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282 seats in the House of Commons
142 seats needed for a majority
Popular vote by province, with graphs indicating the number of seats won. As this is an FPTP election, seat totals are not determined by popular vote by province but instead via results by each riding.
The Canadian parliament after the 1979 election
The 1979 Canadian federal election was held on May 22, 1979, to elect members of the House of Commons of Canada of the 31st Parliament of Canada. It resulted in the defeat of the Liberal Party of Canada after 16 years in power, 11 of them under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Joe Clark led the Progressive Conservative Party to power but with only a minority of seats in the House of Commons. The Liberals, however, beat the Progressive Conservatives in the overall popular vote by more than 400,000 votes (40.11% to 35.89%). Taking office on the eve of his 40th birthday, Clark became the youngest prime minister in Canadian history.
The PC Party campaigned on the slogans, "Let's get Canada working again", and "It's time for a change – give the future a chance!" Canadians were not, however, sufficiently confident in the young Joe Clark to give him a majority in the House of Commons. Quebec, in particular, was unwilling to support Clark and elected only two PC Members of Parliament (MPs) in the province's 75 ridings. Clark, relatively unknown when elected as PC leader at the 1976 PC Party convention, was seen as being bumbling and unsure. Clark had had problems with certain right-wing members of his caucus. In particular, when Clark's riding was merged into the riding of another PC MP during a redistribution of ridings, the other MP refused to step aside, and Clark ended up running in another riding. Also, when Clark undertook a tour of the Middle East to show his ability to handle foreign affairs issues, his luggage was lost, and Clark appeared to be uncomfortable with the issues being discussed.
The Liberals tried to make leadership and Clark's inexperience the issue by arguing in their advertising, "This is no time for on-the-job training" and "We need tough leadership to keep Canada growing. A leader must be a leader."
The Social Credit Party of Canada, which had lost its mercurial leader, Réal Caouette, who died in 1976, struggled to remain relevant. After a series of interim leaders, including Caouette's son, the party turned to Fabien Roy, a popular member of the National Assembly of Quebec, who took the reins of the party just before the beginning of the campaign. The party won the tacit support of the separatist Parti Québécois, which formed the government of Quebec. Social Credit attempted to rally the separatist and nationalist vote: Canadian flags were absent at its campaign kick-off rally, and the party's slogan was C'est à notre tour ("It's our turn"), which was reminiscent of the popular separatist anthem Gens du pays ("People of the Country"), which includes the chorus, "C'est votre tour, de vous laisser parler d'amour" ("It's your turn, to let you talk about love"). The party focused its platform on constitutional change, which promised to fight to abolish the federal government's constitutional power to disallow any provincial legislation and stated that each province has a "right to choose its own destiny within Canada."
The Socreds' support from the Parti Québécois was not welcome by everyone; for instance, Gilles Caouette publicly denounced what he called péquistes déguisés en créditistes ("péquistes disguised as Socreds"). What remained of its support outside Quebec virtually disappeared, and while the party only suffered a marginal loss in its overall Quebec vote share, its support was much less efficiently distributed than before. The party managed some increase of votes in péquiste areas, but also lost many votes in areas of traditional Socred strength while much of the reduced PC vote share went to the Liberals. The end result was a drop from eleven to six seats. (See also: Social Credit Party candidates, 1979 Canadian federal election.)
Clark's minority government lasted less than nine months. Clark required support from the Socreds to pass the 1979 budget but refused to work with them on ideological grounds, opting instead to "govern as though he had a majority." None of their demands being met, the Socreds refused to prop up the government. That resulted in the 1980 election in which the PCs were defeated by the resurgent Trudeau Liberals.
Clark won the popular vote in seven provinces, while losing the popular vote nationwide, and because his party won only two seats in Quebec, he won only a minority government. The Liberals won only one seat west of Manitoba. The election was the last in which the Social Credit Party of Canada won seats. An unusual event occurred in the Northwest Territories: the Liberals won the popular vote in the territory but won neither seat.
|Party||Party leader||# of
|Progressive Conservative||Joe Clark||282||95||98||136||+43.2%||4,111,606||35.89%||+0.43pp|
|New Democratic Party||Ed Broadbent||282||16||17||26||+62.5%||2,048,988||17.88%||+2.45pp|
|Social Credit||Fabien Roy||103||11||9||6||−45.5%||527,604||4.61%||−0.46pp|
|Sources: http://www.elections.ca History of Federal Ridings since 1867|
"% change" refers to change from previous election.
x − less than 0.005% of the popular vote.
Vote and seat summaries
Results by province
|New Democratic Party||Seats:||8||-||4||5||6||-||-||1||-||1||1||-||26|
|Parties that won no seats|
xx – less than 0.05% of the popular vote.
- Number of parties: 9
Articles on parties' candidates in this election:
- Pomfret, R. "Voter Turnout at Federal Elections and Referendums". Elections Canada. Elections Canada. Retrieved January 11, 2014.
- 1979 Canadian Federal Election Debate, archived from the original on December 21, 2021, retrieved June 20, 2020
- Penniman, Howard, ed. (1981). Canada at the Polls, 1979 and 1980: A Study of the Federal General Elections. Washington D.C.: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. ISBN 0844734748.
- Byers, R.B. (1981). Canadian Annual Review of Politics and Public Affairs. 1979. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 978-1-4426-7193-5.
- Simpson, Jeffrey (1996). Discipline of Power: the Conservative Interlude and the Liberal Restoration. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 978-0-8020-7620-5.
- Cocking, Clive (1979). Following the Leaders: A Media Watcher's Diary of Campaign '79. Toronto: Doubleday Canada. ISBN 978-0-385-14395-0.
- Pammett, Jon H. (1981). The Politics of Limited Change: The 1979 Federal Election. Ottawa: Dept. of Political Science, Carleton University. ISBN 978-0-7709-0103-5.