Ralliement Creditiste a right-wing social credit party
  • electorate divided, number of contenders, first-past-the-post produces interesting result, Liberals win a comfortable majority, the Creditiste have regionally concentrated supported and win 12 seats with 11% of the vote, the UN formed the official opposition but support declining, relative success of the PQ, Levesque is defeated in this election, PQ only win 7 seats, but 23% of the popular vote, more than the UN or the Ralliement Creditiste
  • a polarization of Quebec politics over the issue of sovereignty
  • outcome interpreted as a triumph of federalism in English Canada, but they were a source of bitter resentment, the October Crisis occurs only a few months later, even though there is a strong, popular party advocating separatism the system is stacked against it, sense that democracy is not working, it is preventing the Quebecois from practicing their right to self-determination

Federal Repercussions:

  1. The Diefenbaker-Pearson Era
  • “Win Without Quebec” strategy adopted by the PCs
  • PCs rely on the UN to organize on the ground
  • Diefenbaker willing to offer only symbolic gestures, e.g. adopting federal bilingual checks
  • PCs could not consolidate, their support in Quebec in 1962 collapses
  • reflecting the alienation of Quebec voters from both parties, Caouette and the Ralliement Creditiste comes out of nowhere to win 1/3 of the federal seats, a reflection of the nationalist response to globalization, a right-wing protest, Cauoette an evangelical nationalist, appealed to the little guy in the rural region
  • Tories only able to retain office in 1962 because the Credistic success was so large that it reduced potential for Liberal gains
  • three consecutive minority governments at the federal level
  • Pearson not regarded as strong enough
  1. New Realities, New Leaders

Politics in an Age of ‘Liberation’

Main Arguments:

  1. It was only in the 1960s and the advent of second wave feminism that women began to win a more prominent place in political parties and in Canadian political life;
  2. A theme running through the various manifestations of the feminist movement in Canada has been ambivalence toward party politics. This has arisen from the dilemma over whether it makes more strategic sense in pursuing the feminist agenda to engage in partisan politics or to maintain a distance from the established political order.
  3. In general terms, the pattern that prevailed from the feminist mobilization of the 1970s onwards was one of accommodation. The three parties vary somewhat in their commitment to the numeric and substantive representation of women, but all three actively tried to accommodate (up to a point) the feminist movement.
  • Women and Political Parties, 1917-1960s
  • The Rise of Second Wave Feminism
  • The Feminist Challenge and the Parties Respond

“The Liberal Order Framework” – the notion that the established socio-economic order will adapt in order to retain its grip on power.

Canadian Feminism

  • has always had an ambivalent relationship with political parties
  • called for an opening, for a response
  • on the other hand, feminists have mistrusted parties, elitist organizations, at their most extreme are antithetical to women’s interests and responding to the feminist agenda
  • early Canadian suffragism was part of a broader progressive challenge to the traditional party system, politics as usual, and this immediately gave rise to a fundamental dilemma
  • early feminist groups attracted to a position separate from the parties, guarantee autonomy, not be co-opted, maintain idealism and ideological purity
  • on the other hand, also drawn to more active participation in party politics, by engaging in the established order, perhaps the feminist agenda could be achieved more effectively
  • tension between independence and partisanship, principle and pragmatism, within or outside the system
  • this dilemma has shaped the relationship between women and political parties ever since
  • initially, the extension of the franchise to women has little impact, especially within party ranks, feminists and enfranchised women split along the same political and class lines as men
  • an attempt to establish a National Women’s Party but it failed, derided, too elitist, urban, Conservative, pro-war, anti-labour
  • an exception to the “limited gains” rule was the New Era League (NEL) which had close ties to the BC-Liberals, Mary Ellen Smith appointed to the cabinet, first woman in the entire British Empire to occupy a cabinet position
  • another important achievement was the Persons Case, led by Judge Emily Murphy, two-year legal challenge to have women recognized as “persons” and enable them to sit in the Senate
  • also significant is the fact that Quebec feminists won the provincial vote
  • but the experiences of, for example, Agnes Macphail, was limited, like the suffrage movement itself she rejected conventional partisanship, established her political career outside of the party system, on the margins, was a member of the Progressives then the CCF, this limits her impact, not in the ranks
  • level of female participation limited by the same socio-economic conditions that marginalized women in society at large (economic independence, relatively low level of higher education, social pressures regarding marriage and childbearing, and traditional norms that dictate females were unfit for political office)
  • none of the “Famous Five” appointed to the Senate, seen as feminists, King Liberals appoint Cairine Wilson who was seen as more moderate
  • those females elected to the Senate at this time were largely replacing male family members, name recognition, keeping the seat warm for a husband or father, nearly half of the 17 women elected were in this position between 1921 and…?
  • women clustered at the municipal level, attributed to costs (less costly election campaign), manageable travel (close to home), and weaker power (political parties don’t wield the same influence)
  • attempts to remedy the situation at the federal level, e.g. establishment of the Women’s Joint Committee, women to obtain more power within the parties, but weakened because of perception that it leaned too far left, strongly pushed for accessible birth control and for equal pay, and female leadership
  • women’s auxiliaries, e.g. National Federation of Liberal Women, first assembly in 1928
  • Women’s Committee within the PC under the leadership of Hilda Hesson later on
  • activities undertaken like a “ladies aid”, raising money through teas, luncheons, cookbook sales, members performed clerical work, social entertaining, fundraising, explicitly mirrored the gender division of labour in society, not influencing fundamental decision-making
  • observers describe this as “the auxiliary trap”, a ghetto within the established political order, limited participation
  • the egalitarian ideology of the CCF combined with the challenges it was having establishing itself ironically impeded the establishment of a formal auxiliary within its ranks, but large portion involved in the same sorts of activities as the Liberals and PC counterparts
  • CCF claimed to be the best representative of women’s rights in Canada
  • WWII tended to stifle limited success

The Rise of Second Wave Feminism

  • growing sense that more was required, greater opportunity for women within the parties
  • easier said than done
  • 1942: Ontario CCF established Women’s Committee to recruit more voters, but what is the level of influence, how much power, a lot of CCF activists feared that a separate committee would threaten CCF unity, ends up performing the same sorts of “auxiliary” functions
  • NFLW has expanded by the end of the war, more than 100 clubs, extensive membership, a growing number of women being mobilized and integrated into the progress, but the NFLW’s activities to the extent that they dealt with policy were limited to points on welfare
  • PCs formally committed themselves to women’s policy, but they were marginalized, generally speaking they were ignored between elections although called upon to work during the elections
  • ultimately the rise of second wave feminism provoked significant change
  • after the gains of the suffrage movement the Person’s Case, women largely went back to their domestic roles
  • female employment in the industrial sector increased during the war, but then policies deliberately designed to re-establish the “spheres of activity” after the war
  • growing segment of the female population, especially amongst the middle classes, obtaining formal education, encouraged to pursue a career (until marriage)
  • increasing number of women, like Doris Anderson, refused to be forced between the choice of career or family, through her editorship at Chatelaine she promoted this idea, an appeal for more women to run for public office
  • Voice of Women (VOW) a grassroots organization formed to oppose nuclear proliferation and nuclear testing, claimed to be non-partisan, but because of the crisis over the Bomark Missile Crisis, faced with dilemma, same as the first wave feminists, how best to achieve goals: engage or reject
  • 1965: Conference marking the 25th anniversary of women having the provincial vote in Quebec, representative of the Liberal mainstream movement (Federation des Femmes du Quebec (FFQ), more radical ones also existed, e.g. Front de Liberation des Femmes du Quebec (FLFQ)
  • two women in parliament at this time: Grace McKennis (CCF) and Judy LeMarch (Liberals)
  • Pearson government responds by appointing a commission on the Status of Women, in 1970 the report, Committee for the Equality of the Status of Women, goes national, National Action Committee on the Status of Women, goal to enact the recommendations, pressure on government, NAC bridged one of the divide within the women’s movement between the more conservative older generation and the more radical younger generation

The Feminist Challenge and the Parties Respond

  • led to a re-examination of the role of women within Canadian life
  • Liberals advocated a moderate involvement, made sense at the time, the Keynesian era party system, when the state could effect change and best way to ensure it was to influence the parties that were in control, women’s movement call for more women within parties
  • this effort was multi-partisan, strongest with the NDP, but also strong with the Liberal party
  • less visible but equally important was radical feminism, rejected engagement, to sanction a patriarchal position, FLFQ rejects forming a strictly women’s party because it viewed even that as being co-opted
  • major re-thinking of their goals in late 60s and early 70s, women were remaining marginalized, recommended that auxiliaries be integrated within the parties, acting on the recommendations of the Bird Commission the NFLW (31 000 members) replaced by the National Liberal Women’s Commission (NLWC), as opposed to being an auxiliary (separate) it is formally integrated, main tasks are changed moreover, as opposed to “tea-pouring” the new commission was supposed to promote the advancement of women at all levels in the party and in parliament
  • the PCs also moved in this direction, although more slowly, occurs in 1981
  • NDP most immediately effected by second-wave feminism, not surprising, it arose from the left because of the left’s claim of greater equality, reality not matching rhetoric, Women’s Committee in 1961 accompanied the establishment of the NDP, relationships between the established party and the feminists was initially conflictual but they moved towards the centre, e.g. the POW Committee designed to advance the representation of women in mid-70s
  • 1977: PQ established commission for the women
  • more problematic than transforming the auxiliaries was increasing the number of women sitting in the H of C and in the party organization…even today, the higher the fewer!
  • Doris Anderson: the established political order not for her, forced to run against another Liberal candidate for the nomination in a riding even after she had well established herself
  • initial enthusiasm DIES
  • might think that the NDP is more advanced, has had two female leaders, had nominated more women, but mostly done in un-winnable ridings, number in the House no greater than the Liberals or PCs until the 1970s
  • parties shy away from a quota approach of candidates in elections
  • but from the mid-80s and into the 90s, number of women in the house grew significantly, move towards a moderate position, no party sought to become the party of feminism but no party sought to become its antithesis, either
  • the Liberal Order!!!!
  • since the 1990s, the growth in the number of female proletarians has stopped, the number of female candidates being fielded had declined
  • the first-past-the-post system may be serving as a barrier…
  • Doris Anderson became a strong supporter of the PR system in the last years of her life after having studied the European system
  • appears to be more than just a question of numbers, e.g. in 1993 two female party leaders in election, however feminist issues were marginalized, parties seem to be moving towards a symbolic approach, increase the numbers, but when it comes to substantive advancements little progress is made
  • in conclusion, this brings us back to the question of participation vs. opposition: the Persons Case, the Bird Commission, the feminists agenda within parties, the entrenchment of gender equality in 1982…really, we should cease viewing participation and opposition as mutually exclusive, political parties exist to win elections, feminists must mobilize support and then engage with those parties, make it self-interest, complimentary

What’s ‘Left’ To Do?


