Canadian federal election, 1984

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Canadian federal election, 1984
Canada
1980 ←
members
September 4, 1984
→ 1988
members

282 seats in the 33rd Canadian Parliament
142 seats needed for a majority
Turnout 75.3%[1]
  First party Second party Third party
  Mulroney.jpg Fmr CDN PM John Turner.jpg Ed Broadbent.jpg
Leader Brian Mulroney John Turner Ed Broadbent
Party Progressive Conservative Liberal New Democratic
Leader since June 11, 1983 June 16, 1984 July 7, 1975
Leader's seat Manicouagan Vancouver Quadra Oshawa
Last election 103 seats, 32.45% 147 seats, 44.34% 32 seats, 19.77%
Seats before 100 135 31
Seats won 211 40 30
Seat change +111 −95 −1
Popular vote 6,278,818 3,516,486 2,359,915
Percentage 50.03% 28.02% 18.81%
Swing +17.59pp −16.32pp −0.97pp

Canada 1984 Federal Election.svg


Prime Minister before election

John Turner
Liberal

Prime Minister-designate

Brian Mulroney
Progressive Conservative

The Canadian federal election of 1984 was held on September 4 of that year to elect members of the House of Commons of Canada of the 33rd Parliament of Canada. The Progressive Conservative Party, led by Brian Mulroney, won the largest landslide majority government (by total number of seats) in Canadian history, while the Liberals suffered what at that time was the worst defeat for a governing party at the federal level. Only the Progressive Conservatives would face a larger defeat in 1993.

The election marked the end of the Liberals' long dominance of federal politics in Quebec, a province which had been the bedrock of Liberal support for almost a century.

This election was also the last time that the winning party received over 50% of the national popular vote.

Background[edit]

The election was fought almost entirely on the record of the Liberals, who had been in power for all but one year since 1963.

Pierre Trudeau, who had been Prime Minister from 1968 to 1979 and since 1980, retired from politics in early 1984 after polls indicated that the Liberals would almost certainly be defeated at the next election had he remained in office. He was succeeded by John Turner, a former Cabinet minister under both Trudeau and Lester Pearson.

Turner had been out of politics since 1975. Upon assuming the leadership, he made immediate changes in an attempt to rebuild the Liberals' tattered reputation. For example, he announced that he would not run in a by-election to return to the House of Commons, but would instead run in the next general election as the Liberal candidate in Vancouver Quadra, British Columbia. This was a sharp departure from usual practice, in which the incumbent in a safe seat resigns to allow a newly elected party leader a chance to get into Parliament. The Liberal Party had lost favour with western Canadians, and policies such as the National Energy Policy only aggravated this sentiment. Turner's plans to run in a western Canada riding were in part an attempt to rebuild support in that region. Going into the election, the Liberals held only one seat west of Ontario—that of Lloyd Axworthy, from Winnipeg—Fort Garry, Manitoba.

More seriously, there was great disaffection in Quebec with the Liberal government, even though Trudeau was a Quebecer. The province was highly annoyed at being left out of the 1982 repatriation of the Canadian constitution. Although Quebec had not ratified the new Constitution Act, 1982; the Supreme Court of Canada had ruled that Quebec was bound by it. However, hope for success there was one of the main reasons businessman Brian Mulroney, a fluently bilingual Quebecker, had been chosen as party leader.

Although Turner was not required to call an election until 1985, internal polls showed that the Liberals had regained the lead in opinion polls. He requested that Queen Elizabeth II delay her tour of Canada, and asked Governor-General Jeanne Sauvé to dissolve Parliament on July 4. In accordance with Canadian constitutional practice, Sauvé granted the request and set an election for September 4.

The initial Liberal lead began to slip as Turner made several gaffes that caused voters to see him as "yesterday's man". In particular, he spoke of creating new "make work programs", a concept from the 1970s that had been replaced by the less patronizing "job creation programs". He also was caught on camera patting Liberal Party President Iona Campagnolo on her posterior. Turner defended this action as being a friendly gesture, not recognizing that it was seen by many women as being condescending.

