Massive Alternation in Canadian Politics
FOR the second time within a year the results of Canadian elections have occasioned general astonishment. In 1957 the victory of the Progressive Conservatives came as a surprise. And although in the election of last March a Conservative triumph had been forecast, it was wholly unexpected that the Diefenbaker administration would be returned to office with a landslide sweep of 208 of the 265 seats in the Canadian House of Commons. Moreover, the election of March 31 extinguished the Social Credit party in the federal parliament and pared the representation of the Coöperative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.) from 25 to eight. One obvious conclusion is that two-party politics in Canada has been revived
But it is not primarily the shattering of the two minority parties which heralds the return of two-party politics. The most significant result of the election is that for the first time since 1917 a party other than the Liberal party has received a genuine national mandate from the Canadian people. The emergence in federal politics of an effective, viable alternative to the dominance of the Liberal party is of the first importance.
Regret already has been voiced in several quarters at the size of the Conservative sweep, which leaves the Liberals with only 49 seats. It is said that Canada has gained nothing in trading the domination of one party for the even more massive domination of another. Unquestionably, serious problems do develop for parliamentary government when one party holds so overwhelming a majority as is now the case in Ottawa. But the emphatic and prolonged dominance of one of the two major parties has been the rule rather than the exception in Canadian politics. Canada's history since Confederation is usually summarized in terms of three great eras, each characterized by the reign of one party: the Conservative era under Sir John A. Macdonald, which lasted from 1867 to 1896; the Liberal era under Sir Wilfrid Laurier, which lasted from 1896 until 1911; and the second Liberal era, which began in 1921 and has now ended. ThusRead the full article on ForeignAffairs.com