(look up arguments and first few minutes of material)

From the CCF to the NDP

  • CCF had developed its program during the depths of the Great Depression, did not have the same resonance after WWII, economy booming, unemployment low, under these conditions voters were satisfied with the Liberal’s piecemeal approach to social welfare, living standards seemed to be improving without the election of the socialists
  • degree of “red scare”
  • CCF of decreasing relevance
  • each election after 1945, CCF lost progressively more support, peaked in 1944, and then dropped in four subsequent elections
  • leader MJ Coldwell defeated and deputy leader Stanley Knowles defeated
  • seems headed for the same fate as American Socialist Party (oblivion)
  • party morale and membership falling
  • ability to find funding (to mount election campaign) restricted
  • as a desperate holding action, issued the Winnipeg Declaration at the height of the Cold War, reflected a worldwide defeat on the best means to achieve socialism and what kind of socialism it should be (more communist or more liberal), reflected a shift away from the radical Regina Manifesto, moderation, e.g. dropped the promise to eradicate capitalism, endorsed the mixed economy, government intervention but private sector endorsed, shift from government ownership (nationalization) to the promotion of social welfare (low-cost housing, post-secondary education funding)
  • this was a tacit acknowledgement of the strength of the post-war consensus on reform liberalism
  • hope that a more moderate image would attract voters, shift towards the centre
  • sought to forge ties with the expanded industrial force, shifting from its Western rural roots, attempt to seduce industrial workers, encourage the more Conservative union leaders to support the CCF, reflects the fact that the relationship between the CCF and organized labour had been problematic, e.g. in Ontario there was joint action between them but it was limited to the electoral period, rarely any substantive cooperation, union support for the CCF at the level of individual membership was lacklustre
  • because significant portion of the CCF feared a close relationship because they thought the unions would come to dominate the party and members usually voted Liberal or Conservative
  • begin to shift towards greater cooperation in the postwar period, especially in light of electoral setbacks, encouraged CCF to seek out the support of organized labour
  • 1940: merger of more radical unions to form the Canadian Congress of Labour, a rival federation, could challenge the Trades and Labour Congress which was more Conservative
  • TLC: growing number of CCF supporters, including Claude Jodoin, president of the TLC, discreet CCF supporter, important because his presidency paved the way for the unification of the more radical CCL and the more conservative TLC into a new broad union federation, the Canadian Labour Congress, 1956
  • shock of the CCF’s electoral defeat in 1958, push for cooperation, proposal for creation of a new party, vehicle for a new broad based political movement that would incorporate in a significant way the labour movement

The Founding of the NDP

  • took 3 years to bring about a formal alliance between the CLC and CCF
  • 2000 candidates descend on Ottawa, from the CCF and unions and new party clubs, lobbying for a new alliance, this convention succeeds in establishing the NDP
  • Premier Tommy Douglas drafted as the first leader
  • the impact of the alliance was limited by the fact that in 1961 less than one-third of the non-agricultural workforce was unionized, 75% of union members continued to vote for the Libs or Cons, never really produced poll results, most significant contribution was financial, NDP could rely on organized labour for funding, but trade unions banned about three years ago from making contributions
  • movement towards the centre appeared to make a difference
  • Douglas defeated in the election, but share of popular vote increased, 13.4% of the votes and 19 seats, best result since 1949
  • won power in MB, SK, BC before the end of the decade

The Movement vs. Party Dilemma

  • “movement to Party” thesis or “protest movement be calmed”: two conflicted antagonist elements in the CCF and NDP, the first being a social movement favouring a more principled, doctrinaire approach, shaping policy and the public discourse; the second is the party element, pragmatic, willing to compromise to obtain power
  • this thesis articulated by Walter Young, “Anatomy of a Party”, argues that the establishment of the NDP reflects the pragmatic element increasing, says ultimately the NDP has evolved into a party like its competitors, want power, willing to compromise
  • this is consistent with a broader element in political party, as left-wing parties mature, especially the leaders, they are increasingly driven by a ruthless desire for electoral success
  • Antonia Maioni argues that in comparing America and Canada in health care reform, presence of the CCF/NDP led to a much more comprehensive system of health care in Canada than in the US, it makes a difference
  • McKay is more cynical, decries the fact that the new democracy has been contained and ultimately defeated through the conciliatory approach of the established liberal order, compromise to form a limited social safety net, deflected the challenge from the left
  • symptomatic of this movement was a disruption in the NDP caused by the challenge from the party’s left wing in late 60s/early 70s

The Waffle Movement

  • consistent with the shift towards the centre, the references to socialism in the New Party Declaration were downplayed, also differs in another way, a lot more references to nationalism, concern about independence and autonomy of Canada, consistent with the rise of Diefenbaker and the Liberal’s response, rise of the Parti Quebecois, playing a greater role all over, NDP had to react to the advancement of globalization
  • nationalist reaction was a major cause of the radical leftist movement “the Waffle Movement”, strongly ideological
  • name: a meeting of radical leftist members of NDP, in the course of their discussions, debate over a specific issue, “waffle to the left”
  • definitely symptomatic of the movement element of the NDP, argued that the NDP needed to adopt a much more radical program to respond to the growing presence of America in the economy, a threat to Canadian independence, inspired by the significant popular demonstrations in Paris in 1968 and new left movements
  • foremost spokesmen were Laxer and Watkins, argued that nationalism and socialism were inextricably linked, if an independent socialist Canada was to be achieved, NDP had to be an agent of both, Canada owned by Canadians, advocated nationalism of all major industry, fundamental redistribution of all decision-making powers
  • much more assertive socialism of the CCF in 1930
  • provokes a reaction from the NDP establishment, the mainstream, deputy leader Lewis and Ed Broadbent, criticized the Waffle Manifesto for its strongly anti-American tone, emphasising public ownership, a question of political pragmatism, what would happen in terms of public support if the Waffle gained ascendance in the NDP
  • “Marshmellow Resolution”: it is soft and mushy response, the most advanced economical position, but rejected as too moderate by the Waffles, provincial Waffles emerging in ON, BC, SK
  • David Lewis especially concerned about the Waffle implications, feared the radicalism would undue all post-1930 efforts to become a mainstream social democratic party, alienate organized labour, keep the NDP from winning elected office
  • 1971 leadership convention: Lewis replaces Douglas, determined not only to win the leadership but to discredit and marginalize the Waffle, reassert the influence of the mainstream leadership of the NDP, but unable to do so, a lot stronger than anticipated, James Laxer (also leadership candidate) comes in second place, real grassroots challenge going on within the NDP
  • leadership losing control over party
  • members of Waffle having increasingly tense relationship with organized labour
  • unions threatening to withdraw their financial support (one of the very reasons for the NDP’s formation)
  • 1972: Waffle is effectively purged from the ranks of the NDP, “waffle was toast”
  • years following the disruption a period when pursuing the pragmatic course appeared to pay dividends for the NDP
  • 1972 federal election: Libs fall to a minority position mainly because voters attracted to the economic nationalism of the NDP, Lewis conducted effective campaign against corporate welfare funds, and NDP holds the balance of power in parliament until 1974 until Trudeau Liberals engineer their own defeat, the alliance resulted in a number of measures like the establishment of the Foreign Investment Review Agency (FIRA) mandated to review and with the power to reject any potential foreign takeover of a Canadian form, also established the Canadian Development Corporation, tasked with buying back Canadian companies, also Liberals began indexing pensions to reflect inflation, also take the first steps in establishing Petro-Canada 
  • this seems to have been the high point, NDP more successful than the CCF, average of 17% of the popular vote between 62-88, above the CCF’s average of 11.1%, it has undergone considerable existential angst 
  • mid-1980s: under Broadbent, the party witnessed a new high, by 1987 Broadbent was the most popular leader in Canadian politics, predictions that they would form the official opposition, attracting left-leaning Liberals and the working class, speculation that the Liberals would be marginalized, battle between left and right eventually
  • Free Trade election of 1988: NDP won all-time high of 43 seats, but all of these seats West of Quebec, failed to achieve Official Opposition status
  • resurgence of the “principle vs. pragmatism” debate
  • Broadbent blamed for taking a pragmatist approach that allowed Liberals to take an anti-free trade vote
  • Steven Lewis (David’s son) argued that the NDP had to return to its traditional role as the “conscience of the nation”, change public policy, not obtain power
  • following the upset in ON, 74 seats in 1990, first time an NDP government formed east of MB, Rae was a pragmatist, wanted to make the NDP a more centrist/left of centre political vehicle, transform the NDP from a permanent party in opposition, subsequent difficulties of the ON and federal party reflects the fact that the NDP has been unable…
  • throughout its history, the CCF/NDP has moved towards the centre, reflects the strength of liberalism in Canadian politics, in trying to reconcile its rival vocations as a movement and political party, the NDP could end up being neither

The Medium is the Message: Politics in the Television Age

Main Arguments:Television had a fundamental impact on party politics in Canada, leading to the ascendancy of image over content; this trend was most dramatically manifest in the 1968 phenomenon known as “Trudeaumania”;

Television had a centralizing effect on party politics in that it provoked a greater attention being paid to the leaders – as evidenced by the media event that is the leader’s tour during election campaigns – to the increasing exclusion of regional lieutenants and local candidates;

Paradoxically, while television had a centralizing effect through its encouraging greater attention to the leader, it also provoked attempts to ensure (at least the appearance of) more transparency, accountability, and grassroots participation.

