Neha Patil

Canadian federal election, 1980

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February 18, 1980  1984 →
114 seats, 40.11%  136 seats, 35.89%
147  103
Turnout  69.3% (6.4pp)
114  136
33  33
Canadian federal election, 1980

The Canadian federal election of 1980 was held on February 18, 1980 to elect members of the Canadian House of Commons of the 32nd Parliament of Canada. It was called when the minority Progressive Conservative government led by Prime Minister Joe Clark was defeated in the Commons.

Contents

Clark and his government had been under attack for its perceived inexperience, for example, in its handling of its 1979 election campaign commitment to move Canada's embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Clark had maintained uneasy relations with the fourth largest party in the House of Commons, Social Credit. While he needed the six votes that the conservative-populist Quebec-based party had in order to get legislation passed, he was unwilling to agree to the conditions they imposed for their support. Clark had managed to recruit one Social Credit MP, Richard Janelle, to join the PC caucus.

Clark's Minister of Finance, John Crosbie, introduced an austere government budget in late 1979 that proposed to increase the excise tax on gasoline by 18¢ per Imperial gallon (about 4¢ a litre) to reduce the federal government's deficit. The New Democratic Party's finance critic, Bob Rae, proposed a subamendment to the budget motion, stating that the House of Commons did not approve of the budget. The five remaining Social Credit MPs abstained, upset that the revenues from the increased gas tax were not allocated to Quebec. In addition, one Tory MP was too ill to attend the vote while two others were stuck abroad on official business. Meanwhile, the Liberals assembled all but one member of their caucus, even going as far as to bring in several bedridden MPs by ambulance. Rae's subamendment was adopted by a vote of 139-133, bringing down the government and forcing a new election.

Former Liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau had announced his resignation as leader of the Liberal Party following its defeat in 1979. However, no leadership convention had been held when the Progressive Conservative government fell. Trudeau quickly rescinded his resignation and led the party to victory, winning 34 more seats than in the 1979 federal election. This enabled the Liberals to form a strong majority government.

Clark's Tories campaigned under the slogan, "Real change deserves a fair chance", but the voters were unwilling to give Clark another chance. The loss of the budget vote just seven months into his mandate and his subsequent defeat in the February 18 general election would eventually result in his ouster as leader by Brian Mulroney three years later.

The Socreds' abstention on the crucial budget vote (while the Liberals and NDP voted to bring down the government) contributed to the growing perception that the party had become irrelevant following the death of iconic leader Réal Caouette. Social Credit lost all of its seats, never to return. The party rapidly declined into obscurity after this election, though it nominally continued to exist until 1993.

The new house was very regionally polarized. While the Liberals were shut out west of Manitoba, the Tories won only 14 seats east of Ontario (including only one in Quebec).

Voter turn-out was 69.3%.

National results

Notes:

"% change" refers to change from previous election.

Changes to party standings from previous election: Social Credit MP Richard Janelle crossed the floor to join the PC Party. PC MP John Diefenbaker died during the parliamentary session. A New Democrat was elected in the subsequent by-election.

Results by province

xx - less than 0.05% of the popular vote.

References

Canadian federal election, 1980 Wikipedia


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