Recent Federal Electoral History in Canada

Feature by Jay Makarenko || Sep 8, 2008

Here you will find information on Canadian federal electoral history from 2006-2008, including 2006 general election results, changes in party leadership, and party standing prior to 2008 general election.

2006 General Election Results

The last federal general election was held in 2006, with the Conservative Party of Canada, helmed by Stephen Harper, winning a minority government. The Liberal Party of Canada, led by then-Prime Minister Paul Martin, came in second, forming the Official Opposition. Other parties winning seats in the House of Commons included the New Democratic Party of Canada and the Bloc Québécois.

Overall Results of the 2006 Federal Election

Political Party

% Vote

Seats

Status

Conservative Party of Canada

36.3

124

Government (minority)

Liberal Party of Canada

30.2

103

Official Opposition

Bloc Québécois

10.5

51

-

New Democratic Party of Canada

17.5

29

-

Green Party of Canada

4.5

-

-

Independent

-

1

-

(Source: Globe and Mail, 2008)

The 2006 election was significant in that it ended 12 years of rule by the federal Liberal Party (10 years under Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and two years under Paul Martin). It also saw the rise to power of the new Conservative Party, which was formed following the merger of the Canadian Alliance Party and the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada in 2003.

Furthermore, the 2006 election results saw important trends in the national political landscape. Once a powerhouse in central Canada, the Liberals suffered significant declines in their support. In the 2000 general election, for example, the Party won 36 seats (44 percent of the popular vote) in Quebec and 100 seats (51 percent of the vote) in Ontario. In the 2006 general election, however, the Liberals only won 13 seats (20 percent of the vote) in Quebec and 54 seats (40 percent of the vote) in Ontario.

Meanwhile, the Conservative Party (in particular, its former Canadian Alliance component) had traditionally been a western-based party, with little support outside of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. In the 2006 federal election, the Conservatives were able to expand their support into central Canada, winning 10 seats (24 percent of the vote) in Quebec and 40 seats (35 percent of the vote) in Ontario.

Another important trend was the resurrection of the Bloc Québécois. The Quebec-based separatist party had seen its support gradually decline during the late-90s and early in the 2000s. In 1993, the party won 54 seats and 50 percent of the popular vote in Quebec. By the end of the 2000 election, however, those numbers had dropped to 39 and 40 percent, respectively. In the 2004 and 2006 elections, however, the party returned to its early levels of support, winning 54 and 51 seats, respectively. It is important to note, however, that the Bloc Québécois’ popular vote did slip slightly in the 2006 election, from approximately 50 percent (2004 election) to 42 percent. This has been attributed in part to the rise in support for the Conservative Party in the province of Quebec.

For party seat and popular vote tallies by province and territory:

Changes in Canadian Political Party Leadership

Of the five major political parties—Conservatives, Liberals, New Democrats, Bloc Québécois, and Greens—the Liberals and the Greens have had a change in leadership since the 2006 general election.

In March 2006, following his party’s change from governing party to the Official Opposition, then Liberal leader Paul Martin resigned the Party’s top post. Bill Graham served as interim party leader until a leadership convention was held in December 2006. At the convention, Stéphane Dion was elected leader of the Liberal Party, defeating several high-profile candidates, including Gerard Kennedy, Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae. One of Dion’s strategies during the contest was to present himself as a “green” leader who will make the environment a central political issue. Since becoming leader, Dion has faced several challenges, such as overcoming negative ads released by the Conservative Party portraying him as a “weak” leader, as well as maintaining support from an often divided party caucus.

For more information on the 2006 Liberal leadership convention:

In April 2006, Jim Harris announced that he would not stand for re-election as leader of the Green Party at its national convention in August. Harris had held the post since February 2003. At the national convention, the Green Party selected Elizabeth May as their new leader. May won the leadership decisively, winning a majority on the first ballot of voting. In 2007, she received public attention after announcing an election deal with the Liberal Party of Canada. Under the deal, the Liberals agreed not to run a candidate in the Nova Scotia riding of Central Nova, which May plans to contest. In return, the Green Party agreed not to run a candidate in Liberal leader Stéphane Dion’s riding. It is important to note that the riding of Central Nova is currently held by the Conservative minister Peter MacKay.

