Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Federal Election history 25, 26, 27, 1962, 1963, 1965: Liberal majorities built on the left

Diefenbaker eviscerated his own standing in his first majority, but with so many Conservative incumbents in the House, the party  managed to hold on to a minority, with support from a bloc of Social Credit members, after the 1962 election (116 seats of 265, and 30 Social Credit = 146).

Diefenbaker in decline survived not only from his remaining popular appeal, but also from the double standard then prevailing. Having been made leader by the extra-parliamentary convention, he was not removable by his caucus, but he also insisted he was not removable by the mass party either.  While Dalton Camp slowly led the Conservatives to the wrong solution, making the leader removable by the mass party instead of reaffirming caucus authority), the party gradually became unelectable, and the Liberals formed two minorities more or less faute de mieux.

Pearson's two minorities (129 of 265 in 1963 and 131 of 265 in 1965) are recalled as the most productive minority governments in Canadian history, the time that successfully initiated medicare, moves toward official bilingualism and biculturalism, and new ideas about immigration, social welfare, a new flag, and so on.  Pearson had the benefit of NDP support for his government, making for a strong centre-left consensus despite official minority status, and also empowering progressive Liberals against the more conservative business-Liberal faction.  Instance three of the rule that goes back to 1926: Liberal majorities require either the collapse of the CCF-NDP vote to the benefit of the Liberal Party, or else a bloc of NDP MPs willing to support a Liberal minority government.  Hmmm.
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