  • Television on the Rise: The Diefenbaker-Pearson Era
  • Politics as Spectacle: The Trudeau Era
  • Television’s Impact (1) Follow the Leader (2) Democratizing the Parties

Recent Example

  • Harper’s pre-emptive attack ads on Dion

Television on the Rise

  • 1951: only 1% of Canadian households had a TV set, a decade later it was 83%, more people than had flushing toilets
  • the pipeline debate played out on the new TV sets, contributed to a growing impression among voters that the Liberals had become too comfortable in office and too complacent in power
  • to the advantage of the PCs, Diefenbaker’s rise, took advantage of the medium
  • federal campaigns of 57 and 58 were in the first in which TV was extensively used, Diefenbaker delivered his populist message, evangelical sincerity, came across as genuine on TV
  • sound clips, abbreviated, nightly news, Diefenbaker speaking, anti-Liberal anti-establishment populist message, just the right length, message delivered but without logic behind it, more convincing than seeing him in person
  • new dynamic in the relationship between the parties and the press, turned journalists into media celebrities
  • DePoe become the first of the CBC celebrities, first who could compete intellectually with print media, well versed
  • rival between print and electronic media, more demanding press gallery, confrontation, pressure on print media to become more critical 
  • also brought about Diefenbaker’s downfall, as time went on the image that he projected was increasingly negative, had a tremble in his hand, Parkinson’s speculation, a man in decay, became synonymous with the image of his government, both in decay, loses the support of the electronic and the print media, days numbered after that, loses the 63 election
  • symptomatic of “image politics”
  • Canadian parties turn to private polling and advertisements in the form of Kennedy
  • Pearson surrounded himself with younger generation media-savvy strategists, notably O’Hagan and Davey
  • Liberals hire Kennedy’s pollster, Harris, indicated that Pearson perceived as an academic smart-alleck, had a high-pitched voice, noticeable lisp
  • a bit of a dumbing down of political discourse, look for material about the candidate’s family for image
  • 1965 federal election the last one not totally dominated by TV, but still 91% of households owned one, so Pearson spends a good deal of time in training, but he did not exude the charisma, increasingly the media was hostile to the Liberals and their attempts to mimic an American-style campaign, Pearson no Kennedy
  • this is the context in which Trudeaumania is possible

Politics as Spectacle: The Trudeau Era

  • style, showmanship
  • first PM able to manipulate the power of TV to his own advantage
  • path to power paved with iconic TV moments, e.g. the constitutional dual between Johnson and Trudeau and Trudeau standing up to demonstrators throwing rocks 
  • shown being mobbed by crowds, adored by women, created by both the Liberals and the media, images
  • most of the media swept away by the image they were helping to create, “too good to be true”, sparkling, like a new car
  • in contrast to Stanfield, eating a banana and fumbling a football, Trudeau was kissed by women and slid down a banister and dressed like a pimp
  • TV demands something more exciting than a person behind a podium
  • Stanfield and Douglas may have been correct in their assessment of Trudeau: all image no substance, but they underestimated the power of the image, the TV audience saw a dynamic leader

Follow the Leader

  • Liberals began to select their leaders by convention in 1919; Conservatives in 1927
  • relatively pre-ordained, sure of results, a foregone conclusion, not a big media event
  • with the advent of TV, Libs and Cons begin holding larger conventions to bring the party’s grassroots into the process, power of mass movement, showcase the political parties and their policies
  • 1967 convention that saw the ousting of Diefenbaker for Stanfield and the election of Trudeau on the fourth ballot
  • focus the voter’s attention on the leader, public persona, image, elections became contests between packaged party leaders, e.g. who won the debate 
  • 1968: first televised leader’s debate
  • Turner and Trudeau’s face-off, “I did not have a choice / “You had a choice, sir”
  • relationship between political parties and newspapers: the electronic media made this manipulation easier, communications strategists, advertising firms, pollsters, ads, catchy slogans, staged photo-ops, much more of a professional activity
  • TV offered the illusion of personal contact, but in fact less face-to-face contact, decline in the emphasis on policy positions
  • at the heart was the leader’s tour
  • emphasis on ability to capture the day
  • symbolic cues, language, visual images to convey messages subtly and less subtly, e.g. Harper at a hockey tournament, the leader you identify with
  • Maggie Trudeau campaigns alongside her husband, Trudeau is a gentle father
  • the only time local candidates received attention was when the leader visited the riding
  • the mass media may be inadvertently hastening the end of political parties
  • alerted the nature of political parties and the landscape of politics
  • mass media replaced mass mobilization
  • parties once relied on hierarchical system of inter-personal links (partisan campaign and organization to spread propaganda and collect political intelligence, grassroots the eyes and ears, as were the MPs)
  • with the advent of TV, professional polling, party elites can communicate directly and collect information without party organization or MPs, a bunch of nobodies

Democratizing the Parties

  • paradoxically, another outcome
  • extra parliamentary organizations that the Libs and Cons employed
  • if only to increase the appearance of legitimacy
  • e.g. televised leadership conventions 
  • membership of the Con party hold accountable and review their leader (Diefenbaker)
  • contributed to the first electoral financial reform, previously minimum regulation, limited to a ban on individual candidates receiving direct donations from trade unions and corporations, parties themselves getting 90% of funding from these sources
  • combined with the high cost of media, controversial style of journalism, need for electoral expense reform
  • Election Expenses Act, 1974, to increase transparency and accountability, tight limits on election expenses, limit the potential influence of money, create greater opportunity for individuals to run for office, reduce corporate influence, get individuals to contribute, encourage individual participation, for the first time public funds used to finance political parties in addition to subsidizing part of the election costs, establishment of a tax credit to encourage people to donate, all this represented a shift, increasingly political parties were becoming less vibrant organizations, operating within the public sphere, increasing ties 

Haunting Us Still? The Legacy of Trudeau Liberalism

  1. Trudeau-era Liberalism, with its efforts to assert the power of the central government, assert Canadian independence, and contain the centrifugal forces (e.g. Quebec nationalism) that were leading toward greater regionalization, was consistent with the nationalist response to globalization’s impact on Canada – and as such, maybe seen as the last concerted attempt (to date) at a comprehensive pan-Canadian nationalism;
  2. Trudeau’s electoral success almost came in spite of himself – his position as an outside to the Liberal Party, and his disdain for campaigning led to an often tense relationship between Trudeau and the Liberal Party establishment;
  3. The Trudeau Liberal answer to the “national question” ultimately could not overcome the challenges to it from within and without, so that its main aspects ultimately went unfulfilled (or were undermined), and the Liberal Party was soundly repudiated in the 1984 election.
  • Background: ‘National’ Crisis and the Rise of Trudeau
  • The First Trudeau Mandate
  • Trudeau Liberalism after Trudeaumania
  • The Clark Interregnum and Trudeau’s Return
  • Haunting Us Still?

Quiet Revolution

  • Quiet Revolution
  • development of a new Canadian flag
  • Diefenbaker increasingly a liability and embarrassment to the PCs, trailing in the polls behind the NDP, nasty internal battle, replaced by the more Quebec-friendly Stanfield
  • Pearson Liberals took a more conciliatory approach, e.g. Commission on Bilingualism, attempts to enhance the francophone presence in government administration, pursuing a policy known as “co-operative federalism”
  • Trudeau made clear his opposition to according Quebec a special constitutional status, much less independence (negative half of the equation)
  • Trudeau also made demands on English Canada, he wanted to make Canada broad enough to accommodate francophone ambitions within and outside Quebec, imposes official bilingualism, the Bill of Rights (to protect minority and linguistic rights)
  • somehow there would be a sense of nation, all Canadians would hold in common certain rights, Liberal idea of nationalism, Canadians would not define themselves by race or religion but by shared rights
  • “just society” – reform liberalism, increased social and economic justice for all Canadians
  • the old Liberal establishment had been usurped
  • Trudeau’s idea of participatory democracy: vague, but idea that Liberal Party activists were going to have a more active and direct say in the goings on in governance
  • Trudeau seen as the ideal male to champion federalism, new man, new idea, to safeguard Canada’s future
  • Liberal Party reinvigorated, people had thought it would disappear, left-right struggle
  • Trudeaumania linked very closely to the crisis, helped to sweep them back to power, majority government, first time for the Liberals since 1953

Trudeau in Office

  • Official Languages Act, 1959, enacted bilingualism at the federal level, institutions more open to francophones, increase influence, more opportunities
  • dubbed “French power”
  • but at the same time, breaks with the more accommodating approach of Pearson and fights fiercely against any measure perceived as an attempt by Quebec nationalists to erode federal power
  • as for Constitutional reform, 1971 negotiation led to the Victoria Charter, looked like Canada was going to patriate its constitution from Britain with a limited entrenched Bill of Rights, but it falls through, Quebec premiere rejects it, Trudeau puts the Constitution on the backburner, did not want to open it up and deal with calls for more power from premieres
  • the promise of a “just society” is relatively unfulfilled
  • main task seems to be lowering the expectations of Canadians as to what should be expected from the welfare state, e.g. Canada pension plan, discussed in readings
  • by 1972, growing disillusionment, mixed record, not much delivered, the PM increasingly criticized for his arrogance
  • more broadly, concern about the centralization of power in the PMO, which is gaining influence over Cabinet
  • federal bureaucracy increases three times faster than the rate of population growth, government expanding, yet nothing much getting done
  • electorate increasingly of the view that Trudeau not really offering a fresh approach nor accomplishing much, social policy, fiscal policy, foreign policy, examined but hardly altered
  • Trudeau’s ability to alienate virtually every major group, e.g. War Measures Act infuriated Quebeckers, the West is furious over official bilingualism
  • this is the context for the next election
  • rough ride made even worse because the centralization of power came at the expense of the extraparliamentary wing of the party, Trudeau had neglected it as an organization, he assumed that everyone would come out at election time because they were Liberals, but volunteers stayed home, staff in the PMO vetos and overrules the Liberal Party brass, but they had little campaign experience, result was a disastrous campaign, Trudeau himself is a poor campaigner, sees it as beneath him

