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Canadian federal election, 2004
A Canadian federal election (more formally, the 38th general election) was held on June 28, 2004 to elect members of the Canadian House of Commons. The Liberal government of Prime Minister Paul Martin lost its majority, but was able to form a minority government after the elections. The main opposition party, the newly amalgamated Conservative Party of Canada, improved its position but with a showing far below its expectations.
- For seat-by-seat results, see Results of the Canadian federal election, 2004.
- For a timeline of major events and campaign stops, see Timeline of the Canadian federal election, 2004.
- For maps showing party strengths by region and by riding, see Canadian federal election, 2004 map gallery.
On May 23, 2004, Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, on the advice of Martin, ordered the dissolution of the House of Commons. Following a 36-day campaign, voters elected 308 Members of the House of Commons.
All three major national parties had changed their leaders since the 2000 elections. Although the election was initially widely expected to be a relatively easy romp for Martin to a fourth consecutive Liberal majority government, during the campaign many began instead to predict a far more closely-fought election. Polls started to indicate the possibility of a minority government for the Liberals, or even a minority Conservative government, fueling speculation of coalitions with the other parties. In the end, the Liberals fared better than the final opinion polls had led them to fear, but not well enough to win a majority.
On election day, polling times were arranged to allow results from most provinces to be announced more or less simultaneously, with the exception of Atlantic Canada, where results were known before the close of polling in other provinces.
Main article: Results of the Canadian federal election, 2004
A party must hold 155 seats to form a majority government. The Liberals came short of this number, winning 135. Until extremely close ridings were decided on the west coast, it appeared as though the Liberals' seat total, if combined with that of the left-wing New Democratic Party (NDP), would be sufficient to hold a majority in the House of Commons. In the end, the Conservatives won Vancouver Island North, West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast, and New Westminster-Coquitlam, after trailing in all three ridings, as sub-totals were announced through the evening.
As a result, the combined seat count of the Liberals and the NDP was 154, while the other 154 seats belonged to the Conservatives, Bloquistes, and one independent Chuck Cadman (previously a Conservative). This could signal an evenly-split house; however, some indications suggested that, rather than forming an official coalition with the NDP, the Liberal party would attempt to lead with a minority government, obtaining majorities for their legislation on an ad hoc basis.
Voter turnout nationwide was 60.9% the lowest it has ever been in the history of Canada , with 13,683,570 out of 22,466,621 registered voters casting their ballots. The voter turnout fell by more than 3% from the 2000 federal election which had 64.1% turnout . Voter turn out would have been even lower in 2004, but the Green Party of Canada's 4.3% showing brought hundreds of thousands of new voters into the electoral process.
|Party||Party Leader||# of|
|Before1||After||% Change||#||%||Liberal||Paul Martin||308||168||135||-19.6%||4,951,107||36.7%||Conservative||Stephen Harper||308||72||99||+37.5%||3,994,682||29.6%||Bloc Québécois||Gilles Duceppe||75||33||54||+63.6%||1,672,874||12.4%||New Democratic||Jack Layton||308||14||19||+35.7%||2,116,536||15.7%||Green||Jim Harris||308||-||-||582,247||4.3%||Christian Heritage||Ron Gray||62||-||40,283||0.3%||Marijuana||Marc-Boris St-Maurice||71||-||-||33,590||0.3%||Progressive Canadian||Ernie Schreiber||16||-||10,773||0.1%||Marxist-Leninist||Sandra L. Smith||76||-||-||9,065||0.1%||Canadian Action||Connie Fogal||44||-||-||8,930||0.1%||Communist||Miguel Figueroa||35||-||-||4,568||0.0%||Libertarian||Jean-Serge Brisson||8||-||1,964||0.0%||Independent / No Affiliation||10||1||n.a.||65,061||0.5%|
|Sources: http://www.elections.ca -- History of Federal Ridings since 1867|
1 "Before" refers to standings in the House of Commons at dissolution, and not to standings at the previous election.
n.a. = not applicable - party was not recognized in previous election
10 closest ridings
- Western Arctic, NT: Ethel Blondin-Andrew (Lib) def. Dennis Bevington (NDP) by 53 votes
- Jeanne-Le Ber, QC: Liza Frulla (Lib) def. Thierry St-Cyr (BQ) by 72 votes
- Simcoe—Grey, ON: Helena Guergis (Cons) def. Paul Bonwick (Lib) by 100 votes
- New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC: Paul Forseth (Cons) def. Steve McClurg (NDP) by 113 votes
- Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK: Tom Lukiwski (Cons) def. Gary Anderson (Lib) by 122 votes
- Palliser, SK: Daver Batters (Cons) def. Dick Proctor (NDP) by 124 votes
- Edmonton—Beaumont, AB: David Kilgour (Lib) def. Tim Uppal (Cons) by 134 votes
- Cambridge, ON: Gary Goodyear (Cons) def. Janko Peric (Lib) by 224 votes
- Kildonan—St. Paul, MB: Joy Smith (Cons) def. Terry Duguid (Lib) by 278 votes
- Northumberland—Quinte West, ON: Paul Macklin (Lib) def. Doug Galt (Cons) by 313 votes
Results by province and seat by seat results
- Number of Parties: 12
Main article: List of political parties in Canada
Liberal Party of Canada
Until the sponsorship scandal, most pundits were predicting that new Prime Minister Paul Martin would lead the Liberals to a fourth majority government, possibly setting a record for number of seats won.
