1896 Canadian federal election

Last updated
1896 Canadian federal election
Canadian Red Ensign (1868-1921).svg
  1891 June 23, 1896 1900  

213 seats in the House of Commons
107 seats needed for a majority
Turnout62.9% [1] (Decrease2.svg1.5pp)
 First partySecond party
  Wilfrid Laurier 1890 - cropped (cropped).jpg Tupper Portrait crop.jpg
Leader Wilfrid Laurier Charles Tupper
Party Liberal Conservative
Leader since18871896
Leader's seat Quebec East [lower-alpha 1] Cape Breton
Last election90 seats, 45.2%117 seats, 48.6%
Seats won11786
Seat changeIncrease2.svg27Decrease2.svg31
Popular vote401,425467,415

Canada 1896 Federal Election.svg
1896 Canadian electoral map

Chambre des Communes 1896.png
The Canadian parliament after the 1896 election

Prime Minister before election

Charles Tupper

Prime Minister after election

Wilfrid Laurier

The 1896 Canadian federal election was held on June 23, 1896, to elect members of the House of Commons of Canada of the 8th Parliament of Canada. Though the Conservative Party, led by Prime Minister Charles Tupper, won a plurality of the popular vote, the Liberal Party, led by Wilfrid Laurier, won the majority of seats to form the next government. The election ended 18 years of Conservative rule.



The governing Conservative Party, since the death of John A. Macdonald in 1891, was disorganized. Following Macdonald's death, John Abbott spent a year as Prime Minister before handing over to John Thompson. Thompson proved a relatively popular Prime Minister, but his sudden death in December 1894 resulted in his replacement by Mackenzie Bowell, whose tenure as Prime Minister proved a disaster. The Conservatives soon became viewed as corrupt and wasteful of public funds, partially due to the McGreevy-Langevin Scandal. Issues like the Manitoba Schools Question had cost the party support in both French and English Canada.

Though Bowell nominally remained Prime Minister until the election was called, leadership of the Conservative Party had been functionally taken over by Sir Charles Tupper, a Father of Confederation and former Premier of Nova Scotia. Earlier, in February 1896, Tupper introduced remedial legislation to settle the Manitoba dispute, but it was filibustered by an alliance of extreme Protestants led by Dalton McCarthy and the Liberals. This filibuster resulted in Tupper abandoning the bill and asking for a dissolution. Parliament was dissolved on April 24, 1896, and, in accordance with an agreement between Bowell and Tupper that the latter would become Prime Minister following the election call, he became prime minister on May 1, 1896, thus forming the 7th Canadian Ministry.

Tupper argued that the real issue of the election was the future of Canadian industry, and he insisted that Conservatives needed to unite to defeat the Patrons of Industry. However, the Conservatives were so bitterly divided over the Manitoba Schools Question that wherever he spoke, he was faced with a barrage of criticism, most notably at a two-hour address he gave at Massey Hall in Toronto, which was constantly interrupted by the crowd.

The election saw a great change in the Liberal Party. While the Liberals had traditionally been the party for radical change and free trade, in the 1896 election, they embraced a much more conservative platform. That helped many of the traditional supporters of the Conservative Party move to the Liberals. The most important change was Laurier's support of the National Policy, an important cause to the powerful business interests of Montreal and Toronto. The Liberal campaign was directed by an ex-Conservative, Joseph Israël Tarte. Laurier was also a strong supporter of provincial rights, and a number of powerful Liberal premiers supported the campaign, such as Ontario's Oliver Mowat and Nova Scotia's W. S. Fielding, both of whom who won seats in the House and were appointed to cabinet after the election.

Ending up, no party took a majority of the votes. The two main parties were over-represented in the House of Commons. The election fits the definition of a wrong-winner election - the party with the most votes did not take more seats than a less-popular party. The Conservatives won more votes in the 1896 election than the Liberals (48.2% of the votes in comparison to 41.4% for the Liberals). However, the Liberals took more seats. The Conservatives captured about half of the seats in English Canada. They suffered losses in Quebec, where Tupper's reputation as an ardent imperialist was a major handicap. Tupper's inability to persuade Joseph-Adolphe Chapleau to return to active politics as his Quebec lieutenant ended any chances of the Conservatives winning the most seats that province. Meanwhile, Laurier's Liberals won a landslide victory in Quebec, as well as getting some seats in English Canada (especially in the Maritimes and the West).

Although Laurier had won the election on June 24, Tupper initially refused to cede power, insisting that Laurier would be unable to form a government even if the Liberal Party had won 55% of the seats in the House of Commons. However, when Tupper attempted to make appointments as prime minister, Governor General Lord Aberdeen refused. Tupper resigned, and the governor general invited Laurier to form a government. Laurier's government went on to last the usual four years.