Trudeau Liberalism after Trudeaumania

  • Liberals have 109 seats, only two more than the PCs
  • nearly half of Quebec voters had voted Liberals, had half of Quebec’s 75 seats, needs English support, appoints John Turner (right-wing) as the Finance Minister to appease the business community, enters into alliance with the NDP because a lot of traditional Liberal voters had moved to the NDP, this alliance produces more progressive legislation in 18 months than in the previous 4 years, Trudeau also gets rid of the technocratic intellectuals and brings back professional politicians, the backroom boys, especially a group of Toronto Liberals charged with rebuilding the organization and teaching Trudeau how to be a politician
  • Liberals the underdogs in 1974, unlike the “intellectual conversation with Canadians” of 1972, he applies the lessons, he campaigns in a highly effective strategy, focuses on the trust that Canadians have in him as a leader as opposed to Stanfield (football-fumbler)
  • Liberals win 141 seats, majority, victory comes at the expense of the NDP who lose half their seats, won back their supporters, a second chance
  • in terms of the challenges of the day, inflation at 14% annually, rising unemployment, fiscal situation out of control, government not taking in enough money
  • Trudeau flip-flops on the issue of wage and price controls, imposes them in 1975, casualty is the Liberal Party’s credibility and John Turner’s, first in the series of high-profile departures
  • for the first time in 50 years (Depression), Liberal times are bad times, Liberals had secured a reputation as the party of good economic times and opportunities, social legislation, but things falling apart by the end of the 1970s, they could not cope with the challenges, at their lowest popularity since the Depression, matters furthered aggravated by the fact that the Liberals drifting from their reformist approach
  • Nov 1976 election of the PQ temporarily reversed falling fortunes, Trudeau able to assert himself again as the champion of national unity
  • plan to call an early election to capitalize on this
  • but Trudeau said no, his marriage had fallen apart, he did not have the energy or the stomach, lost opportunity
  • instead another attempt at Constitutional reform…that falls through
  • 1979 the Liberals go to the polls, climate of rising crisis
  • Trudeau perceived as overly pre-occupied with the Constitution, not the solver of the problem, but the problem itself

The Clark Interregnum

  • PCs make the economic situation the primary campaign issue and win
  • Liberals take 67 of Quebec’s 75 seats but only win 114 seats across Canada
  • Trudeau leads the opposition
  • lacklustre effort, infrequent appearances in the House, Trudeau finally resigns, he had failed to realize Constitutional reform, his bilingualism policy was unpopular, the “just society” seemed more distant than ever, economy in ruins, Trudeau was a failure
  • the fact that the Liberals did not have a leader encourages the PCs to govern like they have a majority, 7 months in release budget, “short term pain to achieve long-term gain”, a 4-cents a litre tax on gas
  • Liberals emboldened, combine with the opposition, go into an election
  • a leadership campaign underway to replace Trudeau

Trudeau’s Reform

  • Clark government so unpopular that Trudeau the most electable leader again, Liberals ahead in the polls, after a week of suspense, Liberal Party establishment agrees that he will return as leader, a carefully managed campaign, Trudeau kept under wraps, didn’t want voters to remember why they had voted him out
  • Liberals win every seat but one in Quebec
  • a rare third chance
  • it is perhaps this last Trudeau government that is most prominent in historical memory, everything that it had promised to be
  • three months after election victory, makes crucial intervention in 1980 referendum, instrumental in defeating Levezque’s “Oui” side, promises that a vote for the no is not a vote for the status quo, promises that a vote for federalism is a vote for substantial constitutional reform
  • Trudeau engages in a bitter battle with the provinces for the patriation of the Constitution and the Charter, appears to have succeeded in realizing a national vision for Canada, redeem himself
  • but economic problems: onset of a serious recession in the 1980s, double-digit unemployment and interest rates
  • PCs dump Clark, replace him with Mulroney
  • Trudeau Liberals sinking in popularity, he announces his resignation, Liberal party members were wanting a more active role in the party, happy to see him go, especially as party fortunes declining, turn to John Turner, who re-enters politics, a symbolic break with the heritage of the Trudeau era
  • party gets a post-convention bounce but Turner makes the mistake of going to the polls quickly, not having established his own track record in office, the Turner Liberals painted with the Trudeau brush in voters’ minds, plus confirms Trudeau’s patronage appointments, a disastrous campaign, e.g. slaps women on the bottom and refuses to apologize, Liberals suffer greatest defeat in history, elect only 40 members (ten more than the NDP)
  • Mulroney Tories win 211 seats, greatest majority government in history
  • the verdict of an electorate exhausted by Canada’s existential crisis and the tough economic times, more broadly it draws attention to the legacy of the Trudeau Liberals: achievements made without Quebec signing the Constitution, this will come back to haunt Canadian politics, in a perverse way, measure that was supposed to strengthen unity in fact alienated Quebec
  • as for the “just society”, the 9-fold increase in spending racked up debt, successors undermined the welfare state that had been built up
  • record of the Trudeau Liberals is paradoxical, haunts us

The Rise of Neo-Conservatism: From Trudeau to Harper

Main Arguments:


The Origins of Neo-Conservatism

  • economic breakdown in the 1970s 
  • Western economies faced to respond to something that economic theory had not predicted, rising prices at a time when the economy was staging and unemployment was high, Keynsian theory had these as mutually exclusive
  • buying power and savings reduced
  • in response, neo-conservatism preached a renewed faith in the classical laissez-faire system and the free market, e.g. Milton Friedman argued that the role of the state should be curtailed, return to a situation more akin to the system prior to the Depression, the state should only safeguard the currency, keep inflation low, proposes a monetarist policy that involves high interest rates, reduced government spending, privatization of state assets, deregulation of the private sector, rejects concern with full employment
  • provides a response for the political class that did not know how to respond to the crisis
  • corporate interests stood to benefit greatly from it
  • by the 1970s, breakdown of the reform coalitions, e.g. the New Deal in the US, disaffected Liberals turning towards right-wing parties, occurs in the UK, in Canada
  • neo-conservatives able to construct new coalitions with voters disenchanted with the political and economic consensus that had been working since 1940s
  • general right-wing shift to a position that shared more in common with classical liberalism
  • Conservative Party in UK led by Thatcher, Republican Party led by Reagan, both able to gain legitimacy among non-elite voters by constructing a new narrative about who the people’s enemies really were, a redefinition of social interests, corporate interests had been vilified, neo-conservatives saw enemies as those who supported the welfare state, proposed tax cuts, and the non-market distribution of social welfare 
  • they successfully linked the malaise of the 1970s and the misguided attempts to engineer social and economic equality through the welfare state

Neo-Conservatism in the Trudeau Era

  • corporate profits skyrocket in the early 1970s, profits soar more quickly than wages, this provokes a series of labour disputes
  • forced with having to pay out so much in wages at a time when there seemed to be an economic downturn, major corporations began laying off workers
  • Trudeau government injects money into the economy in response, kick-start the economy, but rising unemployment and the increased money in the private and public sector makes inflation rise at the same time as rising unemployment, stagflation takes told
  • deteriorating situation prompts the Liberals to adopt neo-conservative measures, e.g. Turner’s appointment as Finance Minister reduced corporate taxes, denied government the money to fund the welfare state, put an end to rising expectations
  • early 1978: Canadian dollar lost 15% of its value against the US dollar, unemployment up, double-digit inflation, deficit approaching a record level
  • economists, voters, Conservatives blamed Trudeau’s over-spending
  • Trudeau returns from the G7 conference in July 1978, during this conference he had discussed the need for left-wing governments to be more fiscally responsible, introduces a mini-budget that cuts spending
  • what was billed as a bold program to turn around the economy was largely cosmetic, symbolic, ultimately alienated the left in Canada, fighting the situation on the backs of the poor, the more right-wingers not impressed by the failings 
  • after Trudeau’s return in power in 1980, government had a change of heart, bucking the neo-conservative trend, tried to reduce the US presence in Canada’s economy, combined with the recession of the 1980s, ever-increasing deficits, debt
  • growing momentum of compound interests

Progressive Conservatives and Neo-Conservatism (or Red v. Blue Tories)

  • in the context of high unemployment, double-digit inflation rates, voters turned away, embraced the neo-conservative agenda, in an era of accelerating globalization, the Liberal nationalist appeal no longer evoked the same kind of response, shift in public opinion
  • explains why Turner elected after Trudeau, more of a blue grit
  • like their Conservative counterparts throughout the West after WWII, Tories had difficult coming to terms with the reform liberal consensus, red Tories, by no means anti-capitalists, were supportive of the free market, but more willing to accept an activist interventionist state to preserve social order and strengthen community
  • Stanfield was the classic red Tory, argued that any civilized society was concerned with the well-being of the less fortunate
  • Clark argued that the modern world needed both an active government and strong communities, however he was more willing to champion the market liberal position, more right-wing than Stanfield, called for the privatization of Petro Canada in the 1979 election, budget inspired by N-C economic theory, balancing the books the goal, opposed to nationalist interventionism of the Trudeau Liberal
  • Red Tories increasingly under siege in their party, election of Mulroney a sign of ascending neo-conservatism in the party and an increased openness of the voters to the agenda
  • Michael Wilson, finance minister: deficit reduction, privatization, deregulation, get the government out, let the market operate as freely as possible
  • Mulroney: “Canada is open for business again”
  • limits to the N-C trend: Mulroney Tories did not go as far as Britain or America, part of this the fragility of the coalition that had brought them to power, Quebec not as N-C, result was the cuts to social programs were nowhere near the levels encouraged by some lobby groups and think tanks
  • high interest policy meant the cost of servicing the national debt increased, what ends up happening is the structure of government spending begins to change, the money being spent had more to do with servicing the debt than with maintaining the welfare state, programs decline significantly
  • tax reform in the second mandate, reduced the progressive nature of income taxes, implement the GST, both of these tending to benefit the upper-income strata at the expense of the lower-income strata
  • free trade most significant
  • MacDonald Commission: because of the failure of the attempt to diversify trade and increase ties, Canada’s economic prospects revisited, 1985 report to the Mulroney government argues that Canada should pursue a comprehensive free-trade agreement with the US, trend towards continentalism, Tories embraced it, agreement reached in January 1988
  • the election that year incredibly emotional, Liberals opposed it, championed the Canadian nationalist cause, argued that free trade would led to the dissemination of the east-west economy and the very basis of Canadian sovereignty
  • they won the battle but they lost the war, Liberal and NDPs won 52% of the vote, but Tories win another majority with 43% of the popular vote, free trade enacted
  • passage of the FTA created an impotence for pursuing the neo-conservative agenda, greater concern about ensuring Canada’s economic competitiveness, Conservatives terminated mother’s allowances, the universality of old-age security, the amount of money transferred to the provinces for social spending is capped, by 1989 corporate taxes only 9% of government’s revenues