Other voters turned against the Liberals due to their mounting legacy of patronage and corruption. An especially important issue was Trudeau's recommendation that Sauvé appoint over 200 Liberals to patronage posts just before he left office. The appointments enraged Canadians on all sides. Although Turner had the right to advise that the appointments be withdrawn (something that Sauvé would have had to do according to constitutional convention), he didn't do so. In fact, he himself appointed more than 70 Liberals to patronage posts despite a promise to bring a new way of politics to Ottawa. He cited a written agreement with Trudeau, claiming that if Trudeau had made the appointments, the Liberals would have almost certainly lost the election. However, the fact that Turner dropped the writ a year early hurt his argument.

Turner found out that Mulroney was allegedly setting up a patronage machine in anticipation of victory. At the English-language televised debate between Mulroney, Turner and New Democratic Party leader Ed Broadbent, Turner started to attack Mulroney on his patronage plans, comparing them to the patronage machine run by old Union Nationale in Quebec. However, Mulroney turned the tables by pointing to the raft of patronage appointments made on the advice of Trudeau and Turner. Claiming that he'd gone so far as to apologize for making light of "these horrible appointments," Mulroney demanded that Turner apologize to the country for not cancelling the appointments advised by Trudeau and for recommending his own appointments. Turner was visibly surprised, and could only reply that "I had no option" except to let the appointments stand. Mulroney famously responded:

"You had an option, sir. You could have said, 'I am not going to do it. This is wrong for Canada, and I am not going to ask Canadians to pay the price.' You had an option, sir--to say 'no'--and you chose to say 'yes' to the old attitudes and the old stories of the Liberal Party. That sir, if I may say respectfully, that is not good enough for Canadians."

Turner, clearly flustered by this withering riposte from Mulroney, could only repeat "I had no option." A visibly angry Mulroney called this "an avowal of failure" and told Turner, "You had an option, sir. You could have done better." Mulroney's counterattack led most of the papers the next day; it was often paraphrased as "You had an option, sir; you could have said 'no'." Many observers saw this as the end of any realistic chance for Turner to stay in power.

The last days of the campaign saw one Liberal blunder piled on another. Turner continued to speak of "make work programs" and made other gaffes that caused voters to see him as a relic from the past. Turner rehired much of Trudeau's staff during the final weeks in an attempt to turn the tide, but this did nothing to reverse the Liberals' sliding poll numbers. Trudeau himself did not campaign for Turner, instead only showing up to support Liberal candidates.

Besides the Tories, the NDP also benefited from the slip in Liberal support. Under Broadbent, the party had seen greater support in opinion polling than ever before, and had actually replaced the Liberals as the second party in much of the west.

National results[edit]

The House of Commons after the 1984 election

Liberals[edit]

Turner's inability to overcome the alleged resentment against Trudeau, combined with his own mistakes, resulted in a debacle for the Liberals. They lost a third of their popular vote from 1980, falling from 44 percent to 28 percent. Their seat count fell from 135 at dissolution to 40, a loss of 95 seats. It was the worst performance in their long history at the time; the 40 seats would be their smallest seat count until they won only 34 seats in 2011. Eleven members of Turner's cabinet were defeated.

At the time, only one other governing party had lost more seats in an election; Progressive Conservative Arthur Meighen, was defeated by Mackenzie King's Liberals in the 1921 election and lost 104 seats in the process. However, Meighen's National Liberal and Conservative Party was an attempt to continue the wartime Unionist coalition, which included several Liberals. Many of the Unionist Liberals had returned to the Liberal fold. Also, the NLCP was cut down to 49 seats, nine more than the 1984 Liberals.

Despite their hopes of winning more support in the west, they won only two seats west of Ontario. One of those belonged to Turner, who defeated the Tory incumbent in Vancouver Quadra by a fairly solid 3,200-vote margin. The other belonged to Axworthy, who was reelected by 2,300 votes.