National results

1896 Canadian parliament.svg
PartyParty leader# of
SeatsPopular vote
1891 ElectedChange#%Change
  Liberal Wilfrid Laurier 19090117+30.0%401,42541.37%-3.85pp
  Conservative Charles Tupper 1909771-16.9%430,87444.40%+1.44pp
  Liberal-Conservative 172015-25%36,5413.77%-1.85pp
 Nationalist 51--100%14,1211.46%+1.46pp
 Independent Conservative434+33.3%12,2091.26%-0.68pp
Patrons of Industry  31*2*38,2753.94%*
  McCarthyite Dalton McCarthy 11*2*12,8611.33%*
 Independent Liberal111-2,3530.24%-0.48pp
  Nationalist Conservative -1--100%---
  Protestant Protective  5*-*6,2330.64%*
Sources: http://www.elections.ca -- History of Federal Ridings since 1867


* Party did not nominate candidates in the previous election.


The following Members of Parliament were elected by acclamation;

Results by province

Party name BC NW MB ON QC NB NS PE Total
  Liberal Seats:33243494102117
 Popular vote (%):
  Conservative Seats:213341649271
 Vote (%):48.843.945.140.945.231.565.440.544.4
  Liberal-Conservative Seats:  17-51115
 Vote (%):
 NationalistSeats:  1*  --   -
 Vote (%):   3.20.5   1.5
 Independent ConservativeSeats:   4    4
 Vote (%):   3.0    1.3
  Patrons of Industry Seats:   2    2
 Vote (%):   3.9
  McCarthyite Seats:  11    2
 Vote (%):  8.32.4    1.3
 IndependentSeats: - - 1- 1
 Vote (%): 10.0 1.4 8.60.5 1.4
 Independent LiberalSeats:   1    1
 Vote (%):   0.6    0.2
Total seats 6 4 7 92 65 14 20 5 213
Parties that won no seats:
 Protestant ProtectiveVote (%):   1.5    0.6
 UnknownVote (%):   0.4    0.2

Further reading

See also


  1. Laurier was also elected in Saskatchewan (Provisional District); he chose to sit for Quebec East instead, and resigned as the Member of Parliament for Saskatchewan (Provisional District).

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Charles Tupper</span> Prime minister of Canada in 1896

Sir Charles Tupper, 1st Baronet,, M.D. was a Canadian Father of Confederation who served as the sixth prime minister of Canada from May 1 to July 8, 1896. As the premier of Nova Scotia from 1864 to 1867, he led Nova Scotia into Confederation. He briefly served as the Canadian prime minister, from seven days after parliament had been dissolved, until he resigned on July 8, 1896 following his party's loss in the 1896 Canadian federal election. He is the only medical doctor to have ever held the office of prime minister of Canada and his 68-day tenure as prime minister is the shortest in Canadian history.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mackenzie Bowell</span> Prime minister of Canada from 1894 to 1896

Sir Mackenzie Bowell was a Canadian newspaper publisher and politician, who served as the fifth prime minister of Canada, in office from 1894 to 1896.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Robert Borden</span> Prime minister of Canada from 1911 to 1920

Sir Robert Laird Borden was a Canadian lawyer and politician who served as the eighth prime minister of Canada from 1911 to 1920. He is best known for his leadership of Canada during World War I.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wilfrid Laurier</span> Prime minister of Canada from 1896 to 1911

Sir Henri Charles Wilfrid Laurier, was a Canadian lawyer, statesman, and politician who served as the seventh prime minister of Canada from 1896 to 1911. The first French Canadian prime minister, his 15-year tenure remains the longest unbroken term of office among Canadian prime ministers and his nearly 45 years of service in the House of Commons is a record for the House. Laurier is best known for his compromises between English and French Canada.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1872 Canadian federal election</span> 2nd Canadian federal election

The 1872 Canadian federal election was held from July 20 to October 12, 1872, to elect members of the House of Commons of Canada of the 2nd Parliament of Canada. Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald's Conservative Party remained in power, defeating the Liberals. However, the Liberals increased their parliamentary representation considerably, while the Conservative seat count remained static, giving them only six more seats than the Liberals. The election produced the country's first minority government. The support of two independent Conservative MPs functionally gave Macdonald an extremely slim majority that allowed it to survive for two years, until it fell due to scandal.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hugh John Macdonald</span> Canadian politician