Impact at the Provincial Level


  • PCs in power since 1971 under Peter Lougheed until 1985
  • ran activist governments, interventionist, in support of the AB business community, undertaken to diversity the resource-based economy, facilitate economic development
  • AB Tories preside over the collapse of several firms that had received significant government support, suggestion of corruption, fuels an anti-government feeling in AB, leads to calls for the AB government to remove itself from economic affairs
  • reinforced by the late 1980s deterioration of AB’s finances
  • a gradualist approach taken, hope that the government will ride it out, but cannot, amid tax increases and growing debts, cuts to public services, Gerry resigns, succeeded by Ralph Klein
  • Klein distanced himself from his predecessor, more avowedly conservative, argued AB weight down by an oppressive public sector, did not jive with the global economy
  • low taxes would attract businesses to AB, apparent success of Klein, balances books within three years, contribute rise in ON


  • NDP won a majority under Rae just as a recession began, initially they bucked the N-C trend, first budget by Floyd Loughren provided no spending cuts, argued that the recession would not be fought on the backs of the poor
  • however, the economy did not turn around quickly and so the Rae government’s room for manover was immediately and severely restrained, as the recession deepened, switches to a deficit-reduction policy, consistent with N-C principles
  • e.g. new labour code, introduces the social contract, meant to reign in government spending, imposed salary cuts on civil servants, forced them to take up to 12 unpaid days of leave per year, Rae Days, public sector balks
  • the NDP’s alienation of its main support wing paved the way for Mike Harris
  • the PCs were a centrist party, they were in the red Tory tradition, but Harris shifts it right in the example of Ralph Klein, campaigned on a N-C platform, “Common Sense Revolution”
  • cut income taxes by 30% over three years, to pay for this closed hospitals, cut education spending, shitfed welfare spending to local governments, repealed labour laws

The Federal Level: From Blue Grits, to Reform, to the Conservative Party

  • Liberals sign a FTA with Chile, make progress on the unrealized FT with the Americas
  • inclined Canadians more to the view that Canada needed to be more business-friendly, less distributive, more dramatic spending cuts as Martin promised to eliminate the deficit, accomplished by the late 1990s
  • political factor that contributed was the rise of the Reform Party, in its short lifetime managed to win only one seat east of Manitoba and the majority of its seats in two metro areas, had a huge impact, reduction of the welfare state a reform policy before taken up by the Liberals
  • without achieving federal power, it contributed to its retrenchment in the 1990s
  • Reform: tougher line on law and order, government spending, welfare state, argued for emphasis on individual rights as opposed to group or collective rates, called for an end of government support for multiculturalism, pay equity programs, and bilingualism
  • also increasingly reflected a social conservative view, opposed gay rights
  • “Fresh Start for Canadians”: traditional family values, tougher law and order
  • attempts to unite the right in the late 1990s, it appeared increasingly that Reform would have to moderate its N-C image, what remained of the PCs after the 1993 election had appeared marginalized for once and for all its red Tory elements
  • under Jean Charest, a much more emphatically N-C agenda, growing under Mulroney, but reached new heights under Charest, except for certain social issues and the Quebec issue, they were the mirror image of the Reform Party
  • Joe Clark returned as PC leader, tries to return party to its more traditional roots, spurned the overtures from the Reform Party and the Alliance, too ideologically right of centre, however this apparent revival of red Toryism was fleeting, under pressure to co-operate
  • eventually Clark forced to come to terms that he was out of touch with the party he was leading, resigned leadership in 2003, succeeded by MacKay in 2003, merger, the Conservative Party of Canada
  • represented a victory of the N-C position…until this week’s budget

Trudeau Article

  • legacies of Trudeau in English and French Canada
  • credit and blame to a single politician, the role of the media

Neo-Conservativism Article

  • response to globalization
  • marrying of social and fiscal conservatism
  • are they not mutually exclusive?
  • Harper’s budget suggests that either you must make sacrifices in a minority government OR the resurgence in Canada is minimal and we will always value social programs
  • who benefits from globalization?
  • reform liberal consensus at the end of the Depression…now political parties championing shades of neo-conservativism…survival instinct (pragmatism)

The Quebec Question and the Canadian Crisis

Main Arguments

  1. Quebec party politics from the 1970s onward was polarized over the “national question” regarding Quebec’s political future;
  2. The “beau risqué” attempt to achieve an enduring constitutional settlement in the 1980s failed, resulting in the resurgence of the Quebec separatist movement, and the appearance of new political parties, the most significant being the Bloc Quebecois and Action Democratique de Quebec.


  1. November 16, 1976: The Road to PQ Victory
  2. The Not so Beautiful Result of the ‘Beau Risque’
  3. The Quebec Question and the Canadian Crisis: Party Politics, 1990-5

The Road to PQ Victory

  • Liberals launched large-scale public works problems including superhighways and the James Bay hydroelectric project and the facilities for the 1976 Olympics
  • also some nods from Bourassa to social democracy, e.g. medicare
  • but rapid and intense struggles with labour, notably the strike in 1972, following the incarceration of three leaders more labour unrest, social agitation
  • as the October Crisis demonstrated, the question of Quebec’s political future could not be avoided
  • Bourassa Liberals determined to defend their own and Quebec’s autonomy from the Trudeau Liberals, refused to abandon the nationalist field to the PQ, positioned themselves as defenders of Quebec’s constitutional powers and its cultural sovereignty within Canada, e.g. rejected the 1971 Constitutional Charter and infringement on its culture
  • the UN leader Bertrand replaced by Loubier who tried to revive UN fortunes, changed name to Unite Quebec, brought in a new slate of candidates, but failed to get any elected, squeezed between the Liberals and the PQ, UQ did not have a clear reason for existence, lost supporters to one or the other
  • PQ trying to achieve greater success, translate popular support to seats in the National Assembly, after 1970 emphasized its social reform and social democratic aspirations over sovereignty, Bourgault said that PQ was to be the liberation front (cultural, political), a population to undergo national liberation, but also had Levesque who was less radical, growing pains, internal tension
  • Leveque has to separate PQ from the violent labour movements in order to see success, in 1973 brings in 33% of the vote, a significant political force, the Official Opposition, although actually down from 7 to 6 seats because of the first-past-the-post system
  • Bourassa Liberals benefited, won 102/110 seats in the NA, with such a massive majority they could only go down, they staggered from crisis to crisis, did not respond effectively to the labour movement, did not control spending on James Bay and the Olympics, growing charges of patronage, Bourassa “the most hated man in Quebec”
  • one of the most contentious issues: Bill 22 making French an official language of Quebec, this united Quebec against the Bourassa Liberals, the anglo- and allo- phones were opposed to restricted English school access and the required French proficiency in professions, but Quebec nationalists thought the law did not go far enough
  • Bourassa called an election just 3 years into the mandate, 1976, figured the situation was bad but could only get worse, the campaign was a Liberal disaster, had to contend with a resurgent UQ (back to UN), the UN benefited from the opposition to Bill 22 and split the federalist vote to their benefit, just what the PQ needed to overcome its internal divisions, PQ promised to hold a referendum before any action was taken, that was a victory for the pragmatic wing, permitted those Quebec voters who were not necessarily in favour of sovereignty-association to nevertheless vote PQ, “etapiste” approach, step-by-step, promise to stand up to the Liberals, expand social services
  • the results come in, PQ majority, to Levesque’s surprise, 71 seats and 41% of the vote
  • one of the PQ’s most important bills was 101 that made French the sole official language, no opportunity for English to be used

The Not so Beautiful Result

  • had to contend with a re-invigorated Liberal party under Claude Ryan, but not especially effective in mounting an opposition to the PQ’s referendum in 1978 (?)
  • at the federal level, Trudeau Liberals had fallen from party, Clark in a minority position, but falls in 1979, ironically, he comes back to power and the referendum fails
  • the unilateral actions by Trudeau contributed to the PQ being re-elected in 1980
  • PQ came close to launching a federal wing but wary of a Quebec nationalist party participating in the federal arena, would suggest compliance, not what Levesque wanted to do, knew how nationalist blocs had fared in federal parliament, did not want a repeat, so PQ members were advised to either vote for the Creditists or abstain from voting, one of the reasons why Trudeau swept Quebec in the 1970s, the opposition stayed home
  • PQ registers itself as a federal party in Sept 1982, Levesque this time supports it, but highly contested among some elements, and reverses it soon after
  • new leader of the PCs changes the notion that Quebec is a political wasteland for the Tories, Mulroney’s arrival changed the PQ equation regarding the federal level
  • PQ government increasingly unpopular, leadership reverses its decision to run federal candidates, instead the pragmatic Levesque took “the beautiful risk” of support Mulroney
  • PQ was respond to Mulroney’s promise to rectify the bad Constitutional deal and his promise to amend it in a matter that would satisfy its aspirations and sign it with “honour and enthusiasm”
  • result in 1984 was a historic shift in Quebec voting patterns, the Mulroney Tories won 58 of Quebec’s 75 seats, from 13 to 50% of the popular vote, not just the death of a regime but the first of a new pan-Canadian coalition, seen in the Diefenbaker Tories and Macdonald
  • hastened the demise of the PQ government, serious labour unrest, government had forced civil servants back to work with pay cuts, alienated, forgot its social-democratic roots, as well the “Risk” strategy involved more than supporting Mulroney, it involved the decision to shelve article one of the PQ program, which was referendum, this dropped the question, starved out the more doctrinaire elements of the party, e.g. Parizeau and Laurin
  • notwithstanding the decision not to run a federal wing, the Parti Nationaliste formed, performs abysmally in 1984 and disappears by 1988
  • Levesque resigns in 1985, succeeded by Johnson (conservative nationalist), the PQ fell to 23 seats nonetheless