However, polls released immediately after the scandal broke showed Liberal support down as much as 10% nationwide, with greater declines in its heartland of Quebec and Ontario. Although there was some recovery in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, Liberal hopes of making unprecedented gains in the west faded. The unpopularity of some provincial Liberal parties may also have had an effect on federal Liberal fortunes. In Ontario, for instance, the provincial Liberal government introduced an unpopular budget the week of the expected election call, and their federal counterparts then fell into a statistical dead heat with the Conservatives in polls there. The Liberals were also harmed by high profile party infighting that have been plaguing the party since Martin's earlier ejection from Cabinet by now-former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.
The campaign was criticized openly by Liberal candidates, one incumbent Liberal comparing it to the Keystone Kops.
Conservative Party of Canada
Many pundits predicted that the combination of the popular and fiscally conservative Martin, along with continued vote-splitting on the right, could have led to the almost total annihilation of the Progressive Conservatives and Canadian Alliance. This fear prompted those two parties to form a united Conservative Party of Canada, which was approved by the members of the Canadian Alliance on December 5, 2003 and controversially by the delegates of the Progressive Conservatives on December 6, 2003.
The new Conservative Party pulled well ahead of the NDP in the polls just before the election, although its support remained below the combined support that the Progressive Conservatives and the Alliance had as separate parties. On March 20 the Conservatives elected Stephen Harper as their new leader.
The Conservatives gained more ground in polls after Harper became leader, and the poll results in the weeks before the election had them within one to two points of the Liberals, sometimes ahead, sometimes behind them. Party supporters hoped that the voters would react negatively to the Liberal attacks on Harper's agenda, and that anger over the sponsorship scandal and other Liberal failures would translate to success at the polls. Although on the eve of the election the party was polling slightly ahead of the Liberals everywhere west of Quebec, it had dropped in support, polling behind or an par with Liberals everywhere except Alberta and British Columbia, where it held onto its traditional support. All together the new Conservatives fell from the combined Canadian Alliance-Progressive Conservative vote in 2000 of 37%, to only 29% of the vote, yet still gained 21 extra seats.
New Democratic Party
Before the announcement of the union of the right-of-centre parties, some were predicting that the New Democratic Party would form the official opposition because the NDP was polling ahead of both right-of-centre parties. A new leader (Jack Layton) and clear social democratic policies helped revitalize the NDP. Polls suggested that the NDP had returned to the 18% to 20% level of support it enjoyed in the 1984 election and 1988 election. Layton suggested that the NDP would win more than the 43 seats won under former leader Ed Broadbent. Broadbent was returned to Parliament after many years of absence.
The NDP focused the campaign on winning ridings in Canada's urban centres, hoping especially to win seats in central Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa and Winnipeg. The party's platform was built to cater to these regions and much of Layton's time was spent in these areas.
The campaign stumbled early when the Liberals attacked Layton for blaming the deaths of homeless people on Paul Martin. They accused the NDP of negative campaigning. The NDP benefited from the decline in Liberal support, but not to the same extent as the Conservatives. There was an increasing prospect that NDP voters would switch to the Liberals to block a Conservative government. This concern did not manifest itself in the polls, however, and the NDP remained at somewhat below 20 percent mark in the polls for most of the campaign.
The Bloc Québécois (BQ) continued to slide in the polls in most of 2003 after the election of the federalist Quebec Liberal Party at the National Assembly of Quebec under Jean Charest, and during the long run-up to Paul Martin becoming leader of the federal Liberals.
However, things progressively changed during 2003, partly because of the decline in popularity of the Liberal Party of Quebec government of Jean Charest, and partly because support for independence in Quebec rose again (49% in March). The tide took its sharp turn when, in February 2004, the sponsorship scandal (uncovered in considerable part by the Bloc) hit the Liberal federal government.
These events led to a resurgence of the BQ, putting it ahead of the pack once again: according to an Ipsos-Reid poll carried out for the Globe and Mail and CTV between the 4th and the 8th of June, 50% of Quebecers intended to vote for the BQ against 24% for the Liberals.
Speculation was ongoing about the possibility of the Bloc forming alliances with other opposition parties or with an eventual minority government to promote its goals of social democracy and respect of the autonomy of provinces. Leader Gilles Duceppe stated that the Bloc, as before, would co-operate with other opposition parties or with the government when interests were found to be in common, but that the Bloc would not participate in a coalition government.
