Liberal Party of Canada

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Liberal Party of Canada
Parti libéral du Canada
Liberal Party of Canada
Liberal Party of Canada Logo.svg
Justin Trudeau
Party leader Justin Trudeau

Anna Gainey
Deputy Chairman Ralph Goodale
founding July 1, 1867
Headquarters Constitution Square,
Ottawa , Ontario
Youth organization Young Liberals
of Canada
Alignment Liberalism ,
left-wing liberalism
Colours) red
House of Commons
International connections Liberal International

The Liberal Party of Canada ( English Liberal Party of Canada , French Parti libéral du Canada ) is a liberal political party in Canada . It is located on the political spectrum to the left of the Conservative Party of Canada and to the right of the social democratic New Democratic Party (NDP). It combines progressive social policy with ordoliberal economic policy . It is often referred to as "Canada's natural ruling party" as it has been in power for most of the years since the beginning of the last century. Every liberal party leader of the 20th century also became prime minister. Justin Trudeau is acting chairman .

After the Progressive Conservative Party was dissolved and re-established as the Conservative Party , the Liberals are the only party that has existed continuously since the Canadian Confederation was founded in 1867. It is also the oldest party at the national level.


Colloquially, the Liberals are referred to as Grits , after the Clear Grits reform movement in the province of Canada before 1867. In the history of the Liberal Party, most of the party leaders were also prime ministers during their careers. Every liberal prime minister was also a minister in his predecessor's cabinet. So was Paul Martin cabinet minister Jean Chrétien , in turn, the Cabinet John Turner was a member, as previously the Cabinet Pierre Trudeau . The Liberal Party of Canada is a member of the Liberal International .

For the past few decades, the Liberal Party has supported issues that are on both the left and right of the political spectrum, but tends to lean towards the left. She advocates a balanced state budget, legalized same-sex marriage and the use of cannabis for medical purposes, advocates the decriminalization of the use of so-called " soft drugs " and takes a progressive stance on controversial social issues such as abortion . Other current demands include higher spending on education, research and defense, a liberal immigration policy and more rights for the First Nations , lower taxes for low incomes and stricter gun laws.



The Liberal Party emerged from the reformers who sought self- government in all British colonies in British North America in the mid-19th century . These included George Brown , Robert Baldwin , William Lyon Mackenzie and the Clear Grits in Upper Canada , Joseph Howe in Nova Scotia, and the Patriotes and the Parti rouge in Upper Canada, led by figures such as Louis-Joseph Papineau . The clear grits and the parti rouge sometimes formed a united block in the parliament of the province of Canada from 1854 onwards . In 1861 a united Liberal Party with English- and French-speaking Canadians was founded.


By the time the Canadian Confederation was formed by the former British colonies of Canada (now Ontario and Québec ), New Brunswick and Nova Scotia , the Liberals had been marginalized by a more pragmatic Conservative coalition led by John Macdonald . For 30 years, the Liberals had to be content with the opposition role, with only one short break. In 1873, Alexander Mackenzie was able to form a liberal government after Macdonald had lost a vote of no confidence in the House of Commons because of the Pacific scandal . Mackenzie won the election in 1874, but four years later had to surrender power to Macdonald after a defeat.


Wilfrid Laurier

In its early phase, the Liberal Party was the party of so-called continentalism , free trade with the United States , and opposed imperialism . It was also identified with Québec's aspirations for autonomy, because the French Canadians were in opposition to the Conservatives for the execution of Louis Riel .

Under the chairmanship of Wilfrid Laurier , the Liberal Party transformed into a modern party. He was able to exploit the alienation of the conservatives from the French-speaking Canadians and present the liberals as a credible alternative. Laurier also corrected the anti-clerical image of the party, against which the still powerful Roman Catholic Church in Québec took off. In English-speaking Canada, the Liberal Party became popular with farmers for its support for free trade. This helped to consolidate their position of power in the growing prairie provinces .

Laurier led the Liberals to power in the 1896 election. His government encouraged immigration to colonize western Canada . It created the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta from parts of the Northwest Territories and promoted the development of Canadian industry. In 1911 the Liberals had to surrender power because the population did not agree with the free trade policy and the creation of a Canadian Navy .

The question of military service split the party because many liberals in English-speaking Canada supported military service and the government formed by the Unionist Party under Robert Borden . Laurier had to concentrate the political activities of his party on the Francophone Québec, because a large number of Liberal candidates ran on the unionist lists in the other provinces. The only benefit of the military service crisis for the Liberal Party was that the Conservatives were considered ineligible for French Canadians for decades.

Canada's independence

William Lyon Mackenzie King

Under the chairmanship of Laurier and his successor William Lyon Mackenzie King , the Liberals campaigned for state sovereignty for Canada and greater independence in the British Empire . At the Imperial Conferences in the 1920s, the Liberals often took the lead, arguing that Britain and the Dominions should be given equal status. They also opposed the establishment of an empire parliament that would have undermined Canada's independent status. After the King Byng Affair in 1926, the Liberal Party demanded that the Governor General of Canada no longer be appointed on the recommendation of the British government. The results of the conferences were recorded in the 1931 Statute of Westminster .