Particularly shocking was the decimation of the Liberals in Quebec. They won only 17 seats, all but four in and around Montreal. The province had been the bedrock of Liberal support for almost a century—in fact, the 1958 Tory landslide was the only time since the 1896 election that the Liberals had not won the most seats in Quebec. In Ontario, the Liberals won only 14 seats, nearly all of them in Metro Toronto.

Progressive Conservatives[edit]

Early in the election, Mulroney focused on adding Quebec nationalists to the traditional Tory coalition of western populist conservatives and fiscal conservatives from Ontario and the Atlantic provinces.

This strategy, as well as denouncing alleged corruption in the Liberal government, resulted in a major windfall for the Tories. They won 211 seats, three more than their previous record of 208 in 1958. They won a majority of seats in every province and territory. They also won just over half the popular vote, the last time to date that a Canadian party has won a majority of the popular vote.

The Tories had a major breakthrough in Quebec, a province where they had been virtually unelectable for almost a century. However, Mulroney's promise of a new deal for Quebec caused the province to swing dramatically to support him. After winning only one seat out of 75 in 1980, the Tories won 58 seats in 1984, more than they had ever won in Quebec before. In many cases, ridings where few of the living residents had ever been represented by a Tory elected them by margins similar to those the Liberals had scored for years.

New Democrats[edit]

The NDP lost only one seat, which was far better than expected considering the size of the PC tidal wave. Third parties usually get decimated in massive landslides. More importantly, their 30 seats were only ten behind the Liberals. Although the NDP had long since established itself as the third major party in Canada, this was closer than any party had gotten to the Grits or Tories since 1921, when the Progressive Party briefly surpassed the Tories. This led to speculation that Canada was headed for a UK-style LabourConservative division, with the NDP knocking the Liberals down to third-party status. It would be as close as the NDP would get to becoming the Official Opposition until 2011 when the party gained the second largest number of seats in the House of Commons and the majority of seats in Quebec.

All numerical results from Elections Canada's Official Report on the Thirty-Third Election.

211
40
30
1
Progressive Conservative
Liberal
NDP
O
Party Party leader # of
candidates
Seats Popular vote
1980 Dissolution Elected % Change # % Change
     Progressive Conservative Brian Mulroney 282 103 100 211 +104.9% 6,278,818 50.03% +17.59pp
     Liberal John Turner 282 147 135 40 -72.8% 3,516,486 28.02% -16.32pp
     New Democratic Party Ed Broadbent 282 32 31 30 -6.3% 2,359,915 18.81% -0.97pp
     No affiliation1 20 - - 1   39,298 0.31% +0.29pp
Rhinoceros Cornelius the First 88 - - - - 99,178 0.79% -0.22pp
     Parti nationaliste du Québec2 Denis Monière 74 * * - * 85,865 0.68% *
     Confederation of Regions Elmer Knutson 55 * * - * 65,655 0.52% *
Green Trevor Hancock 60 * * - * 26,921 0.21% *
     Libertarian Victor Levis 72 - - - - 23,514 0.19% +0.05pp
     Independent 65 - 1 - - 22,067 0.18% +0.04pp
     Social Credit Ken Sweigard 51 - - - - 16,659 0.13% -1.56pp
     Communist William Kashtan 51 - - - - 7,479 0.06% +x
     Commonwealth Gilles Gervais 66 * * - * 7,007 0.06% *
     Vacant 15  
Total 1,449 282 282 282 - 12,548,862 100%  
Sources: http://www.elections.ca—History of Federal Ridings since 1867

Notes:

"% change" refers to change from previous election.

x – less than 0.05% of the popular vote.

1 Tony Roman was elected in the Toronto-area riding of York North as a "coalition candidate", defeating incumbent PC MP John Gamble. Roman drew support from Progressive Conservatives who were upset by Gamble's extreme right-wing views.