The Canadian Crisis

  • set the stage for constitutional reconciliation, May 1986 Quebec Liberals listed their conditions for formally signing on, Meech Lake Accord 1987, appeared possibly to offer Canada Constitutional peace, impact more important than details
  • 1988 federal election unfolded with the belief that Meech was a done deal, permitted the Tories to increase their seat count, 63 seats, best showing ever of the Tories in Quebec, solidified their electoral coalition, but then a renewed dispute over Quebec’s language laws when Bourassa uses the Notwithstanding Clause after the Supreme Court rules some parts of 101 unconstitutional
  • Equality Party calls for official equality of French and English, just a flash
  • language controversy touched off the unravelling of Meech, absolute melodrama, return of Trudeau decrying the deal, deepening unity crisis, Manitoba and Newfoundland fail to ratify it and it dies, number of effects:
  • the NDP moves to expel its Quebec section from the party when it moves to endorse Quebec separation
  • for the federal Liberals, Meech was disruptive, Turner had supported it when announced, after Trudeau intervention he switches, but switches back and says he will support it with some changes, resigns in 1989, leadership convention unfolded, Chretien elected leader the day that Meech died, had served as Minister of Justice, very much a part of the struggle, initially Chretien was critical but he warmed up to Meech, his election led to two Quebec MPs leaving the party on account of his harsh approach to Quebec’s nationalist aspirations, these MPs left for the Bloc
  • the disintegration of the alliance was a result of the Bloc, Bouchard had been a close friend and supporter of Mulroney, but Quebec Tories left the party after Meech failed, they formed the PQ, July 1990, nationalists opting for a nationalist party, Bouchard emerges as leader, charisma, closer to the traditional nationalist elements in Quebec, call for greater devolution of powers to the parties
  • Bouchard elected to the Belanger-Campeau Commission to buy time, his participation afforded him further public exposure, sounding out the population on Quebec’s future, sovereignty running at an all-time high, the Meech failure and the rise of the BQ put pressure on Constitutional reconciliation
  • the Charlottetown Accord, 1992, more ambitious, to settle all Canadians’ constitutional demands, endorsed by Cons, Libs, and NDP, also had the support of the Quebec Liberals, submitted to a nationwide referendum, but rejected in certain regions, fell short of meeting Quebec’s demands 
  • Bourassa Liberals had also shelved a more autonomist approach being promoted by Jean Allaire, Allaire walks out, takes with him Mario Dumont (leader of the YLCQ), together they form the ADQ, Dumont takes over at age 23
  • 1993 election, BQ won nearly 50% of the popular vote, called into question the pan-Canadian claims of the federal Liberals (19 seats) and the PCs (1 seat, Charest)
  • a year later, the PQ return to power in Quebec, takes 77 seats to the 47 of the Liberals
  • 1995 referendum produced a virtual tie, 94% voter turnout, federalist won by less than 55 000 votes
  • the national question goes into overtime…

The West Wants In

Main Arguments:

  1. The Reform Party’s emergence in the late 1980s is consistent with a larger history of Western alienation that reflects an enduring suspicion of external control, a rejection of the status quo of Canada’s parliamentary system, and a thirst for a fundamental solution to redress the power imbalance between Central and Western Canada;
  2. The emergence of the Reform Party in the late 1980s arose from the failure of the two traditional parties to sufficiently respond to the specific concerns of Western Canada;
  3. The history of the Reform Party (and indeed its successors, the Canadian Alliance and the Conservative Party) reflects a tension between being a Western regional party, and the realities of obtaining the power to implement those measures meant to address Western concerns.
  • Western Alienation and Canadian Political Parties, Post 1945 to the 1970s
  • The Liberals and the West, or, “Let the Eastern Bastards Freeze in the Dark”
  • The PCs and the West
  • From Reform to the Conservative Party of Canada: Is the West In?

Western Alienation

  • Manning dropped the “social credit” dimension of the party and it became a rural-based conservative party
  • absolutely dominanted Alberta politics until the 1970s
  • concerned with the leftward drift at the federal level in the 1960s, Manning’s So-Creds took note
  • Social Credit Party won power in BC under Bennett, “Wacky Bennett”, he did not believe in social credit theory but used it to form a very conservative coalition to stave off the rise of the NDP
  • like its Alberta counterpart, the BC So-Creds asserted the provincial interest in its dealings with Ottawa, engaged in province-building, expansion of BC’s economic infrastructure
  • at the federal level, the national Social Credit party captured most of AB’s and some of BC’s seats, first under Blackmore, then under Low
  • it appeared at that point that Social Credit had what it took to become a major federal party, centred out of the West, championing Western interests, arguing that MPs being marginalized, excessive concentration of power in cabinet, party discipline
  • Diefenbaker election in 1957 changes everything, up until this point the PCs had been confined to the anglo-Ontarian business community, able to successfully harness discontent, he gave PCs a major Western rural base that he was able to combine with the central Canadian party
  • Diefenbaker’s success came at the expense of the So-Creds, lost all its federal seats
  • in its wake Manning recruited Thompson to take over leadership of the party, difficult task of reviving it at the federal level, had some success in 1962, wins seats
  • however 26 of the 30 came from Quebec, the Creditistes, only four were Western seats, questioned identity as a Western party
  • Quebec wing and Western wing had a fallout, rise of two distinct regional movements at this time, strengthening Quebec nationalism vs. growing Western nationalism, an irreparable split 
  • Social Credit never recovers at the federal level, Thompson resigns in 1967, leaderless, the following year they were seatless
  • Prairie provinces had obtained control of their resources, royalty cheques come in, Manitoba gains from mining, hyrdo-electric and forestry; Alberta gains from oil; Sask from uranium and potash
  • in Alberta’s case, the political figure most identified with the economic rise was Peter Lougheed, enters politics in 1962 as a PC, goes on to lead the Alberta Tories, able to enunciate an effective criticism of Soc-Cred that remained safely right of centre, argued that AB far too dependent on oil and gas and agriculture, concern at the time was oil running out, he criticized Manning’s So-Creds for failing to recognize oil’s potential for massive economic development, manufacturing sector, could rival central Canada, establish itself
  • by 1970s, majority of Albertans living in the cities, Pratt/Richards have interpreted the Lougheed Tories as the manifestation of a new rise of businesspeople in AB
  • parallels between QC and AB: using the state to further the social and economic interests of the middle class, moreover AB’s Quiet Revolution began in 1971 when the Tories win 2/3rd of the seats, still there now
  • growing expertise in bureaucracy, expansion, part of the challenge to Central Canada
  • beginning to draw in rural Albertans as well, Lougheed argues he needs a strong mandate from Albertans in order to challenge Ottawa, an uncaring domineering federal government led by Trudeau

The Liberals and the West

  • Liberal Party in decline throughout the St-Laurent era in the West
  • culminated with the Diefenbaker election with the Libs did not win a seat west of ON
  • Liberals centered chiefly out of Central’s cities
  • the most longstanding and significant dispute arose out of the question of oil, an oil crisis erupts in the 1970s, gas prices skyrocketing, Trudeau’s Liberals wanted to use AB’s oil to provide a steady supply and price to Canada by expanding the pipelines eastward to Central Canada, new incentives to explore the development and discovery of oil, establishment of Petro Canada 
  • “Pierre E. Trudeau Rips Off Canada”
  • just another example of CC arrogance, the forced sale of AB’s non-renewable resources at prices well below the global market prices, AB government doubles its royalty rate to make up for the fact that Ottawa keeping the resource at a lower price, increased tax helped to get the money back
  • Heritage Trust Fund: 1/3rd of all of AB’s oil resource funds to fund development, diversification, long-term way by which AB could achieve greater economic power within Canada
  • recently used this to pay off its provincial debt
  • Liberals induced Jack Horner, a Tory backbencher, to cross the floor, parachuted into the cabinet, a desperate attempt to establish a toe-hole in AB, but it was self-defeating, Horner loses the 1979 election, crass political opportunism, only win 3/77 Western seats
  • 1980 Trudeau denounces “the Clark government’s rather cowardly, soft approach to dealing with the West” and argues that the Libs would provide cheaper gasoline (to CC), i.e. would continue the 1973 policy, popular in CC, unpopular in WC, and fall to 2 seats (and even those were in Manitoba)
  • notwithstanding, Trudeau’s win a majority government (ON and QC), increases the sense of Western Canada, voting en bloc, still faced with a majority Liberal government, the system is not responding to the West, it is a tool of CC
  • Oct 1980: after oil prices again spike, Libs move unilaterally in enacting the NEP (National Energy Policy) meant to achieve self-sufficiency in Canadian petroleum, grants to encourage oil drilling in the Arctic, new taxes, expansion of Petro Canada, Western oil maintained at a price far below international prices
  • this does reduce dependency, foreign influence, but it strengthens Western alientaiton, stifles foreign investment in AB, especially when in 1982 oil prices begin to collapse, the moment when the NEP is coming into its own, AB’s best opportunity for economic development had passed, they had missed the boat
  • more broadly, NEP viewed by the West as an attempt to take control of provincial resources, the product of a political system designed to serve CS and marginalize WS

