Canadian Political Parties

When I was growing up, Canadian governments were either Liberal or Progressive Conservative, the two centrist parties which dominated Canadian politics much as the Republicans and Democrats did in the U.S. There were two minor parties, the Social Credit (which governed Alberta for many years) and the C.C.F. (which IIRC was socialist and was the goverment of Saskatchewan for an equally long period). Later the Parti Quebecois (and I refuse to sort out vowel accents!) became a autonomy-for-Quebec group that became the government of Quebec for a while), and was loosely allied in some way with the SoCreds.

Today there seem to be five parties: the Liberals with the lion’s share of the voters, the P.C.'s (surviving but declining), the New Democrats (which represent the merger of the C.C.F. with some other groups, which I don’t understand), the Alliance, and a surviving P.Q.

What I’m interested in is the relative strengths of these parties across Canada, who has majorities in provincial governments, whether any coalitions have formed anywhere – that sort of thing. Anybody feel like discoursing a bit on how this all works out in practice in Canadian governments?

Okay, I’ll try and get this started. You’re right about the Liberal party being the most popular party. It’s dominated Canadian politics even since Confederation.

The PC party, at least on the federal level, seems to be on its last legs, although it seems to be doing fine on the Provincial level in places like Ontario. The Alliance Party used to be the very-right-wing Reform party, but reformed itself and managed to grab some PC members in the process. A broad comparison between these two right wing parties would have the PC party being Eisenhower/Goldwater Republicans, and the Alliance being Regean/Bush Republicans. The Alliance Party got its start in Alberta, and although I think they were an offshoot/modernization of the SC party, I’m not sure.

The PQ recently lost power in Quebec, with Jean Charest leading the Liberal Party to victory in the latest provincial election. His is an interesting story because he was the leader of the federal PC party, but decided to focus on provincial politics since everybody thought he was the only guy who could beat the speratists. But the PC party is pretty much non-existant in Quebec, so he joined the provincial Liberal party. Quebec also has the Action Democratique party, which is made up of young conservative sepratists, versus the babyboomer socialist speratists who make up the PQ.

[nitpick] the federal Québec separatist party is the BQ, the provincial one is the PQ and the PQ was not allied in any fashion with the SoCreds. The PQ being mostly social-democrat, the SoCred being a right wing loony party, just look at their economic platform or read this thread .

As for the rest of your post, the PQ is only a provincial party, the BQ and Alliances are only federal parties, the BQ exisiting only in Québec, The Alliance existing mostly west of Ontario.

The thing is, Federal Level Canadian politics doesn’t always translate down at the Provincial level.

For instance, the Canadian Alliance does not run at the Provincial level, anywhere.

Canadian politics as it is now, is very regional. The Liberals hold the majority in the house because of Ontario. Ontario, having the largest population also has the most Ridings. And Ridings are what determines seats in the House. The Liberals have swept almost every riding in Ontario for the past 10 years or so.

The Canadian Alliance however, has swept pretty much every riding west of Ontario for the past 10 years, but because the populations are lower they don’t have an equal share of ridings and thus lack the seats to win the House.

Quebec has been a mixed bag over the years flopping closely between Liberal and the Bloc Quebecois. However, for years the BQ came out on top and they commanded enough ridings to qualify as the Official Opposition in the House… which is amusing considering their platform.

Eastern Canada, the Maritimes and Newfoundland and Labrador used to be a stronghold for the NDP, but in recent years its been a smattering of NDP wins, Liberal and Progressive Conservative. Most politicians outside of the NDP consider Eastern Canada to be rather irrelevant when it comes to elections because they don’t have the ridings that could swing an election.

The Progressive Conservatives were nearly destroyed as a Party in the last election, barely holding enough seats to maintain “Official Party Status”. Alot of people blame them for splitting the vote between the PC and CA just making it easier for the Liberals.

When it comes to Provincial politics I can only speak for Ontario… which is weird because Ontario always votes Liberal in Federal Elections but we currently have the Progressive Conservatives in power at the Provincial Level. But in the last ten years or so we’ve had both a Liberal government and an NDP government… so Provincially, Ontario voters are schizophrenic.

I would take issue with the idea that the PC’s were ‘Goldwater Republicans’. The PC’s are far more liberal than that - they’re more like DLC Democrats a la Bill Clinton, or possibly liberal Republicans or conservative Democrats along the lines of George Bush I. In fact, he’s almost a prototype of a Canadian Progressive-Conservative.

The Alliance Party is more like a mix between the neocons and the religious right. It’s teeming with conservative Christians.

The Liberal party is the corruption party. They stand for nothing other than retaining power. Sometimes they offer very conservative ideas, other times socialist policies. Whatever plays well that day. In the meantime, they make patronage appointments, shady deals, and rule Canada like a banana Republic. That’s because there is no real opposition to them to keep them in check.

Wow, that sounds exactly like Fianna Fáil here in Ireland. Spookily so, in fact.

Sorry. Carry on.