Sir Hugh John Macdonald, was the only surviving son of the first prime minister of Canada, John A. Macdonald. He too was a politician, serving as a member of the House of Commons of Canada and a federal cabinet minister, and briefly as the eighth premier of Manitoba.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1891 Canadian federal election</span> 7th Canadian federal election

The 1891 Canadian federal election was held on March 5, 1891, to elect members of the House of Commons of Canada of the 7th Parliament of Canada. It was won by the Conservative Party of Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thomas Greenway</span> Canadian politician

Thomas Greenway was a Canadian politician, merchant and farmer. He served as the seventh premier of Manitoba from 1888 to 1900. A Liberal, his ministry formally ended Manitoba's non-partisan government, although a de facto two-party system had existed for some years.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Charles Hibbert Tupper</span> Canadian politician

Sir Charles Hibbert Tupper was a Canadian lawyer and politician.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Joseph-Aldric Ouimet</span> Canadian politician

Joseph-Aldric Ouimet, was a Canadian parliamentarian.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1917 Canadian federal election</span> 13th Canadian federal election

The 1917 Canadian federal election was held on December 17, 1917, to elect members of the House of Commons of Canada of the 13th Parliament of Canada. Described by historian Michael Bliss as the "most bitter election in Canadian history", it was fought mainly over the issue of conscription. The election resulted in Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden's Unionist government elected with a strong majority and the largest percentage of the popular vote for any party in Canadian history.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Joseph-Édouard Cauchon</span> Canadian politician

Joseph-Édouard Cauchon, was a prominent Quebec politician in the middle years of the nineteenth-century. Although he held a variety of portfolios at the federal, provincial and municipal levels, he never achieved his goal of becoming the Premier of Quebec.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1908 Canadian federal election</span> 11th Canadian federal election

The 1908 Canadian federal election was held on Monday October 26, 1908 to elect members of the House of Commons of Canada of the 11th Parliament of Canada. Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier's Liberal Party of Canada was re-elected for a fourth consecutive term in government with a majority government. The Liberals lost four seats and a small share of the popular vote.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1878 Canadian federal election</span> 4th Canadian federal election

The 1878 Canadian federal election was held on September 17, 1878 to elect members of the House of Commons of the 4th Parliament of Canada. It resulted in the end of Prime Minister Alexander Mackenzie's Liberal government after only one term in office. Canada suffered an economic depression during Mackenzie's term, and his party was punished by voters for it. The Liberals' policy of free trade also hurt their support with the business establishment in Toronto and Montreal.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Walter Humphries Montague</span> Canadian politician

Walter Humphries Montague, was a Canadian politician. He was a federal cabinet minister in the governments of Mackenzie Bowell and Charles Tupper, and subsequently a provincial cabinet minister in the Manitoba government of Rodmond Roblin. Montague was a member of the Conservative Party of Canada.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Conservatism in Canada</span> Overview of conservatism in Canada

Conservatism in Canada is generally considered a movement which is primarily represented by the modern-day Conservative Party of Canada in federal party politics, as well as various centre-right and right-wing parties at the provincial level. The first party which called itself "Conservative" in what would become Canada was elected in the Province of Canada election of 1854.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Electoral history of Mackenzie Bowell</span>

This article is the Electoral history of Sir Mackenzie Bowell, the fifth Prime Minister of Canada. A Conservative, he became prime minister upon the sudden death in office of Prime Minister Sir John Thompson in 1894. Bowell served a short term of just over one year as prime minister (1894-1896), until he was forced to resign over the Manitoba Schools Question. He never led his party in a general election. When he died in 1917, he was one of the last surviving members of the first House of Commons of Canada elected in 1867.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Electoral history of Charles Tupper</span>

This article is the Electoral history of Sir Charles Tupper, the sixth Prime Minister of Canada. A Conservative, he became prime minister upon the resignation of Prime Minister Sir Mackenzie Bowell over the Manitoba Schools Question in 1896. Tupper was the shortest-serving prime minister, with a term of only 68 days. He led his party in two general elections and lost both, to Sir Wilfrid Laurier

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Electoral history of Wilfrid Laurier</span>

This article is the Electoral history of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the seventh Prime Minister of Canada.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Electoral history of William Lyon Mackenzie King</span>

This article is the Electoral history of William Lyon Mackenzie King, the tenth Prime Minister of Canada. A Liberal, he was Canada's longest-serving Prime Minister, with three separate terms as Prime Minister, for a total of 21 years and 154 days. He defeated Prime Ministers Arthur Meighen and R.B. Bennett at different times, and was succeeded by Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent in 1948.


  1. "Voter Turnout at Federal Elections and Referendums". Elections Canada. Retrieved 10 March 2019.