The Liberals also demanded that Canada be responsible for its own foreign and defense policy. Originally it was the British who determined the foreign policy of the Dominion. In 1905, Laurier created Canada's State Department and in 1909 directed Governor General Earl Gray to appoint a Secretary of State. It was also Laurier who first proposed the creation of a Canadian Navy in 1910. Mackenzie King appointed Canada's first ambassador to Washington in 1926 . In doing so, he underlined that Canada insisted on direct relations with the US rather than having Britain act in its place.

The liberals and the welfare state

In the period immediately before and after World War II , the party became an advocate of progressive social policy . Liberal Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King introduced various provisions that led to the creation of the Canadian welfare state. Mackenzie King bowed to public pressure and introduced Maternity Allowance, a monthly benefit for all mothers with young children. Reluctantly, he created old-age pensions in exchange for parliamentary support from the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation to his minority government . Lester Pearson later introduced universal health care, the Canadian Pension Plan , Student Loans, and the Canadian Relief Plan, which funded welfare programs in the provinces.

The Pierre Trudeau era

Pierre Trudeau

Under the chairmanship of Pierre Trudeau , the commitment developed towards the goal of creating a "just society". The Trudeau Liberals pioneered official bilingualism in Canada, passed the Official Language Act , which gave French and English equal status. Trudeau hoped that Québec's place in the Confederation would be consolidated and calls for independence for this province could be met. His policies were aimed at transforming Canada into a country where English-speaking and Francophone Canadians could easily live together and move to any part of the country without having to give up their language. While this goal has not been achieved, official bilingualism has helped halt the decline of the French language outside of Québec and all public services, including those of the government-owned Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (English) and Radio-Canada (French), are in the all over the country in both languages.

The liberals under Trudeau are also credited for their commitment to official multiculturalism . This enabled immigrants to integrate into Canadian society without becoming alienated from their culture. Because of multiculturalism and its immigrant-friendly policies, the party has built a solid base with immigrants and their descendants.

A long-term effect of the Trudeau era was the establishment of the Canadian Constitution and the creation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms . The Trudeau liberals supported the concept of strong central government and opposed separatist movements and other forms of nationalism in Québec.

The years after Pierre Trudeau

After Trudeau's retirement from politics in 1984, many liberals such as Jean Chrétien and Clyde Wells stuck to his federalist concept. Others, like John Turner, supported the Meech Lake Accord and the Charlottetown Accord , failed constitutional amendments that would have extended the provinces' rights over the Federation government and recognized Québec as a "separate society".

Under John Turner's presidency, the Liberals lost government power in 1984 and were reduced to 40 seats in the House of Commons. A long process of renewal began for the party. During the 1988 election campaign, Turner fiercely opposed the free trade agreement with the United States that the ruling Progressive Conservative Party under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney had negotiated. Although most Canadians were against the agreement, the Conservatives were approved by a majority in the election and were able to continue to govern.

Turner resigned in 1990 and was replaced by his arch-rival Jean Chrétien. In the 1993 election, the Liberals promised to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and to repeal the Goods and Services Tax . But when Chrétien took over the government, the free trade agreement was changed only slightly and the VAT was not lifted.

While Chrétien led his election campaign with left-wing arguments, his reign was marked by cuts in many welfare programs. They should serve for a balanced government budget. Chrétien continued Trudeau's concept of federalism and refused to make major concessions to Québec and other provinces.

After the Québec referendum in 1995 on the independence of this province was narrowly rejected, the Liberals passed the Clarity Act , in which the government set the preconditions for negotiations on the independence of provinces. In the final days of his reign, Chrétien campaigned for same-sex marriage and the decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of cannabis . In March 2003, he angered the US when he refused to send Canadian troops to the Iraq war .

Prime Minister Martin

Paul Martin

In December 2003, after months of internal power struggles , Paul Martin was named as successor to Jean Chrétien. Despite long personal rivalries between the two, Martin had made himself the central architect of liberal economic policy in the 1990s as finance minister under Chrétien. On June 28, 2004, the Liberal Party under Martin succeeded in winning another election despite strong competition from the reunited Conservative Party . However, it lost votes and from then on could only form a minority government.

Since then, the liberal government has been severely burdened by the so-called sponsorship scandal , an affair from Chrétien's reign: advertising agencies that had supported the Liberal Party have received far excessive commissions for their services for years. Last but not least, the never-ending revelations of this scandal led to the call for a new election, which on January 23, 2006 resulted in a defeat for the Liberals. Paul Martin announced his retirement from the party leadership on election night. As leader of the opposition, he provisionally appointed former Foreign Secretary William Graham .

Defeats under Dion and Ignatieff

On December 2, 2006, for the first time in the history of the Liberal Party, the party leader was elected by the delegates of the party congress in Montreal in a fighting vote. A total of seven candidates stood for election, including the former Prime Minister of Ontario Bob Rae and the former Harvard professor Michael Ignatieff , who had won the most electoral votes beforehand. After four ballots, however, Stéphane Dion was elected , who had been a minister in various departments under Chrétien and Martin.