Green Party of Canada
The Greens ran candidates in all 308 ridings. The party won twice as many votes in this election than it had over the previous 21 years of its history combined. It also raised and spent more money than in the previous 21 years.
These are the official slogans for the 2004 campaigns. The optional parts of the mottos (sometimes not used for efficiency) are put in brackets.
|Liberal Party||Moving [Canada] Forward - Allons [or Aller] droit devant (avec l'Équipe Martin)||Choose your Canada|
|Conservative Party||Demand Better - C'est assez!|
|Bloc Québécois||Un parti propre au Québec||Parce qu'on est différent (pre-election)|
|New Democratic Party||[New Energy.] A Positive Choice. - [Une force nouvelle.] Un choix Positif.|
|Green Party||Someday is now - L'avenir c'est maintenant|
|Marijuana Party||Let's roll! - Y faut que ça roule!|
|Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada||Annexation No! Sovereignty Yes! - Annexation Non! Souveraineté Oui!|
Important issues in the election:
- Sponsorship scandal: badly hurt the Liberals in the polls and the theme of widespread corruption was used by all opposition parties, especially the Bloc.
- Health care: all parties support Canada's government-administered health care system but acknowledge that improvements must be made to meet new demographic challenges and to reduce long wait times. Transfer payments to the provinces have been cut substantially to 16% by the federal Liberal government and it was difficult for Paul Martin to reconcile these cuts with his plan to improve the system.
- Fiscal imbalance: all major parties except the Liberals claimed that there was a monetary imbalance between Ottawa and the provinces and spoke of plans to reduce it, the Bloc Québécois probably being the strongest denouncer of the situation.
- Taxation: for the Conservatives, significantly lowering taxes, to stimulate the economy, was a central issue. The Conservatives also promised to end "corporate welfare" and replace it with tax cuts for all businesses. The Liberals and NDP opposed large tax cuts and argued that money should instead be spent to improve social programs.
- Parliamentary reform: The Conservatives accused the Liberals of perpetuating "undemocratic practices" in Parliament, by limiting the powers of MPs. Martin called for some reform, but not to the satisfaction of the Conservatives. The Conservatives promised an elected Senate and standing committee and provincial review of judicial appointments. The NDP spoke of abolishing the Senate.
- Electoral reform: Conservatives promised fixed election dates. The NDP and the Green Party promoted the idea of proportional representation voting.
- Same-sex marriage: Both the Bloc Québécois and NDP strongly favoured same sex marriage. The NDP considers it a human rights issue, and requires its MPs to either support legislation favouring same-sex marriage or abstain on such questions. The Bloc, on the other hand, treats it as a matter of conscience, allowing its members free votes on the issue. The Liberals sent the issue to be ruled upon by the Supreme Court, and the Liberal caucus was publicly divided on the issue. The majority of Conservative candidates opposed it; the party's oofficial stance was for the issue to be resolved by a free vote in the Commons.
- National Missile Defence: the Bush administration in the U.S. wanted Canada to join the missile shield. The Conservatives strongly supported such a plan while the Bloc and NDP opposed it. Although the Liberals reiterated past opposition to the weaponization of space, they did not have an expressed opinion on the shield.
- 2003 invasion of Iraq: the Conservatives supported the United States over Iraq, while the other parties generally opposed it.
- Gun registry: The Conservatives strongly opposed the gun registry while the other parties support it.
- Marijuana: The Liberals have introduced measures to decriminalize possession of small quantities of marijuana, a move generally supported by the other opposition parties. The Conservative Party opposes such legislation. The Bloc Québécois is more explicit in its support for decriminalisation, while the NDP wishes to study the issue and consider going beyond mere decriminalisation.
- Ontario budget: The introduction by the Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty of "Ontario Health Premiums" was very unpopular, despite Mr. McGuinty's claim that this new tax was necessary because of the budgetary deficit left by the previous Progressive Conservative government. The Conservatives and the NDP capitalized on this and other unpopular fiscal and tax-related policy to attack the Liberals at the federal level.
Leadership races of 2003 and 2004
- 2004 Conservative Party of Canada leadership race
- 2003 Liberal Party of Canada leadership race
- 2003 PC Party of Canada leadership race
- 2003 New Democratic Party leadership race
- Canadian federal election
- Lists of general elections in Canada
- List of elections in the Province of Canada (pre-Confederation)
- Canadian federal election results since 1867
- Politics of Canada
- List of political parties in Canada
- Minority governments in Canada
- CBC - Canada Votes (includes video files of the whole English debate)
- CTV - Election 2004
- SRC - Élections (in French, includes video files of the whole French debate)
- Cyberpresse - Élections fédérales 2004 (in French, including a regularly updated vote intention graph)
- Elections Canada
- Elections Canada official numbers
- Nodice Elections: Canada
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