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Canadian federal election, 1979

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Title: Canadian federal election, 1979  
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Canadian federal election, 1979

Canadian federal election, 1979

May 22, 1979

282 seats in the 31st Canadian Parliament
142 seats needed for a majority
Turnout 75.7%[1]
  First party Second party
Leader Joe Clark Pierre Trudeau
Party Progressive Conservative Liberal
Leader since February 22, 1976 April 6, 1968
Leader's seat Yellowhead Mount Royal
Last election 95 seats, 35.46% 141 seats, 43.15%
Seats before 98 133
Seats won 136 114
Seat change +38 -19
Popular vote 4,111,606 4,595,319
Percentage 35.89% 40.11%
Swing +0.43pp -3.04pp

  Third party Fourth party
Leader Ed Broadbent Fabien Roy
Party New Democratic Social Credit
Leader since July 7, 1975 March 30, 1979
Leader's seat Oshawa Beauce
Last election 16 seats, 15.44% 11 seats, 5.06%
Seats before 17 9
Seats won 26 6
Seat change +9 -3
Popular vote 2,048,988 527,604
Percentage 17.88% 4.61%
Swing +2.45pp -0.46pp

Popular vote map showing seat totals by province

Prime Minister before election

Pierre Trudeau

Prime Minister-designate

Joe Clark
Progressive Conservative

The Canadian federal election of 1979 was held on May 22, 1979 to elect members of the Canadian House of Commons of the 31st Parliament of Canada. It resulted in the defeat of the Liberal Party of Canada after 11 years in power 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, did beat the Progressive Conservatives in the overall popular vote by more than 400,000 votes.


  • Overview 1
  • National results 2
  • Vote and seat summaries 3
  • Results by province 4
    • Notes 4.1
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


The Trudeau Liberals had become very unpopular during their last term in government because of large budget deficits, high inflation, and high unemployment. Although elections in Canada are normally held four years apart, Trudeau deferred calling an election until five years after the previous election in the hope that the Liberal Party would be able to recover some of the support that it had lost. The effort was unsuccessful, however, and the Liberals lost 27 seats. Several high-profile cabinet ministers were defeated. Trudeau resigned as Liberal leader following the election.

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 Asia in order 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, arguing in their advertising that "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 that includes the chorus, "C'est votre tour, de vous laisser parler d'amour". The party focused its platform on constitutional change, promising to fight to abolish the federal government's constitutional power to disallow any provincial legislation, and stating 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"). While the party did manage to somewhat increase its vote in Péquiste areas, it also lost many votes in areas of traditional Socred strength, with the end result being a drop from eleven to six seats and a slightly reduced share of the popular vote compared to the 1974 election. (See also: Social Credit Party candidates, 1979 Canadian federal election.)

Clark's minority government lasted less than nine months. It was defeated in the House of Commons in a vote of non-confidence over a budget bill that proposed to increase the excise tax on gasoline by 18¢ per Imperial gallon (just under 4¢ per litre). This resulted in the 1980 election, in which the PCs were defeated by the resurgent Trudeau Liberals.

National results

Clark won the popular vote in seven provinces, while losing the popular vote nationwide, and because his Tories could only muster 2 seats in Quebec, he only won a minority government. The Liberals won only one seat west of Manitoba. This 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.

136 114 26 6
Progressive Conservative Liberal NDP SC
Party Party leader # of
Seats Popular vote
1974 Dissolution Elected % Change # % Change
     Progressive Conservative Joe Clark 282 95 98 136 +43.2% 4,111,606 35.89% +0.43pp
     Liberal Pierre Trudeau 282 141 133 114 -19.1% 4,595,319 40.11% -3.04pp
     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
Rhinoceros Cornelius I 63     -   62,601 0.55%  
     Independent 48 1 5 - -100% 30,518 0.27% -0.14pp
     Unknown 19 - - - - 21,268 0.19% +0.01pp
  Union Populaire 69     -   19,514 0.17%  
Libertarian Alex Eaglesham 60     -   16,042 0.14%  
Marxist–Leninist Hardial Bains 144 - - - - 14,231 0.12% -0.05pp
Communist William Kashtan 71 - - - - 9,141 0.08% -0.05pp
     No affiliation 1 - - - - 176 x x
     Vacant 2  
Total 1,424 265 265 282 +6.8% 11,457,008 100.00%  
Sources: 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

Popular vote
Social Credit
Seat totals
Social Credit

Results by province

Party name BC AB SK MB ON QC NB NS PE NL NT YK Total
     Progressive Conservative Seats: 19 21 10 7 57 2 4 8 4 2 1 1 136
     Popular Vote: 44.3 65.6 41.2 43.4 41.8 13.5 40.0 45.4 52.8 29.7 32.3 40.6 35.9
     Liberal Seats: 1 - - 2 32 67 6 2 - 4 - - 114
     Vote: 23.0 22.1 21.8 23.5 36.4 61.7 44.6 35.5 40.6 40.6 34.1 36.4 40.1
     New Democratic Party Seats: 8 - 4 5 6 - - 1 - 1 1 - 26
     Vote: 31.9 9.9 35.8 32.7 21.1 5.1 15.3 18.7 6.5 29.7 31.9 23.1 17.9
  Social Credit Seats: - - - - - 6             6
  Vote: 0.2 1.0 0.5 0.2 xx 16.0             4.6
Total seats: 28 21 14 14 95 75 10 11 4 7 2 1 282
Parties that won no seats
Rhinoceros Vote: xx       xx 1.9             0.5
     Independent Vote: 0.2 1.1 0.7 0.1 0.1 0.3 0.1 0.3     1.6   0.3
     Unknown Vote: 0.1 0.2 xx xx xx 0.5   xx         0.2
  Union Populaire Vote:           0.6             0.2
Libertarian Vote: xx xx     0.3 0.1     xx       0.1
Marxist–Leninist Vote: 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.2   xx         0.1
Communist Vote: 0.2 0.1 xx 0.1 0.1 0.1   xx         0.1
     No affiliation Vote: xx xx xx xx xx               xx

xx - less than 0.05% of the popular vote.


See also

Articles on parties' candidates in this election:


  1. ^ Pomfret, R. "Voter Turnout at Federal Elections and Referendums". Elections Canada. Elections Canada. Retrieved 11 January 2014. 

External links

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