List of snap elections in Canada

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The following is a list of Canadian elections, both federal and provincial, that have been regarded by all or some observers as snap elections:

  • Canadian federal election, 1917
    • Issue: Conscription Crisis of 1917. (The election was supposed to be held in 1916, but due to the emergency of the First World War, the government postponed the election, largely in hope that a coalition government could be formed, as was the case in Britain.)
    • Result: Prime Minister Robert Borden's Unionists, an alliance of pro-conscription politicians, increase their majority. The vote in Canada is heavily divided along anglophone and francophone lines.
  • Canadian federal election, 1958
    • Reason: Newly elected Liberal leader Lester Pearson made a speech demanding that the Conservatives hand back power without an election[1] because of the recent economic decline. Diefenbaker responded by revealing a formerly classified Liberal file that predicted the economic malaise, so the "arrogant" label that had attached to Liberals in 1957 stayed. Also, the resignation of Louis St. Laurent had also left Quebec with no favourite son leader and the Conservatives also harnessed the powerful political machine of the provincial Union Nationale. The Conservatives thus hoped to obtain a majority government.
    • Result: Prime Minister John Diefenbaker's Progressive Conservatives win the largest majority up to that time at the federal level.
  • Quebec general election, 1976
    • Reason: Counting on a boost from his successful rescue of the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal after cost overruns and construction delays by the Montreal municipal government, Liberal Premier Robert Bourassa called an early election well before the five-year maximum term ended.
    • Result: The separatist Parti Québécois, led by René Lévesque, defeated the incumbent Liberals in a landslide to form government for the first time and set the stage for the Quebec referendum, 1980. The once-powerful Union Nationale (Quebec) made a modest comeback, winning 11 seats under Rodrigue Biron, and for the first time won significant support from some anglophone voters. Bourassa lost his seat and resigned as Liberal leader to pursue an academic career, before leading the Liberals back to power in 1985.
  • Canadian federal election, 1984
    • Reason: Newly minted Liberal leader John Turner was persuaded by internal polls that he was well ahead of the opposition. He also wanted to present a "new" party, different from his predecessor Pierre Trudeau. Turner did not have a seat in the Commons, and his election call was just four days after being sworn in. However, the Liberals had been elected in 1980 and Turner would constitutionally be allowed to wait until 1985 to call an election.
    • Result: Turner's 200 patronage appointments, mostly on the recommendation of Trudeau, nullified attempts to distance himself from Trudeau's policies and practices. The Liberal's Quebec stronghold was also nullified as Conservative leader Brian Mulroney was a native of that province. The Progressive Conservatives win the largest majority ever at the federal level, while the Liberals end up with 40 seats, only ten more than the NDP's 30.
  • Ontario general election, 1990
    • Reason: Favourable opinion polls, as the ruling Liberals are still above the 50% mark. Premier David Peterson allegedly wanted to call an election before the full effects of the looming recession could be felt. Some within his party oppose the early election call (they had won a huge majority in 1987).
    • Result: The Liberals are beset by controversies and scandals right after the campaign started, with unions and interest groups expressing their cynicism about the snap election. Bob Rae's NDP managed an electoral upset, slightly outpolling the Liberals in the popular vote but winning enough seats for a majority. Peterson loses his own seat and resigns the party leadership.
  • Canadian federal election, 1997
    • Reason: Favourable opinion polls. Some government MPs opposed the snap election, as cleanup from the devastating Red River Flood was still underway. This was also the second shortest majority mandate in Canadian history, after Laurier's 1908-1911 term.
    • Result: Jean Chrétien's Liberals barely retain their majority, though they easily have the plurality of seats to continue governing. The NDP and Progressive Conservatives win enough seats, mainly at the expense of the Liberals in the Atlantic provinces, to regain official party status.
  • Canadian federal election, 2000
    • Reason: Prime Minister Jean Chrétien planned to call an election before the newly formed Canadian Alliance could consolidate itself outside of its western Canadian base. The call was also to take advantage of newly elected leader Stockwell Day's lack of experience as a federal politician. (Day also dared Chrétien to call an election.)
    • Result: In a campaign lacking important issues and record low turnout, Chrétien's Liberals were re-elected with an increased majority, taking back seats in Atlantic Canada that they lost to the NDP and Progressive Conservatives in the previous election.
  • Quebec general election, 2014
    • Reason: Premier Pauline Marois's Parti Québécois sought a majority government having won government in 2012 in minority. Marois called an election due to favourable opinion polls and facing imminent defeat on the 2014-15 provincial budget.
    • Result: The Quebec Liberal Party under Philippe Couillard won a majority government defeating the incumbent Parti Québécois government, becoming the first single-term government since 1970. It marked the lowest seat total for the Parti Québécois since 1989 and its smallest share of the popular vote since 1970, with Pauline Marois losing her own riding. The Coalition Avenir Québec under François Legault made minor gains in terms of seats despite receiving a smaller share of the popular vote than in the 2012 election.
  • Ontario general election, 2014
    • Reason: The Ontario New Democrats announced that they would not support the minority Liberal government's budget. Facing certain defeat on the budget in the Legislative Assembly, Premier Kathleen Wynne called an election before the eventual budget vote.
    • Result: The Liberals regained majority government, Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak resigned after losing a second election, while the NDP remained in third place.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ At the time, Pearson's demand was not seen to be as unreasonable as it would be today, and appeared as though it could be backed by more than the threat of a backlash among the voters. Barely three decades had passed since the King-Byng Affair, when then-Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King was compelled by then-Governor General Julian Byng to resign when Byng would not grant a dissolution of parliament. Pearson may have believed that the Governor General then in office (Vincent Massey, who had been appointed under Louis St. Laurent) would cite that precedent if Diefenbaker requested a dissolution only nine months after the last election. Massey's granting of Diefenbaker's request for a dissolution entrenched the constitutional convention that the Sovereign's representative would never refuse a request for dissolution.