Polycarp, you may want to monitor tomorrow’s provincial election in Nova Scotia. There seems to be a good chance of a minority government, with all three parties in the running to form a government: Nova Scotia: Pundits predicting minority government.

I don’t think it’s entirely fair to characterize the ADQ as “separatist”. More kind of like, “whichever way the wind blows”. They campaigned allongside the PQ and BQ during the 1995 referendum but their position during the last elections was essentially: “let’s stop talking about 'mkay?” For a while, it looked like they had a good shot at winning that election, but in the end lack of proper funding and lack of a coherent platform did them in.

There was another party in Quebec called l’Union Nationale. They were a religious right party that was in power for most of the period between 1936 and 1970. They disappeared in the seventies.

Another thing worth mentioning is that Federal and Provincial parties are completely unrelated. The Federal Liberals have nothing to do with the Provincial Liberals, for instance.

I don’t think it’s quite fair to say that it was a religious right party. It was more of a case of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” relationship with the RCC. AFAI can remember Duplessis and his cronies were nothing like the American religious right. I would say the emphasis was more on the “right” than the “religious”. The Québec Socreds would have fit that bill better.

Sure you’re not talking about Mulroney’s Tories here? This is GQ, not GD, you can keep the right-wing spin to a dull roar.

I agree, the federal Liberals need a good solid kick in the butt, and a more viable opposition would be nice (not that the lack of one is their fault - the PC’s have no one to blame for their obliteration in '93 but themselves). But I would have thought you would be a fan of the fiscal policy they’ve employed over the past decade, what with the budget balancing and spending cuts - not as severe as the Klein or Harris regimes, true, but certainly more fiscally conservative than the governments of Mulroney or Trudeau, and given the state of the Canadian economy compared to the rest of the G7, I can’t work up much indignation.

In response to the OP, speaking for Saskatchewan politics, the NDP currently hold a razor-thin government with the help of a coalition with a couple Liberal MLA’s. Their primary opposition is the “Saskatchewan Party”, so named because the provincial PC’s annihilated themselves with a massive corruption scandal which ended in numerous trials. The tattered remnants of the party reformed themselves as the Saskatchewan Party, apparently thinking that voters are too daft to realize that they’re exactly the same group. Nonetheless, the NDP has been the government here for a good long while, and there’s a good chance they might not squeak out the next election as they did the last. More’s the pity, as the SP leader seems to think Sask should be run as if it were Alberta, a recipe for disaster as Sask doesn’t have Alberta’s oil revenues to prop up its budget.

That’s just because religion in Quebec and the American South expresses itself quite differently. They were very religious. Hell, in 1936, they campaigned with a document called “Le Catéchisme des Électeurs”. Granted that their avowed platform wasn’t as religious as the SoCred, but in practice it was very much so, though I agree that it had more to do with power than faith.

How 'bout taking this province by province?

BC - Currently a liberal government that is very fiscally conservative. Landslide win after previous governments (like the last four!) all ended in corruption or disgrace. Generally vote to the left, but lately the Canadian Alliance has made inroads due mainly to Western alienation (IMHO)

Alberta - Currently (and pretty much always) a PC government that is very fiscally and socially conservative. Alberta has had only two parties in power for about 50 years. First the Social Credit party, which was very, very conservative and then the PCs who were only a little less conservative. Also the home of the CA party, who takes basically every seat in Alberta except in Edmonton.

Sask - Currently an NDP government. Don’t know much about the history of this province. Generally votes for the Alliance these days.

Man - Don’t know

Ontario - Currently a PC government, but will have an election soon and Liberal party has the majority in the polls. Lately, it has been conservative, but the province generally leans more to the left with a very strong union vote. Some inroads by the Alliance, but almost exclusively a Liberal stronghold, federally.

Quebec - Currently, and just recently, a Liberal-led province, but there is still a lot of support for seperation from Canada, via the PQ, provincially and the Bloc Quebecois, federally. Generally, a pretty conservative province in most areas, except Montreal.

The Maritimes - (PEI, NB, NFLD/Lab, NS) Don’t really know.

Nearly all of this is opinion, so take it with a grain of salt. I’m sure opinions will vary.

This is not true, at least not anymore. Back when it looked like the indeed very conservative ADQ might well cause a surprise upset at the polls, a casual observer might have thought that the province was conservative. However, in one newspaper poll while a majority of voters leaned towards the ADQ, when asked about specific issues an overwhelming majority of respondants sided with the left. Note that both separatist parties tend towards social democratic ideals. There’s very little support for right-wing politics nowadays.

I used to have a copy of that pamphlet. It was only modelled after a Church catechism. The questions and answers had nothing to do with religion. I still maintain that the relationship was more one of convenience than of conviction.

That’s what I mean when I say that it had more to do with power than faith. From the inside, it was your typical demagogue organisation, from the outside, though, they pushed for a very religious (i.e. Catholic) society… because it suited their goals.

Election results are in from Nova Scotia - it’s a minority government, as expected:[ul][li]Progressive Conservatives - 25 seats[/li]
[li]New Democratic Party - 15 seats[/li]
[li]Liberals - 12 seats[/ul]The Tories have the greatest number of seats, so it looks like they’ll form the government, although it’s technically possible for the other two parties to form a coalition, since between them they would have a majority. [/li]
Here’s the CBC report.

