Canadian Political Parties Essay, Research Paper
Through Canada’s one hundred thirty years as a nation, it has developed and
changed. These developments and changes have been influenced through the main
political parties of Canada. The two main political parties of Canada throughout the
years have been the Progressive Conservative Party and the Liberal Party. The Reform
Party, the New Democratic Party, and the Bloc Quebecois, form the minority parties of
this country. Each one of these parties have their own views and policies that distinguish
their party from the other.
The Progressive Conservative Party is one of Canada’s two main political parties. *
The party originated as a coalition of conservative and liberal minded politicians in 1854,
although the present name was not taken until 1942. The party normally occupies the
right of center position in the political spectrum , and has usually had close ties with
Britain , but it lacks a distinct ideology like its political rival , the Liberal Party.
Under the leadership of John A. Macdonald , the Progressive Conservative Party
fashioned Canadian nationalism and economic development, and therefore was the
dominant party in the late 19th century throughout the nation. One problem of the party
in the early and middle stages of the 20th century was the party’s inability to win support
among the French Canadians in Quebec. This usually kept the Conservatives from power
on the national level , although they often won office in the English speaking provinces.
As Lower (1991) describes , “One of the major problems of the federal Conservatives has
been their inability to discover an inspiring leader who could conciliate and unite the
fractions of the party.” (pg. 186-187). The party controlled the government during World
* Rutherford, Paul, Microsoft Encarta, “Progressive Conservative Party”
War I, where by instituting conscription angered the French Canadians . During the
Depression , when the party failed to ameliorate the Depression along with its reputation
as a friend to big business also led to a major loss of support among English speaking
After the fall of the Conservatives, ” The Conservatives existed as a weak
alternative to successive Liberal governments, serving as advocates of the English
speaking community and the moderate right. “Rutherford, Paul, (1993), Progressive
Conservative Party. For brief periods during this time the Conservatives were in Office
under Prime Ministers John Diefendbaker (1958 – 1963) and Joe Clarke (1979 – 1980).
In 1984 , the Conservatives started at ten year reign, under Brian Mulroney. During this
time several unpopular decisions took place the Free Trade Agreement with the United
States, and the formation of the federal sales tax, caused the Conservative popularity to
decline. Mulroney resigned in1993, Kim Campbell finished off his existing term , then
later lost in the federal election to the Liberals . Today the Progressive Conservatives hold
only two seats in the House of Commons.
The Liberal Party, is another of Canada’s leading political parties. * The party was
formed soon after confederation out of a coalition of Ontario Reformers, Quebec Rouges
and Antiunionists from the Maritime Provinces. The Liberal Party first held power under
Alexander Mackenzie briefly, from (1873-78).
Early on the Liberal Party favored increased Canadian antonomy, freer trade with
the United States, various moral reforms, and a decentralized federalism. According to
the * Rutherford, Paul, Microsoft Encarta, “Liberal Party (Canada)”.
Liberal Party of Canada, “They are committed to the view that the dignity of each
individual man and women is the cardinal principle of democratic society and the primary
purpose of all political organizations and activity in such a society”. (Liberal Party of
Canada, 1997, pg. #1) Before the 20th century its success was based on efforts to satisfy
the disparate aims of French and English Canadians. Over time the Liberals formed a
strong federal government. According to Rutherford, the Liberals, led by Trudeau,
worked to preserve the power of the Central Government to limit U.S. economic power in
Canada, and to fashion a bilingual and bicultural nation, an effort climaxed by the defeat of
separation in a 1980 Quebec referendum. (Rutherford, 1993, “Progressive
The popularityof the Liberal Party decreased in the 1980’s, however, because of
their opposition to the free-trade treaty of 1988 with the U.S and its support for the
Meech Lake Accord, the Liberal Party began to regain some of their popularity among
both the French and English speaking Canadians.
The Liberal Party of Canada, that is now in power is dedicated to the following
principles, individual freedom, responsibility and human dignity in society and political
freedom of meaningful participation amongst all people.
The Liberal Party recognizes that human dignity in a democratic system requires
that all citizens have access to full information concerning the policies and leadership of
The present Liberal Party believes that the following are the roles and purposes of
“1) Seek to achieve a common ground of understanding among the people
of the different provinces.
2) Advocate and support Liberal philosophies, principles and policies.
