Liberal Party of Canada leadership election, 1919

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Liberal leadership election, 1919
Date August 7, 1919
Convention Howick Hall, Lansdowne Park, Ottawa
Resigning leader Sir Wilfrid Laurier
Won by William Lyon Mackenzie King
Ballots 5
Candidates 4
Liberal leadership elections
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The 1919 Liberal Party of Canada leadership election the first federal leadership convention held in Canada. It was originally called by Sir Wilfrid Laurier as a national policy convention with the intention of reinvigorating and reuniting the Liberals after eight years of being in opposition[1] and who, as a result of the Conscription Crisis of 1917, divided into Laurier Liberal, who remained in opposition, and a Liberal–Unionist faction that joined the wartime Union government of Sir Robert Borden . Laurier's death on February 17, 1919 resulted in the meeting being reconfigured as a leadership convention. Previous party leaders in Canada had been chosen by the parliamentary caucus or the outgoing leader. However, the Liberal caucus no longer felt that it was representative of Canada's linguistic and religious diversity and that allowing the entire party to select the leader would result in a more representative choice.[2]


There was also an attempt to draft Saskatchewan Premier William Melville Martin, a former Liberal MP, but he declinded to run.[2]

King had run as a Laurier Liberal in the 1917 federal election but was defeated. Fielding, who had long been seen as Laurier's natural successor, had opposed Laurier's stand on conscription and had returned to the House of Commons in 1917 as a Liberal–Unionist MP supporting the Borden government but declining the offer of a cabinet position.[1] Graham had sat out of the 1917 election and McKenzie had run and kept his seat as a Laurier Liberal.


Voting delegates were made up of Senators, MPs, defeated candidates, premiers and provincial party leaders, presidents of provincial Liberal associations, and three delegates from each riding. Nominations were accepted in writing until the first ballot began at 3:45 pm. King lead Fielding on the first and second ballots. Graham and McKenzie withdrew in quick succession leading to the cancellation of the third and fourth ballots, respectively, which had already been underway when the successive withdrawals occurred. On the final ballot King defeated Fielding by 38 votes.[2]

King was supported by labour elements, Quebec delegates, and the left-wing of the party. Fielding, who openly opposed the radical platform adopted by the convention, threatened to seek support from the parliamentary caucus for rejection of the platform. He was opposed by many Quebec delegates as well as delegates from his home province of Nova Scotia due to his previous stance on conscription and was supported by the right wing of the party, many western Canadian delegates, and the business establishment in Montreal.[1]


Delegate support by ballot
Candidate 1st ballot 2nd ballot 5th ballot
Votes cast  % Votes cast  % Votes cast  %
Wm Lyon Mackenzie King.jpg KING, William Lyon Mackenzie 344 36.3% 411 43.8% 476 52.1%
William Stevens Fielding, premier of Nova Scotia.jpg FIELDING, William Stevens 297 31.3% 344 36.6% 438 47.9%
George Perry Graham.jpg GRAHAM, George Perry 153 16.2% 124 13.2% Withdrew
DanielDuncanMcKenzie.jpg MCKENZIE, Daniel Duncan 153 16.2% 60 6.4% Withdrew
Total 947 100.0% 939 100.0% 914 100.0%


Graham withdrew while voting for the third ballot was underway. McKenzie withdrew while voting for the fourth ballot was in process. Votes were not counted for either one, and the convention proceeded directly to the fifth ballot.[3]


  1. ^ a b c "FIELDING, WILLIAM STEVENS". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. University of Toronto/Université Laval. Retrieved February 4, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c "1919 LIBERAL CONVENTION". CPAC. Cable Public Affairs Channel. Retrieved February 4, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b "LIberal Party of Canada: Leadership Conventions". Parliament of Canada. Library of Parliament.