After Dion again failed to lead the Liberals to victory in the 2008 general election, Ignatieff succeeded him as party leader. Although the Liberals led the opinion polls for a time until 2010, Ignatieff was also unable to achieve a lasting change. In the 2011 general election, the Liberals suffered the worst defeat in their history and were only the third strongest force for the first time. As a result, Ignatieff resigned as chairman and Bob Rae became interim chairman .

Return to power under Justin Trudeau

On April 14, 2013, the Congress in Ottawa elected Justin Trudeau , the son of Pierre Trudeau , as the new chairman. In the general election on October 19, 2015 , the Liberals under Trudeau junior were not only able to become the strongest force in parliament for the first time since 2004, but also to gain an absolute majority for the first time since the 2000 election. The Parliament elected Trudeau then on 4 November 2015 at a new Prime Minister of the country.

Election results

Results of the House of Commons elections :

choice seats
be right proportion of
1867 180 65 52 60,818 22.67%
1872 200 111 95 110,556 34.72%
1874 206 140 129 128,455 39.49%
1878 206 121 63 180.074 33.05%
1882 211 112 73 160,547 31.10%
1887 215 184 80 312,736 43.13%
1891 215 194 90 350,512 45.22%
1896 213 190 117 401.425 41.37%
1900 213 209 128 477,758 50.25%
1904 214 208 137 521.041 50.88%
1908 221 213 133 570.311 48.87%
1911 221 214 85 596,871 45.82%
1917 235 213 82 729.756 38.80%
1921 235 204 118 1,285,998 41.15%
1925 245 216 100 1,252,684 39.74%
1926 245 203 116 1,397,031 42.90%
1930 245 226 90 1,716,798 45.50%
1935 245 245 173 1,967,839 44.68%
1940 245 242 179 2,365,979 51.32%
1945 245 236 118 2,086,545 39.78%
1949 262 258 191 2,874,813 49.15%
year seats
be right proportion of
1953 265 262 169 2,731,633 48.43%
1957 265 264 104 2,692,986 40.75%
1958 265 264 48 2,432,953 33.40%
1962 265 263 99 2,846,589 36.97%
1963 265 265 128 3,276,995 41.52%
1965 265 265 131 3,099,521 40.18%
1968 265 262 154 3,686,801 45.37%
1972 264 263 109 3,717,804 38.42%
1974 264 264 141 4,102,853 43.15%
1979 282 282 114 4,595,319 40.11%
1980 282 282 147 4,855,425 44.34%
1984 282 282 40 3,516,486 28.02%
1988 295 294 83 4,205,072 31.92%
1993 295 295 177 5,647,952 41.24%
1997 301 301 155 4,994,277 38.46%
2000 301 301 172 5,252,031 40.85%
2004 308 308 135 4,951,107 36.70%
2006 308 308 103 4,479,415 30.23%
2008 308 307 77 3,628,337 26.22%
2011 308 308 34 2,783,175 18.91%
2015 338 338 184 6,928,514 39.47%

Party leader

Surname Chair prime minister
George Brown 1867 (interim)
Edward Blake 1869–1871 (interim)
Alexander Mackenzie 1873-1880 1873-1878
Edward Blake 1880-1887
Wilfrid Laurier 1887-1919 1896-1911
Daniel Duncan McKenzie 1919 (interim)
William Lyon Mackenzie King 1919-1948 1921-1930, 1935-1948
Louis Saint-Laurent 1948-1958 1948-1957
Lester Pearson 1958-1968 1963-1968
Pierre Trudeau 1968-1984 1968-1979, 1980-1984
John Turner 1984-1990 1984
Jean Chrétien 1990-2003 1993-2003
Paul Martin 2003-2006 2003-2006
William Graham 2006 (interim)
Stéphane Dion 2006-2008
Michael Ignatieff 2008-2011
Bob Rae 2011–2013 (interim)
Justin Trudeau since 2013 since 2015

Provinces and territories

Each Canadian province and one of the three territories has its own Liberal Party. The degree of attachment to the national party varies greatly. In the provinces of Ontario , Québec , British Columbia , Alberta , Saskatchewan and Manitoba as well as in the Yukon Territory , the liberal parties are organizationally independent, although double membership is possible. In the remaining provinces and the parties are directly subordinate to the national organization.

Liberal parties form the government in two provinces and one territory (as of August 2019):

Opposition party:

Without parliamentary representation:

See also


  • Peter C. Newman : When the Gods Changed: The Death of Liberal Canada . 2011.

Web links

Commons : Liberal Party of Canada  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Arch Puddington: Freedom in the World: The Annual Survey of Political Rights and Civil Liberties . Rowman & Littlefield, 2007, ISBN 978-0-7425-5897-7 , p. 142.
  2. Justin Trudeau , in: Internationales Biographisches Archiv 38/2013 from September 17, 2013, in the Munzinger archive ( beginning of article freely available)
  3. ^ Election results on, accessed on October 20, 2015.
  4. He will then be sworn in by the governor on behalf of the crown within 24 hours and will formally take office on November 4th, 2015; see When does Justin Trudeau become prime minister? , October 20, 2015.
  5. ^ Results of past general election - Elections Ontario