The PCs

  • Mulroney’s victory seemed to vindicate the strategy of working with one of the established parties
  • West seemed to have gained influence in Ottawa, held key cabinet positions, the NEP repealed
  • but the vindication of this co-operation strategy was short-lived, West had high expectations, Mulroney did not deliver
  • new protest movement
  • the fighter jet contract, Bristol Aerospace of Winnipeg lost despite being cheaper and superior to a Montreal company, CC interests trump WC interests, the CF18 scandal


  • roots in Western Canadian business elite
  • talk in Calgary and Edmonton of the need for a new party, especially among business executives, upset that the Mulroney government had not moved fast enough to repeal the oil and gas tax
  • attracted to Ernest Manning’s son Preston, who argued that the time was right to launch a new protest party
  • Van, Cal, Ed host the Western Assembly on Canada’s Economic and Political Future which lays the groundwork for a new protest party
  • Reform Party: “The West Wants In!” 1987
  • in addition to its neo-conservative policies and its populist tendencies it proposed a Triple E (equal, effective, elected) Senate, all of these aimed to reduce the power of the PM and lessen CC’s political influence, more ambitiously, to rebalance the division of power in the federation
  • no Reform candidates elected in 1988, but that had more to do with the strong support for Free Trade, to prevent Ottawa from imposing a new National Energy Program
  • in the wake of 88, Western alienation grew, along with the popularity of the Reform Party, it wins a bi-election and a Senate election in AB (Senator Stan the People’s Man)
  • GST enacted, first sales tax in AB, fury
  • Reform opposed Meech, an elite-driven CC process, called for equality between the provinces, no special status, gave the Reform a national pulpit, support increased when it opposed Charlottetown, going to result in a constitution that enshired CC domination
  • the Alberta Tories led by Getty 
  • Kim Campbell elected Tory leader, part of growing concern to their declining popularity in the West, but too little too late
  • 52/87 seats go Reform in 1993, Manning hoped that Reform would become national anchored out of the West, internal party referendum endorsed idea of running national, changed its slogan, but still its fundamental aim
  • influenced Liberal Party, Chrétien shifted rightward
  • but Eastern voters were alienated, perceived it as a Western party, extremist, only one seat elected east of Manitoba (Barrie!)
  • 1997 election: Reform won 1/5th of Ontario votes, widespread, this support did not translate into any seats; but won 8 more seats in the West and became the Official Opposition
  • trend was to see it as a Western party
  • Manning initiated the “United Alternative Movement” to unite the right, another bid of the West to obtain power, the attempt to break free of the Western confines of the Reform Party, downplay the exclusively Western agenda stigma
  • e.g. dropped demands for a Triple-E Senate and requested an elected Senate; toned down the references to Western alienation, on the backburner
  • ¼ of the Reform Party caucus opposed the UAM for fear that Western interests would become submerged like in all national parties and the West would not be “in”
  • a majority of the Western delegates to the UA Convention in 1999 endorsed and founded the party actually opposed the new party, but Ontario delegates swung it, result was the Alliance
  • most visible sign that the Canadian Alliance was moving away from the Western alienation stance was that Manning lost the leadership, he was identified with the idea, not popular amongst the corporate Canadian elite in central Canadian, felt uneasy about him, Alliance elected someone who was (initially) much more popular in the centre – Stockwell Day
  • 2000 election: Alliance gets 4.5% more of the popular vote more than the Reform ever had, and 66 seats
  • still a Western party in practice: only won 2 seats east of Manitoba, these were in Ontario
  • most of the committed party activists were Western Canadians
  • only with the 2003 merge with the PCs, the election of Stephen Harper (transplanted from ON to AB) that the West was able to bring itself to the Government side of the House
  • return to the Lougheed strategy, the idea that the West would see its interests realized and defended by participating in a pan-Canadian party as opposed to a regional protest party
  • since the 2006 election, AB has been hard-hit: the phasing out of capital cost allowance, the inclusion of resource revenues in the equalization process, etc. 
  • people have begun talking about a new Western regional protest party, West remains out
  • the combined population of AB, BC now has surpassed that of QC, the rate of population growth (fuelled by the tar sands) is outpacing that of growth in the rest of Canada, growing economic clout, Canada’s political and economic centre of gravity may be gravitating Westward to Calgary and Edmonton
  • suggests that the West is going to have more seats in the House, the West in the future may go with the protest party or the pan-Canadian party, but it is going to be “in”, seeing its agenda realized

One Party Rule or Perpetual Instability?

Main Arguments:

  1. The 1993 federal election constituted a political earthquake in Canadian party politics. The effects of globalization, combined with Canada’s cleavages, resulted in a regionalization and breakdown of the mid-20th century party system;
  2. The federal politics of the 1990s were an exaggerated version of earlier examples in which Ontario political forces fought off challenges from Quebec and/or the West;
  3. The regionalization of Canadian party politics and decline of pan-Canadian parties led initially to a situation in which one party was dominant, but since 2004 has resulted in a situation of perpetual instability in the form of minority governments.
  • 1993: Political Earthquake
  • Overtime: The Quebec Question and Party Politics
  • Uniting the Right
  • Decline of the Liberals?

Political Earthquake

  • a breakdown, a watershed, reflecting Canada’s internal divisions, each region relating to national politics in its own way, a five-way split
  • set the pattern for Canadian politics to the millennium
  • 1992: Charlottetown Accord rejected despite being endorsed by the three main parties, a victory for the Bloc and Reform
  • Canadian electorate angry and cynical in 1993
  • unpopular NDP governments in ON, SK, saw its national seat count drop, and lost their claims to Official Party Status, yet not the biggest losers
  • Tories ruling coalition had collapsed, rise of Reform and Bloc reflect this
  • massive recession, global in scope, had hit the manufacturing sector in ON especially hard
  • by the time Mulroney resigned, the PCs had an approval rating in the low teens
  • Campbell’s replacement was to remove the stigma, the thought that they would be able to hang onto power, Tories build on the image of Campbell, don’t try to run on their record or a new platform, focus on the party leader as the result of politics in the television age, but Campbell turned out to have a rather disastrous campaign, the first day she was a little too honest and said that really, Canadians were going to have to make do with high unemployment until the end of the century, and said that the campaign was not the time to discuss social security reform, and the TV ads of Chrétien’s lip paralysis were very unpopular, reduced to two seats, caucus able to meet in a phone booth
  • Reform and Bloc were big winners, had harnessed the regional anger of their areas
  • Bloc had only run candidates in Quebec and yet won the second largest number of seats, forced to serve as the Official Opposition
  • Liberals were the biggest winners, after a decade in the political wilderness, after the 1984 defeat there had been an internal battle between Turner and Chrétien, in 1986 the Chrétien camp spearheaded an effort to oust Turner, unsuccessful
  • Turner redeemed himself somewhat in 1988, from 40 to 83 seats, but this achievement was deceptive, still the second-lowest result after the very lowest result in 1984, seals Turner’s fate, he had lost Quebec, failed to restore Liberal fortunes in the West, his anti-Free Trade stance had alienated corporate Canada from the party, further divisions between the left and right within the party, demoralized party, Chrétien wins the leadership in 1990
  • Chrétien is spooked by the Constitutional crisis, not very effective in responding to the Oca Crisis, did not have a coherent stance on the Gulf Crisis in 1990-1, shaky years, but he does succeed in reorganizing the party
  • a policy conference, thinker’s conference, 1991, Aylmer Conference, new platform for the Liberals, later showcased in the Red Book, moves the Liberals a fraction to the right of the centre, embraced globalization, argued that an activist government was still necessary, but ultimately reject the welfare statism and economic nationalism
  • 1993: get seats in every region of the country, but due less to the platform, leadership, more to the fact that their opponents were weak, division of the right, permitted the Liberals to come up through the middle, Liberals had a majority, confident that their opponents had been dealt crippling blows, confident that the regional parties would not make bids for office, set for a long run in power
  • bulk of Bloc’s attention went to Quebec’s interests, Reform party in growing pains, a power struggle within between Manning and rising star Harper who leaves in 1997 to head up the National Citizen’s Coalition, a special interest group


  • 1995 Quebec Referendum
  • sense of crisis over Canada’s future
  • McKay’s article deals with the kind of literature being produced at the time, sense of pessimism, look at the footnotes, scathing
  • disarray in the ranks of the Quebec nationalist movement, Parizeau blaming the defeat of the “yes” side on the ethnic vote and lack of money, resigns PQ leadership, sets up a game of political musical chairs
  • Bouchard to take over leadership of the PQ (from Ottawa to Quebec City), charismatic, he was brought in to take over leadership of the “yes” campaign, principal spokesperson, took over even before Parizeau resigned
  • prompts the Quebec Liberals to draft Jean Charest, star federalist campaigner, from Ottawa Tories to replace Daniel Johnson in Quebec City
  • 1998: Charest Liberals won the greatest share of the popular vote, but trailed the PQ considerably in terms of seats, Libs had 48 while PQ had 76, popular vote count reflected that Quebec was seriously divided over the question of its future and the ADQ double its share of the popular vote
  • in Ottawa, Bouchard’s departure seemed to indicate a decline in Bloc fortunes, Gauthier succeeds him, followed a year later by Duceppe, who wins the leadership after a very acrimonious convention, divided by left and right wings, contributed to the impression that Duceppe was a weak leader without a hold on his party
  • declining popularity of the Bouchard government, neo-conservative, affects the Bloc
  • encourages the Chrétien government to call an early election, make gains in Quebec, only 3 ½ years into its mandate, Liberals pick up 7 seats, the PCs had the best relative gains moving from 1 to 5