In 2007, Gilles Duceppe, leader of the Bloc Québécois, announced that he would likely move to Quebec provincial politics and seek the vacant leadership of the Parti Québécois (PQ). Shortly after making the announcement, however, Duceppe withdrew his candidacy for the PQ, deciding to stay on as leader of the Bloc Québécois. Duceppe threw his support behind Pauline Marois, who was subsequently selected leader of the Parti Québécois. In a public statement, Duceppe asserted that “It’s time for a woman, and one of quality, to come to lead the Parti Québécois, then Quebec” (CTV, 2007). Duceppe further noted that a rapid swell of support for Marois had also helped his decision.

Party Standings Prior to the 2006 Election

Prior to the 2008 general election call, the party standings in the House of Commons were as follows:

Political Party

Seats

Status

Conservative Party of Canada

127

Government (minority)

Liberal Party of Canada

95

Official Opposition

Bloc Québécois

48

-

New Democratic Party of Canada

30

-

Green Party of Canada

1

-

Independent

3

-

Vacant

4

 

(Source: Parliament of Canada, 2008)

Since the 2006 general election, the Conservative Party has gained three seats, the Liberal Party has lost eight seats, the Bloc Québécois has lost three, and both the New Democratic Party and the Green Party have gained one seat each.

These changes have resulted from several factors. In some cases, they were caused by Members of Parliament (MPs) leaving one political party for another, or to sit as an independent. In this context, the Conservative Party came out more favourably than other parties. While it lost two MPs, it gained three. The Liberal Party, by contrast, lost four MPs, while only gaining one.

It is important to note that the Green Party of Canada gained its first ever member of parliament in this manner. In August 2008, MP Blair Wilson, who represents the riding of West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast--Sea to Sky Country (British Columbia), joined the Green Party. Wilson was originally elected as a Liberal MP, but left that party’s caucus in October 2007. Prior to joining the Green Party, Wilson sat in the House as an independent.

MPs which Switched Parties or Became Independents (2006-2008)

Name

Former Political Party

New Political Party

David Emerson

Liberal Party

Conservative Party

Garth Turner

Conservative Party

Liberal Party

Wajid Khan

Liberal Party

Conservative Party

Joe Comuuzzi

Liberal Party

Conservative Party

Louise Thibault

Bloc Québécois

Independent

Bill Casey

Conservative Party

Independent

Blair Wilson

Liberal Party

Green Party

(Source: Parliament of Canada, 2008)

In other cases, changes were due to resignations and subsequent by-elections. Since the 2006 election, 13 MPs have resigned their seat, with by-elections held in nine of the vacated ridings. In most cases, the incumbent party was re-elected to the seat.

There have, however, been several notable exceptions. In September 2007, three by-elections were held in Quebec ridings. Outremont, previously a Liberal riding, was won by the New Democratic Party, while Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, previously a Bloc Québécois riding, was won by the Conservative Party.

In March 2008, four by-elections were held in British Columbia, Ontario and Saskatchewan, all involving seats previously held by the Liberal Party. While the Liberals retained three of the seats, they lost the riding of Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River in Saskatchewan to the Conservative Party.

Riding Resignations and By-elections (2006-2008)

Riding

Former MP/Party

New MP/Party

Repentigny

Sauvageau (BQ)

Gravel (BQ)

London North Center

Fontana (Lib)

Pearson (Lib)

Outremont

Lapierre (Lib)

Mulcair (NDP)

Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot

Loubier (BQ)

Thi Lac (BQ)

Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean

Gauthier (BQ)

Lebel (CPC)

Toronto Centre

Graham (Lib)

Rae (Lib)

Willowdale

Peterson (Lib)

Hall Findlay (Lib)

Vancouver Quadra

Owen (Lib)

Murray  (Lib)

Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River

Merasty (Lib)

Clarke (CPC)

Westmount—Ville-Marie

Robillard (Lib)

By-election not held

Saint-Lambert

Kotto (BQ)

By-election not held

Guelph

Chamberlain (Lib)

By-election not held

Don Valley West

Godfrey (Lib)

By-election not held

(Source: Parliament of Canada, 2008)

Sources Used in this Article