Somehow, no one seems to have gotten it right. The PQ began as a social democratic party, but nowadays their only consistent position is on separation and they resigned themselves to losing an election rather than giving that up. The ADQ in Quebec has no consistent position on separation or anything else and the voters actually noticed eventually.

The PC is Eisenhower/Rockefeller conservative. Goldwater was far to the right, although not the religious right. The Alliance seems to be virtually identical to the current Bushite Republicans. Religiously oriented and not conservative at all, but radical right.

One difference between the PC and Liberals (neither has anything to learn from the other in terms of corruption) is that the PC’s, like Reagan and the current Shrub, ran up gigantic deficits, while the current Liberal govt, like Clinton’s, is (still) running up large surpluses (while the provinces, like most US states, are in fiscal trouble). It may well be a case of post hoc but Canada’s economy is still booming while the US’s has gone down the tubes. Make of that what you will.

One big difference between the political system of the US and Canada is that in Canada there is really no connection between provincial and federal parties. If, on rare occasions, a Canadian pol moves from provinical to federal politics, that is considered a career change. In the US, there is a sort of standard progression, say from state house to state senate to US house to US senate. Maybe no one actually goes through that exact progression, but it would not be considered a career change. Also, the national parties are essentially the union of the state parties. In Canada, the various provincial Liberal parties are totally independent of the national party and they do not campaign for each other and often strongly oppose each other.

Whether the PCs are declining or gradually coming back is not at all clear. I think they did slightly better the last time, than the time before and certainly have only improved since their 2 seat fiasco in the early 90s. (“Why is a VW better than the PC party?” “Because a VW has more than two seats.”)

Just to illustrate Hari’s point about the distinction between federal and provincial politics, only one former Premier of a province has ever become Prime Minister of Canada. That was Premier Thompson of Nova Scotia, who was only premier for a couple of months. For the most part, the parliamentary system doesn’t encourage outsiders. You have to work your way up within the caucus and the party, so it’s difficult to jump easily from provincial politics to the top of the heap federally. (But there have been several former premiers who entered the federal cabinet as ministers; Thompson again, and also Fielding of Nova Scotia and Gardiner of Saskatchewan come to mind, and I think there’ve been others.)

One critical thing to note is that the federal NDP IS, in fact, the combined offspring of the provincial NDP associations; it is the only federal party organized in that fashion.

The five Fed parties have been explained; I’ll go through a list of the provinces are try to explainas best I can where they are.

Newfoundland and Labrador - Yes, it’s really called that. The Liberals form the government with 27 out of 48 seats. the Premier is Roger Grimes, who took over for former federal minister-because-Premier-because a fed again-then-retired Brian Tobin, widely regarded as the worst liar in Canada. The PCs are the opposition with 19, and the NDP is hanging around with 2.

Nova Scotia - Had an election this week. PC party retained a small minority government; 25 seats, with the Liberals taking 15 and the NDP two. Premier John Hamm.

New Brunswick - Slight majority government for the PCs, premier is Bernard Lord. NDP is barely hanging on.

Prince Edward Island - The PCs hold 26 of 27 seats, with the Liberals having the only holdout. Premier Patrick Binns. Bear in mind that PEI has maybe 135,000 people, so this is sort of like a city council.

Québec - Here things get different, with their being no substantial OPC or NDP parties at all. The Liberals form a majority government, Jean Charest being Premier, and a former leader of the federal PC party; the separatist PQ are in second, and the ADQ are third. What purpose the ADQ serves I cannot fathom.

Ontario - Back to the old three-party standard lineup. The PCs hold the government, with Ernie Eves being Premier having taken over for the retired Mike Harris, but his fortunes look bad. Liberals in second, NDP third.

Manitoba - Here the NDP run the show, with Gary Doer as Premier. The PCs are a close second, the the Liberals hold two seats.

Saskatchewan - The NDP runs the show here too, with Lorne Calvert as Premier. What’s different here is that the official opposition is the Saskatchewan Party. The PCs and Liberals were wiped out. The platform of the Saskatchewan Party is, as near as I can tell, that they really like Saskatchewan. I guess they’re fiscally conservative.

Alberta - The PCs enjoy a huge majority government here, holding 74 of 83 seats. The Liberals have 7, the NDP two. Ralph Klein is Premier.

British Columbia - Liberals on top here, Gordon Campbell is the Premier, at least until some gigantic scandal or criminal charges bring him down. B.C. is famous for that sort of thing. I think the NDP is in second place but there does not appear to be anyplace I can find that actually break the legislaturem down by party, and when I went to the Web site the only way you can find an MLa’s party is to bring up his individual page. I loaded 20 at random and every single one was a Liberal.

RickJay, the NDP is down to something like 2 seats in BC following the regular implosion of BC provincial governments. They had a number of scandals, from rigging the budget to overruns on ferries to car insurance etc. Fun time in lotus land.