Uniting the Right

  • another factor in the early election was the fact that the right was till divided, the Manning father/son had proposed a merger between the right-wingers, the So-Creds, and blue Liberals, a re-alignment, written in 1967
  • took a long time to be realized: PCs not willing to give up the ghost, anointed Charest as their leader, wanted to revive party fortunes, whipped out party debt, they were much better at tapping into corporate Canada resources than the Reform, but awkwardly ideological, between the Reform and Liberals, did not have a distinctive support base, no electoral machine to deliver support (had collapsed in the 1993 campaign)
  • 1997: Tories regain official party status, however they continue to trail Reform in popular support, PC support too thinly distributed, a few pockets of PCs in each constituency
  • Tories obliterated in Western Canada, barely holding on in Central Canada, most support in Atlantic Canada
  • Reform a party of the West
  • both parties take about 20% of the popular vote, allows Liberals to come up the middle, sweep ON in 1997, conditions for perpetual dominance
  • to form a moderate right of centre party
  • Manning has party endorse its own demise in early 1999, UA Convention, idea endorsed, in 2000, new party officially founded with the name Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance(Party) CRAP, becomes the Canadian Alliance
  • although Reform joined the Alliance, Clark’s Tories refused, ran a full slate of candidates
  • enabled Liberals a third majority
  • Day’s disastrous leadership, members leave, form new party with a loose coalition with the Tories
  • looks like the Tories will unite the right, pick up the pieces
  • 2001 Convention: Harper elected leader, this changes the political equation, he revives Alliance fortunes, Democratic Representatives rejoin party, Clark resigns in 2003, succeeded by McKay
  • McKay had, in the course of the spring 2003 convention, promised that he would not pursue a merger, in the fall he reversed his decision and the merger happened by the end of 2003
  • March 2004: Harper elected leader of the CP
  • emergence of the CP as the pan-Canada party

Decline of the Liberals?

  • Liberals have been in decline in the West since the St-Laurent period, especially following the Diefenbaker victories, in the subsequent Trudeau years the Conservatives were getting a relative majority outside of Quebec in the 1970s and 80s, support for the Liberals in Quebec began to disintegrate after the 1982 Constitution, the rise of the Bloc, Liberals unable to recover, in 1988, Liberals lost seats and their share of the popular vote in Quebec, more than half of its caucus coming from ON, in 1993 Liberals won only 18 seats in QC, Chretien forms a majority government without a majority of Quebec seats, 55% of the caucus from ON, having won 101 of 103 seats, in 1997 the regional decline is confirmed, although they had seats in all provinces except NS, only had a majority in NF, PEI, and ON, an Ontario party
  • revived a bit in 2000 election, but deceiving results, swept because of divided right
  • won 36 seats in Quebec, just a couple shy of the Bloc, and they outpolled the Bloc by 5% in the popular vote for the first time
  • appeared to vindicate the harder line the Chretien Liberals were taking after the 1995 referendum, were pushed by the Reform Party, which advocated a more assertive approach towards Quebec
  • a reference to the Supreme Court regarding the potential succession of Quebec, what law would rule, what would be the procedure, culminated in the 2000 Clarity Act sponsored by Dion, stated that Ottawa would not negotiate separation unless the referendum question was clear and had received a clear majority
  • speculation that the Clarity Act would wipe out Liberal support in Quebec, but by 2000, already problems within the party, namely the Sponsorship Scandal, Gomery revealed that Liberal strategy was designed to annihilate the Conservatives and unite federalists under the Liberal banner, make the Liberals synonymous with Canada
  • a blurring of the lines between what constituted a national interest and what constituted a Liberal interest, increasingly perceived as one and the same within the party and the bureaucracy
  • when the Sponsorship Scandal blew up, it was a divide between Chretien and Martin
  • Martin supporters increasingly annoyed by Chretien’s dominance, three elections, after the third majority the Martin Liberals began to act, moved to take over the Liberal party from the grassroots up, quite successful, by 2002 a power struggle in the open, Martin fired/resigned from Minister of Finance
  • Chretien feels the party being taken over, announces resignation 
  • despite being initially seen as a break from the past, Auditor General releases report on the Sponsorship Scandal, Martin’s Liberals seize the opportunity to bury Chretien with it, but voters don’t distinguish, the same party regardless of leadership
  • in 2004 election, reduced to a minority government against the newly united right
  • in 2006, Conservatives come to office
  • a revival of the Bloc’s fortunes in the wake of “dirty politics” in referendum and AdScam, support rises back to Bloc’s 1993 levels, win 54 seats in 2004, but down a bit in 2006, result is parliamentary instability
  • no one party has been capable of achieving a majority, as in the 1960s
  • remains to be seen if Conservatives can win a majority or whether the regionalized politics and the instability of minority governments will continue

Voter Alienation and Alternatives to Parties

  • Declining voter participation
  • Question of government legitimacy arises
  • Reaction is adaptation to voter alienation
  • Despite some predictions to the contrary, the death of Canadian political parties has been greatly exaggerated

Growth of Cynicism

  • e.g. failure of Charlottetown
  • understood as a rejection by voters of the elite-dominated political brokerage politics
  • the alienation manifested in two huge specs: the decline in the number of Canadians turning out to vote (highest in Diefenbaker era, rate has been on a downward trend since, from 75% to 70% in 1993 to 60% in 2004 and the accentuation of voter volatility, seen in Mulroney’s landslide and the Chretien landslide, breakdown of party loyalties
  • reflected in the growing number of new parties
  • has created a vicious cycle, increased prominence of short-term policy making, parties have to capture disloyal voters
  • has led to scapegoating, criticizing, attacking opponents
  • has only further fuelled alienation
  • the changing electorate, the Baby Boomers, anti-establishment atmosphere, led to a decline in voter attachment to the political status quo, the traditional parties
  • growing disdain against patronage, the more they practice it the less esteem they are held in, yet it’s a traditional function
  • television clips, House of Commons, emphasis on the leader, popularity quickly gives rise to familiarity and then contempt, increasing cynicism about television politics, contempt of photo-ops, e.g. Stockwell Day and the jet ski
  • has led to parties relying less on the grassroots, turn to professionals who strategize, no longer community organizations
  • television has multiplied the impact of scandal, makes for great news, but government is remote, impregnable in perception, party not an intermediary to the system, out of touch with constituents
  • the acceleration of globalization, voting rates highest in 1950s when Canada’s project of national rule was at its height, the Keynesian era, government intervention, economic and environmental problems are international in scope, no one government dominates, the neo-conservative approach to government that reduces the scope of the welfare state, they themselves don’t seem to have the answer, aren’t taking part, people themselves are increasingly mobile, less tied to the community or the party
  • the impact of Canada’s electoral system, the first-past-the-post system works best in a two party situation because the winning party is guaranteed at least 50% of the vote, but in a multi-party democracy they only need a plurality, e.g. Rae’s government with 38% of votes got a majority, votes not translating, fewer voters, fewer votes counting… question of legitimacy!

Party Responses

  • one response was the release of campaign books, Chretien’s Red Book, Harris’ Common Sense Revolution
  • to appear more accountable, tangible
  • another one is the growth of populist discourse, around free trade, constitutional reform, evidence of a rejection of brokerage politics, increasingly in the early 1990s voters were demanding to be consulted directed, rejecting parties as a gateway, e.g. Charlottetown
  • after their 1993 wipeout, the Tories adopted a new party constitution in 1995, founded upon the pre-eminence of the membership and the local offices, pushing power down, e.g. one member one vote system for electing leader
  • Reform Party able to generate and ride the populist wave, portrayed itself as a genuine grassroots party championing grassroots democracy, direct democratic measures, referendums, recalls, proportional representation, reduction in party discipline called for, they don’t have a party whip in their caucus and instead adopt a caucus co-ordinator, vow that they will be dignified in parliament, Manning sits in the middle not in the front, spend money on television town hall meetings to sound out Canadians, a symbolic message that Parliament isn’t the most important locus
  • not without repercussions: NDP government of Clark subjected to repeated attempts to be recalled, towards the late 1990s the “Total Recall Campaign” which targeted every member of the BC legislature to oust Clark government
  • in Ottawa, Reform soon changes, moves towards opposition party tactics, Manning moves to the front bench, adversarial logic, cat-calling, desk-banging, Manning has dental surgery and laser eye surgery, from a folksy image to a leader, maintaining as strict a party discipline as anyone
  • Mercer’s move to change Stockwell’s first name to Doris
  • Chretien Liberals introduced wide-ranging changes on elections, the limit on how much parties and candidates could receive was reduced, contributions from unions and corporations were banned, the new law provided for taxpayer funding of the parties (had to get it from somewhere and couldn’t count on voluntary contributions!), this suggests that political parties which really emerged as private organizations are shirting further into the public sphere, increasingly intertwined with the state apparatus, a measure meant to reduce voter alienation has the affect of increasing the state’s role in the process
  • alienation doesn’t necessary mean a decline in participation, proliferation of special interest groups, promoted by the funding of the Trudeau Liberals to promote participatory democracy, allegiance not to parties but to interest groups, even the corporate sector began spending more money on trade groups and lobbying than on contributing to the parties
  • e.g. successful effort of Doris Anderson “Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women” and the “National Action Committee on the Status of Women” to ensure that gender equality entrenched in the Charter
  • NAC’s relations with the three main parties began to erode, adopted an apartisan approach, an extra parliamentary opposition, consistent with the membership’s disdain for political parties, easier to attack it than work within it
  • the challenges of reconcile, especially NDP, e.g. unionized loggers and environmentalists
  • Smith’s article: the Courts have been used, even before the Charter, as a means of advancing claims, Liberals able to use Court for gay rights
  • voter alienation has led paradoxically to the proliferation of parties, from just four in 1972 to 14 in 1983 (some just mockeries)
  • individual citizens turning to social movements, governments turning to non-party organizations like think tanks and interest groups for input
  • an eventual death?
  • parties transforming themselves to guarantee their continued relevance, how they adopt and respond to regionalism and globalization, linguistic and cultural cleavages, the social and economic challenges of an increasingly aging population, alienation