Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Federal Election History 21 and 22, 1949 and 1953

Were these the easiest federal elections in Canadian history? Only if you were a Liberal.   Louis S. St-Laurent succeeded Mackenzie King as Liberal leader in 1948.  Buoyed by postwar prosperity, the Liberal government won re-election with very substantial majorities (190 of 262 seats and 171 of 265, respectively) in 1949 and 1953.  The 50s reputation for dullness and conventionality seems confirmed.

King, of course, left politics upon his replacement -- as Canadian leaders almost invariably do upon ceasing to be premier, prime minister, or party leader. This is a Canadian oddity, actually, more typical of presidential systems than parliamentary ones.   Matthew Shugart of the electoral-systems blog Fruits and Votes crunches a few numbers  (okay, I helped provoke him to it, as you will see if you track the comments):
Canada is clearly below the average for parliamentary systems, where we found 82% (!) [of ex-prime ministers - CM] continue being legislators (compared to 20% of presidents), and that the average PM hangs around for over 7 years (compared to just over a year for the average president). As I mentioned above, this line of research would really benefit from more comparison of countries within regime types. ...  Also of interest: Only one Canadian PM during this time period has remained in the cabinet–Clark for one year–so this type of “pension” is indeed rare in Canada. For all PMs we find 26% remain in the cabinet after their executive service, compared to no presidents in pure or semi-presidential systems.

Clark had nine years in the Mulroney cabinet, I think, but the point holds.  In the Canadian variant on the parliamentary system, if you ain't the leader anymore, you are nobody.
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