List of Canadian federal general elections

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An 1891 election poster featuring first Prime Minister John A. Macdonald.

This article provides a summary of results for the general (all seats contested) elections to the House of Commons, the elected lower half of Canada's federal bicameral legislative body, the Parliament of Canada. The number of seats has increased steadily over time, from 180 for the first election to the current total of 308. The current federal government structure was established in 1867 by the Constitution Act.

For federal by-elections (for one or a few seats as a result of retirement, etc.) see List of federal by-elections in Canada. For the eight general elections of the Province of Canada held in 1843 to 1864 before confederation in 1867, see List of elections in the Province of Canada. There were also earlier elections in Canada, such as for the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada (held in 1792–1836, now part of Ontario) and the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada (held in 1792–1834, now part of Quebec).

Two parties have dominated politics in Canada: the Liberal party and the historic Conservative party (known as the Progressive Conservative party from 1943 to 2003). If one regards the modern Conservative party as the successor to the historic one, then these are the only two parties to have formed a government, although often as the lead party in a minority or coalition government with one or more smaller parties (the 1917 win was by a pro-conscription Unionist coalition of former Liberals and Conservatives).

Although government has primarily been a two-party system, Canadian federal politics has been a multi-party affair since the 1920s, which saw significant parliamentary presence from the Progressive party and the United Farmers movement. They were supplanted by the Social Credit party and the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) in the 1930s. The CCF evolved into the New Democratic Party (NDP) in 1961. The Social Credit party and the CCF/NDP occupied the 3rd and 4th party slots between them from the 1930s, until the Social Credit party failed to win any seats in the 1980 election.

Since 1980, the NDP has remained a presence in the Canadian parliament, but the situation amongst other non-government parties has been more complex. The historic Conservative party never recovered from its spectacular defeat in the 1993 election (when it went from being the majority government with 169 seats, to just two seats and the loss of official party status). Right-wing politics has since seen the rise and fall of the Reform party and the Canadian Alliance, followed by the rise to government of the new Conservative party. Further, 1993 saw the first seats won by the separatist Bloc Québécois, which has been a constant presence in the Canadian parliament since then.

Summary of results[edit]

Party colour key
  Liberal   Reform
New Democrats Canadian Alliance
Progressive Conservative
Anti-Confederate Liberal-Conservative,
Conservative (historic),[1]
Progressive Conservative
Co-operative Commonwealth Federation Liberal-Progressive
Social Credit Bloc Québécois
United Farmers Unionist coalition

The third, fourth, and fifth parties' results are included in "Other" if the party did not win at least four seats in an election at some point in its history. Results for parties placing sixth or lower (as in the 1926 election) are also included in "Other", as are Independent seats.

