List of elections in the Province of Canada

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The Province of Canada was the union of Canada West (formerly Upper Canada and later Ontario) and Canada East (formerly Lower Canada and later Quebec).

The Province of Canada held 8 unique elections from 1841 to 1863 before Confederation. While party lines were somewhat blurred, there were political parties.

There are many examples of groups of MPs going against the party line, or splitting a party into two. A good example of this is when a number of Liberal MPs supported John A. Macdonald, a Conservative, and his idea for Canadian Confederation, many other Liberal Party members were opposed to Confederation.

After the establishment of the double majority principle, any bill, in order to be passed, needed a majority of MPs from both Canada West and Canada East. This sometimes led to coalitions between Ontario Liberals and Quebec Tories, or vice versa. The elections listed below are divided into "Left" or "Reformer" camps, and "Right" or "Conservative" camps.

1841[edit]

Four major parties contested the 1841 election. The Reformers from Canada West were a group of pro-democracy, radical Reformers who wanted to change the government. The Family Compact from Canada West was a group of rich Tories interested in the status quo.
Canada East had two similar groups. Les Patriotes, a reformist group consisting almost exclusively of French Canadians, and the Tories, a mostly English group.

Movement Canada West Canada East Total Seats
Reform
Left-Wing
Reform - 29 Patriotes - 21 50
Conservative
Right-Wing
Family Compact - 10 Tories - 17 27
Non-Aligned
Independent
Independent - 1 Independent - 4 5

1844[edit]

By 1844, the Family Compact had started calling itself Tories as well. This election also saw the creation of the Liberal Party, made up of pro-Patriot members from Canada East, who spoke English.

Movement Canada West Canada East Total Seats
Conservative
Right-Wing
Tories - 28 Tories - 13 41
Reform
Left-Wing
Reform - 12 Patriotes - 23
Liberal-5
40
Non-Aligned
Independent
Independent - 1 Independent - 1 2

Due to the double majority rule (legislation needed a majority of both Canada East and Canada West MPs) this parliament was not able to get much done.

1848[edit]

By 1848, the Reformers were popular once more in Canada West.

Movement Canada West Canada East Total Seats
Reform
Left-Wing
Reform - 23 Patriotes - 23
Liberal - 9
55
Conservative
Right-Wing
Tories - 18 Tories - 6 24
Non-Aligned
Independent
Independent - 1 Independent - 1 2

Due to the problems of the last parliament, the Governor General was ordered to sign everything that came from this legislature, marking the birth of responsible government in Canada. This was the celebrated Ministry of Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine and Robert Baldwin.

1851[edit]

Before the 1851 election, the Patriotes changed their name to Ministeralists. After being popular and in power for so long, they began to somewhat favour the status quo, and began to lose their "radical" roots. The remaining Patriotes, became "Rouges", or "Reds" in English.

Movement Canada West Canada East Total Seats
Status Quo Reform
Left-of-Center
Reform - 20 Ministeralists - 23
Liberal-9
62
Conservative
Right-Wing
Tories - 20 Tories - 3 24
Radical Reform
Left-Wing
None Rouges - 4 4
Non-Aligned
Independent
Independent - 1 Independent - 3 4

1854[edit]

1854 was unique, seeing a new group rise. Some reformers were unhappy with the slow pace of reforms, and began to oppose the reformist government. They called themselves "Clear Grits" in Canada West, and gained the support of the Liberals and Rouges in Canada East. Also, around this time, the Tories began to refer to their group as the "Conservative Party".

Movement Canada West Canada East Total Seats
Status Quo Reform
Centrist
Reform - 19 Ministeralists - 35 54
Radical Reform
Left-Wing
Clear Grits - 14
Left-wing Reform - 6
Rouges & Liberals - 19 39
Conservative
Right-Wing
Conservative - 25 Conservative - 9 34
Non-Aligned
Independent
Independent - 1 None 1

In order to stay in government, the moderate reformers formed a coalition with the Conservatives. The better-formed Conservative party, led by Sir John A. MacDonald, took over the Reform Party, and the remaining Reformers left for the Clear Grits, renaming the party, the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party is still known as the 'Grits' in most of English speaking Canada today.

1858[edit]

1858 saw the birth of the "Bleu" movement in Quebec. Former Ministeralists became French-Canadian Tories, and took on the name "Bleu" or Blue, to oppose the Rouges. The "new" politics were more Liberal vs. Conservative than Reform vs. the status quo as many former Reformers began to sit with the Conservatives. This Ministry was headed by George Brown.

Movement Canada West Canada East Total Seats
Liberal
Left-Wing
Liberal - 34 Rouges - 10
Liberal - 5
49
Conservative
Right-Wing
Conservative - 24 Conservative - 15 39
Former Reformer
Centrist
Moderate Reformer - 5 Bleu - 33 38
Non-Aligned
Independent
Independent - 1 None 1

1861[edit]

The election of 1861 saw the Liberal party finally become united. This election is notable as exactly 29 Liberals were elected from each half of the Province of Canada, and exactly 35 MPs supportive of the Conservative/Centrist movements were elected from each half, which created a regionally balanced government.

Movement Canada West Canada East Total Seats
Liberal
Left-Wing
Liberal - 29 Liberal - 29 58
Conservative
Right-Wing
Conservative - 29 Conservative - 8 37
Former Reformer
Centrist
Moderate Reformer - 6 Bleu - 27 33
Non-Aligned
Independent
None None None

1863[edit]

The final election for the Province of Canada took place in 1863. By this time, most liberals and conservatives were in favour of representation by population and confederation. George Brown led a group of Upper Canadian liberals to form a coalition with the Upper Canadian conservatives and the Lower Canadian Bleus, and began a discussion on confederation of all of the British North America colonies. The confederation project received wide support from Upper Canada, general opposition from the maritimes and Lower Canada was divided. Confederation, was eventually achieved when 3 of the 6 colonies joined together to become the first four provinces of Canada.

Movement Canada West Canada East Total Seats
Liberal
Left-Wing
Liberal - 41 Liberal - 25 66
Conservative
Right-Wing
Conservative - 24 Conservative - 11 35
Former Reformer
Centrist
Moderate Reformer - 2 Bleu - 25 27
Non-Aligned
Independent
None Independent - 1 1

This election was followed by the first federal election, the Canadian federal election, 1867, and later on the first provincial elections. 1867 marked the beginning of two founding myths: the founding of the Canadian nation in English Canada and the pact between two founding peoples in French Canada.

When Canada became a Dominion of the British Empire, the Conservatives and Liberals retained their names, while the former Reformers became Liberal-Conservatives, and continued to work very closely with the Conservative Party.

See also[edit]