2 Results of the Parti nationaliste du Québec are compared to those of the Union Populaire in the 1980 election.

The Revolutionary Workers League fielded five candidates: Michel Dugré, Katy Le Rougetel, Larry Johnston, Bonnie Geddes and Bill Burgess. All appeared on the ballot as independent or non-affiliated candidates, as the party was unregistered.

Vote and seat summaries[edit]

Popular vote
PC
  
50.03%
Liberal
  
28.02%
NDP
  
18.81%
Others
  
3.14%


Seat totals
PC
  
74.82%
Liberal
  
14.18%
NDP
  
10.64%
Independents
  
0.35%

Results by province[edit]

Party name BC AB SK MB ON QC NB NS PE NL NT YK Total
     Progressive Conservative Seats: 19 21 9 9 67 58 9 9 3 4 2 1 211
     Popular Vote: 46.6 68.8 41.7 43.2 47.6 50.2 53.6 50.7 52.0 57.6 41.3 56.8 50.0
     Liberal Seats: 1 - - 1 14 17 1 2 1 3 - - 40
     Vote: 16.4 12.7 18.2 21.8 29.8 35.4 31.9 33.6 41.0 36.4 26.9 21.7 28.0
     New Democratic Party Seats: 8 - 5 4 13 - - - - - - - 30
     Vote: 35.1 14.1 38.4 27.2 20.8 8.8 14.1 15.2 6.5 5.8 28.2 16.1 18.8
     No affiliation Seats: - -     1 -     -       1
     Vote: xx 0.2     0.8 xx     0.4       0.3
Total seats: 28 21 14 14 95 75 10 11 4 7 2 1 282
Parties that won no seats:
Rhinoceros Vote: 0.4 0.4 0.2 0.2 0.1 2.4   0.3       1.1 0.8
     Nationaliste Vote:           2.5             0.7
     Confederation of Regions Vote: 0.2 2.2 1.3 6.7                 0.5
Green Vote: 0.6 0.3 0.1   0.3 0.1     0.1       0.2
     Libertarian Vote: 0.3 0.1   0.4 0.3 0.1 0.1     0.1   4.4 0.2
     Independent Vote: 0.1 0.5 0.1 0.4 0.1 0.1 0.3 0.1 0.1 0.1 3.5   0.2
     Social Credit Vote: 0.2 0.6     0.1 0.2 0.1           0.1
     Communist Vote: 0.1 0.1   0.1 0.1 0.1             0.1
     Commonwealth Vote:           0.2             0.0

Notes[edit]

10 closest ridings[edit]

1. Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON: Len Hopkins (Lib) def. Don Whillans (PC) by 38 votes
2. Ottawa Centre, ON: Mike Cassidy (NDP) def. Dan Chilcott (PC) by 54 votes
3. Nunatsiaq, NT: Thomas Suluk (PC) def. Robert Kuptana (Lib) by 247 votes
4. Prince Albert, SK: Stan Hovdebo (NDP) def. Gordon Dobrowolsky (PC) by 297 votes
5. Burin—St. George's, NF: Joe Price (PC) def. Roger Simmons (Lib) by 299 votes
6. The Battlefords—Meadow Lake, SK: John Gormley (PC) def. Doug Anguish (NDP) by 336 votes
7. Willowdale, ON: John Oostrom (PC) def. Jim Peterson (Lib) by 362 votes
8. Saskatoon East, SK: Don Ravis (PC) def. Colin Clay (NDP) by 417 votes
9. Humber—Port au Port—St. Barbe, NF: Brian Tobin (Lib) def. Mike Monaghan (PC) by 493 votes
10. Mackenzie, SK: Jack Scowen (PC) def. Mel McCorriston (NDP) by 555 votes

See also[edit]

Articles on parties' candidates in this election:

References[edit]

  1. ^ Pomfret, R. "Voter Turnout at Federal Elections and Referendums". Elections Canada. Elections Canada. Retrieved 11 January 2014. 

External links[edit]