Election
Year
Summary Government Official
opposition
Third
party
Fourth
party
Fifth
party
Other Total
seats
1st 1867 Liberal-Conservative Party (commonly known as the Conservative Party), led by John A. Macdonald, is elected to form Canada's first majority government, defeating the Liberal Party and its de facto leader George Brown. In Nova Scotia, Anti-Confederates under Joseph Howe win 18 of 19 seats after campaigning against confederation, but later sit with the Liberals. 100[2] 62 18 - - 0 180
2nd 1872 Conservatives under Macdonald are re-elected with a minority, defeating Liberals and their de facto leader Edward Blake. 100[3] 95 - - - 5 200
3rd 1874 Liberals, led by Alexander Mackenzie, retain power with a majority after having formed a government after Conservatives under Macdonald lose the confidence of the House in 1873. The Conservatives drop the word "Liberal" from "Liberal-Conservative Party" in 1873, but Macdonald and some other members continue to run under the original party name. 129 65[2] - - - 12 206
4th 1878 Conservative Party, led by Macdonald, defeat Mackenzie's Liberals, returning Macdonald to power with a second majority. 134[2] 63 - - - 9 206
5th 1882 Conservatives, led by Macdonald, are re-elected with a third majority, defeating Blake's Liberals. 134[4] 73 - - - 4 211
6th 1887 Conservatives, led by Macdonald, are re-elected with a fourth majority, defeating Blake's Liberals. 124[4] 80 - - - 11 215
7th 1891 Conservatives, led by Macdonald, are re-elected with a fifth majority, in Macdonald's final election before his death shortly after. Macdonald defeated rookie Liberal opposition leader Wilfrid Laurier. 118[4] 90 - - - 7 215
8th 1896 Liberals, led by Laurier, are elected with a majority, defeating Conservatives of Prime Minister Charles Tupper. 117 86[2] - - - 10 213
9th 1900 Liberals, led by Laurier, are re-elected with a second majority, defeating Tupper's Conservatives. 128 79[2] - - - 6 213
10th 1904 Liberals, led by Laurier, are re-elected with a third majority, defeating Robert Borden's Conservatives. 137 75[2] - - - 2 214
11th 1908 Liberals, led by Laurier, are re-elected with a fourth majority, defeating Borden and his Conservatives. 133 85[2] - - - 3 221
12th 1911 Conservatives, led by Borden, defeat Laurier's Liberals with a majority. 132[2] 85 - - - 4 221
13th 1917 Unionist Party, a pro-conscription coalition of Conservatives and former Liberals, are elected with a majority under Borden. Both former Conservatives and former Liberals are appointed to the cabinet. The coalition defeats Laurier's anti-conscription Liberals in the most bitter campaign in Canadian history. 153 82 - - - 0 235
14th 1921 Liberals, led by William Lyon Mackenzie King, win a minority government, defeating Conservatives under Prime Minister Arthur Meighen. The Conservatives are reduced to third place in the House, but the Progressive Party under Thomas Crerar declines the title of official opposition so Meighen becomes opposition leader. 118 49 58 3[5] - 7 235
15th 1925 Mackenzie King's Liberals hold on to power with a minority with the help of Progressives under Robert Forke, despite Meighen's Conservatives winning more seats. Labour Party leader and future CCF leader J.S. Woodsworth bargains his votes in the House to the Liberals in exchange for a promise to enact an old age pension plan. The Progressives soon withdraw support from the scandal-plagued Liberals but also refuse to support the Conservatives. The Governor General controversially gives Meighen the Prime Minister's post in the King-Byng Affair, but the Conservatives soon fall in a non-confidence vote. 100 115 22 2[6] - 6 245
16th 1926 Liberals, led by Mackenzie King, defeat Meighen's Conservatives, winning a minority supported by the eight Liberal-Progressives under Forke. United Farmers parties take 12 seats and Labour four, giving Canada a rare Parliament with six parties in the House each with four or more seats. 116 91 11 12[5] 8 7 245
17th 1930 Conservatives, led by R.B. Bennett, win a majority, defeating Liberals under Mackenzie King. 134 90 9[6] 3 2 7 245
18th 1935 Liberals, led by Mackenzie King, defeat Bennett's Conservatives with a majority. The new Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) from the West, under Woodsworth, wins seven seats on a platform of social reform. The new Social Credit Party under John Blackmore, also from the West, wins 17 seats with its platform of monetary reform. Progressive Party and United Farmers of Alberta pass into the history books. 173 39 17 7 4 5 245
19th 1940 Liberals, led by Mackenzie King, are re-elected with a majority, defeating Robert Manion's National Government party, a failed attempt to recreate Robert Borden's World War I-era Unionists. 179 39[7] 10[8] 8 3 6 245
20th 1945 Liberals, led by Mackenzie King, are re-elected with a minority, defeating the newly renamed Progressive Conservatives, led by John Bracken. Foreshadowing the Bloc Québécois, Bloc populaire Canadien wins two seats in Quebec on an anti-conscription and Quebec nationalism platform; future Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and future mayor of Montreal Jean Drapeau are young party members. 118 66 28 13 - 20 245
21st 1949 Liberals, led by Liberal Prime Minister Louis St-Laurent, are re-elected with a majority, defeating Progressive Conservatives led by George Drew. 191[9] 41 13 10 1 6 262
22nd 1953 St. Laurent's Liberals are re-elected with a majority, defeating Drew's Progressive Conservatives. 169[9] 51 23 15 1 6 265
23rd 1957 Progressive Conservatives, led by John Diefenbaker, defeat Liberals led by St. Laurent with an upset minority victory. 111 104[9] 25 19 - 6 265
24th 1958 Progressive Conservatives, led by Diefenbaker, are re-elected with the largest majority to date in Canadian history, defeating Liberals and their new leader Lester Pearson. 208 48[9] 8 - - 1 265
25th 1962 Progressive Conservatives, led by Diefenbaker, are re-elected, but with a minority. Under "father of Canadian medicare" Tommy Douglas, New Democratic Party, evolved from the CCF, wins 19 seats but fails to achieve a hoped for breakthrough. 116 99[9] 30 19 - 1 265
26th 1963 Liberals, led by Lester Pearson, defeat Diefenbaker's Progressive Conservatives, winning a minority. 128[9] 95 24 17 - 1 265
27th 1965 Liberals, led by Pearson, are re-elected with a second minority, defeating Diefenbaker's Progressive Conservatives. 131 97 21 14[10] - 2 265
28th 1968 Liberals, led by new Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, are re-elected with a majority, defeating Progressive Conservatives led by Robert Stanfield. 154[9] 72 22 14[11] - 2 264
29th 1972 Liberals, led by Trudeau, are re-elected, but with a minority, defeating Stanfield's Progressive Conservatives by only two seats. The NDP pick up several seats under new leader David Lewis. 109 107 31 15 - 2 264
30th 1974 Liberals, led by Trudeau, defeat Stanfields's Progressive Conservatives with a majority. 141 95 16 11 - 1 264
31st 1979 Progressive Conservatives, led by Joe Clark, defeat Liberals, led by Trudeau, and win a minority, despite winning a significantly smaller share of the vote than the Liberals. PCs win the most votes in seven provinces, but the Liberals capture an enormous lead in Quebec. Ed Broadbent makes his debut as leader of the NDP, which wins 10 more seats than in 1974 in a Parliament enlarged by 18 seats. 136 114 26 6 - 0 282
32nd 1980 Liberals, led by Trudeau, defeat Progressive Conservatives, led by Clark. Social Credit fades into history after an almost unbroken 45 year run, leaving Canada with a three party system. 147 103 32 - - 0 282
33rd 1984 Progressive Conservatives, led by Brian Mulroney, defeat Liberals, led by Prime Minister John Turner and win the most seats in Canadian history. The election is both the best showing ever for the Progressive Conservatives and the second worst showing ever for the Liberals (by total seats). 211 40 30 - - 1 282
34th 1988 Progressive Conservative Mulroney is re-elected with a second majority, contending with a much stronger performance from Liberal Turner and a strong third-party showing from Broadbent's New Democrats, who score that party's second best result ever. 169 83 43 - - 0 295
35th 1993 Liberals, led by Jean Chrétien, win a majority and soundly defeat Progressive Conservatives, led by new Prime Minister Kim Campbell, who are left in fifth place with just two seats, their worst ever showing. The separatist Bloc Québécois under ex-Mulroney cabinet minister Lucien Bouchard becomes the official opposition, and the right-wing Reform Party, led by Preston Manning, becomes the third party. Audrey McLaughlin's New Democrats also post their worst ever results with just nine seats. The election marks the end of the predominantly three party system of the Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, and NDP. 177 54 52 9 2 1 295
36th 1997 Liberals, led by Chrétien, are re-elected with a second majority. Manning's Reform Party becomes the official opposition. Bloc Québécois falls to third place under new leader Gilles Duceppe. NDP under Alexa McDonough win 21 seats, 12 more than in 1993. Progressive Conservatives under Jean Charest win nearly as many votes as Reform, but only one-third the seats. 155 60 44 21 20 1 301
37th 2000 Liberals, led by Chrétien, are re-elected with a third majority, defeating Stockwell Day's Canadian Alliance, the unsuccessful attempt to unite the Reform Party and the Progressive Conservatives. Progressive Conservatives, led by former Prime Minister Joe Clark, barely keep official party status in the House with the minimum 12 seats. 172 66 38 13 12 0 301
38th 2004 Liberals are re-elected under new Prime Minister Paul Martin to a minority government. They defeat the new Conservative Party, led by Stephen Harper, ex-leader of the Canadian Alliance, who merged that party with the Progressive Conservatives. Bloc Québécois experiences a revival due to the Liberal sponsorship scandal. Jack Layton's NDP comes one seat short of being able to guarantee the survival of Martin's government. 135 99 54 19 - 1 308
39th 2006 Conservatives, led by Harper, win a minority, defeating Martin's Liberals. BQ keeps most of its seats and NDP improves its fourth-place position. 124 103 51 29 - 1 308
40th 2008 Conservatives, led by Harper, win a second minority, defeating Stéphane Dion's Liberals by larger margins than in 2006. BQ support is steady and NDP picks up several Liberal seats. Green Party under new leader Elizabeth May continues its growth, winning 6.78% of the national vote on its environmentally conscious platform, but again fails to win any seats. 143 77 49 37 - 2 308
41st 2011 Conservatives under Harper win a majority. Layton's NDP forms the Official Opposition for the first time. For the first time since Confederation, Liberals form neither government nor official opposition; leader Michael Ignatieff loses his own seat and resigns. In Quebec, BQ support drops, with NDP support rising, and Bloc leader Duceppe loses his seat and resigns. Green Party leader May wins the party's first ever seat won in a general election, but (possibly due to the leader and the party focusing more on May's local campaign than on the national campaign) the party's national support dropped to its lowest level since the year 2000, dropping to 3.91% of the popular vote. 166 103 34 4 - 1 308