3) Promote the election of candidates of the Liberal Party of Canada.
4) Provide assistance and leadership to federal Liberal constituency
organizations to create a strong Liberal Party in Canada.
5) Act always to assist the individual member of the party to make his best
contribution to the political life of Canada.
6) Respect the principle of equal division between men and women in the
structure and operation of the Liberal Party. (Liberal Party of Canada,
These six roles and purposes of each are what the Liberals feel will win them the
The Reform Party of Canada is one of Canada’s minor political parties. In 1989
beside the three parties already represented in the House of Commons, there were other
registered federal political parties. One of these parties was the Reform Party of Canada,
which was the most influential and fastest growing minor party, based out of Alberta led
by Preston Manning.
The Reform Party of Canada is relatively new and has not made any big changes to
the country. However during the last election the party almost managed to be the official
opposition in only their first election were they had enough eligible ridings to do so.
The general reason for the Reform Party was because of western discontent. The
Reform Party of Canada was created in 1987 in Winnipeg. * Rependiatng separatism, the
party stated “We want into Confederation not out of it.” Its platform included demands for
* J. Authur Lower, CANADA, An Outline History, pg. # 30
a reformed Triple E. Senate, more national referenda, and a system of recall to establish
more responsible government.
The goals of the reformers are to form the next government by winning the next
federal election. Today almost all the Canadian provincial governments have achieved or
are working towards a balanced budget. Even the federal Liberal Government, which
Reformers believe they have pushed the government into doing so.
In 1992, the Reform Party was the only federal party to campaign for a NO vote in
the constitutional referendum. Also in 1993 another big break through for the Reform
Party occurred, in the federal election they emerged with 52 members of Parliament. “The
support for the Reform Party continues to grow across Canada. This has been shown in
many of the 1996 by – elections in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada that support for
the Reform has increased since the 1993 election” (The Reform Party of Canada, 1997,
The Reform Parties objective is to reform the political system to provide more
fairness and balance in national decision making and more effective representation of the
interests of all Canadians in federal parliament.
The New Democratic seek fundamental change of government and the strength of
cooperation and community to advance our society.
” The party is part of a greater national and international movement that seeks to
challenge the dominant political agenda of market globalization and resulting
environmental, social, and economic problems” according to the party. ( Canada’s New
Democratic Party,1997, pg.#3)
The NDP believe its political activity is particularly important and has to be set
apart or distinguished from other parties or its opponents by the special symphasis it
provides to serious discussions and development of public policy positions. However this
is contradictory because their membership does not engage in more policy study than
other parties. In fact ” it appears they do less than both the Conservatives and the Reform
organizations.” ( Carty, 1994, pg. # 241).
* In 1993, the party suffered disaster in the federal election gaining only 8% of the
popular vote and retaining only 9 seats, which meant the loss of its official party status in
The Bloc Quebecois party is a parliamentary movement made up of a group of
Quebec MP’s who originally left their respective parties in protest against the Conservative
governments unwillingness to change aspects of the Meech Lake Accord to favor Quebec.
The leader of the party was Lucien Bouchard, a former Tory Cabinet Minister. He was
elected as the party leader in June 1991.
During the 1993 election campaign, Bouchard argued that federalism had failed
and that sovereignty for Quebec was the only option for Canada. Whitehorn, Alan,
(1996), The Canadian Encyclopedia Plus, Bloc Quebecois. By allowing Quebec to
separate or to have sovereignty, the Bloc Quebecois believe its the only way to achieve
Quebec’s legitimate aspirations. Then once Quebec becomes sovereign Canada will also
be free to create the central government that the country has always wanted.
On October 25, 1993, Quebecois elected 54 Bloc Quebecois MP’s in the federal
election. They then formed the official opposition, lead by Lucien Bouchard. Bouchard
* Whitehorn, Alan, The Canadian Encyclopedia Plus, “New Democratic Party”.
resigned his seat in the house to become premier of Quebec in January 1996 and was
succeeded as leader by Michel Gauthier.
These are the five main political parties of Canada. Each of these parties have had
their own influences in the country, big or small. They have many differences in the way
they would each run this vast country, called Canada. However they all have one common
interest, this is to govern the greatest country in the world and to have a chance to
develop this young country into even a greater country.