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ In the 1921 election, the Conservatives ran under the name National Liberal and Conservative Party, and in 1940 under the name National Government. In both cases the Conservatives lost the election and the new name was soon abandoned.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Includes results for the Liberal-Conservative Party.
  3. ^ Includes results for the Liberal-Conservative Party and one Conservative Labour candidate.
  4. ^ a b c Includes results for the Liberal-Conservative and Nationalist Conservative parties.
  5. ^ a b Combined total for the United Farmers of Alberta and United Farmers of Ontario.
  6. ^ a b Seats won by the United Farmers of Alberta.
  7. ^ Includes results for the National Government party.
  8. ^ Includes results for the New Democracy party.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Includes one seat won by a Liberal-Labour candidate in Kenora—Rainy River who sat in the House as a Liberal.
  10. ^ Includes 10 seats won by the Ralliement créditiste party.
  11. ^ All 14 seats were won by the Ralliement créditiste party.

Further reading[edit]

  • Argyle, Ray. Turning Points: The Campaigns That Changed Canada - 2011 and Before (2011) 440pp excerpt and text search, covers 1878, 1896, 1911, 1917, 1926, 1945, 1957, 1968, 1988, 1995 and 2011

Graphs of results[edit]

Bar graph of results from 1867 to 2011[edit]

Stacked bar graph with percentage of seats won in the House from 1867 to 2011

Line graph of results[edit]

Canadian federal general elections.svg

See also[edit]

References[edit]