1921 Canadian federal election

Last updated
1921 Canadian federal election
Canadian Red Ensign (1921-1957).svg
  1917 December 6, 1921 1925  

235 seats in the House of Commons
118 seats needed for a majority
Turnout67.7% [1] (Decrease2.svg7.3pp)
 First partySecond partyThird party
  King1919HeadShot.jpg CRERAR.jpg Former PM Arthur Meighen.jpg
Leader W. L. Mackenzie King Thomas Crerar Arthur Meighen
Party Liberal Progressive Conservative
Leader since 1919 19201920
Leader's seat Prince
candidate in York North
Marquette Portage la Prairie (lost re-election)
Last election82pre-creation153
Seats won1185849
Seat changeIncrease2.svg36Increase2.svg58Decrease2.svg104
Popular vote1,285,998658,976935,651

Canada 1921 Federal Election.svg

Prime Minister before election

Arthur Meighen

Prime Minister after election

William Lyon Mackenzie King

The 1921 Canadian federal election was held on December 6, 1921, to elect members of the House of Commons of Canada of the 14th Parliament of Canada. The Union government that had governed Canada through the First World War was defeated, and replaced by a Liberal government under the young leader William Lyon Mackenzie King. A new third party, the Progressive Party, won the second most seats in the election.


Since the 1911 election, the country had been governed by the Conservatives, first under the leadership of Prime Minister Robert Borden and then under Prime Minister Arthur Meighen. During the war, the Conservatives had united with the pro-conscription Liberal-Unionists and formed a Union government. A number of Members of Parliament (MPs), mostly Quebecers, stayed loyal to Sir Wilfrid Laurier, however, and they maintained their independence. When Laurier died, he was replaced as leader by the Ontarian Mackenzie King. After the 1919 federal budget, a number of western unionist MPs, who were former Liberals, left the Union government in protest against high tariffs on farm products imposed by the budget. Led by Thomas Alexander Crerar, the group became known as the Progressive Party. Also running were a number of Labour advocates, foremost amongst them J. S. Woodsworth of Winnipeg, who had organized their political movement after the Winnipeg general strike of 1919. Meighen had played a key role in violently suppressing the strikers and this earned him the animosity of organized labour.

Meighen attempted to make the "Unionist" party a permanent alliance of Tories and Liberals by renaming it the National Liberal and Conservative Party, but the name change failed, and most Unionist Liberals either returned to the Liberal fold or joined the new Progressive Party. Besides the labour strife and farm tariffs in the Prairie provinces, the Conscription Crisis of 1917 had a lasting effect on Tory fortunes by making the party virtually unelectable in Quebec.

The election was the first in which the majority of Canadian women were allowed to vote, thanks to reforms passed by the Conservatives. Five women also ran for office. Agnes Macphail of the Progressive Party was elected as the first woman MP in Canada.

Parliament was split three ways by this election. King's Liberals won a majority government of just one seat but won all of Quebec, much of the Maritime Provinces, and a good portion of Ontario.

The Progressive Party, including the United Farmers of Alberta (UFA), won the second largest number of seats, dominating the West, and winning almost a third of the seats in Ontario. Liberal and Conservative candidates were shut out in Alberta, with 10 UFA and two Labour candidates taking the province's 12 federal seats. The party won only one seat east of Ontario, however. Despite winning the second most seats, it declined to form the official opposition. It would be the only Canadian federal election before 1993 in which a party other than the Liberals or the (Progressive) Conservatives won the second most seats.

The Conservatives lost the most seats up to that time of any governing party at the federal level. They won fewer seats than the Progressives (despite having more popular votes) but wound up forming the official opposition. The Conservatives won much of Ontario and had some support in the Maritimes and British Columbia but won no seats in the Prairies or in Quebec.

Three Independent Labour MPs were elected: J. S. Woodsworth won his seat largely from his role in the 1919 Winnipeg general strike, and William Irvine and Joseph Tweed Shaw were elected in Calgary.

The Canadian parliament after the 1921 election Chambre des Communes 1921.png
The Canadian parliament after the 1921 election

Majority or minority?

The government that King formed in the parliament resulting from this election was a minority government. Although King's party won a slim majority of seats at the election, resignations changed the parliament from a small majority to minority.

The Liberal Party lost two by-elections to Conservative candidates, but had gained two seats from Progressives who crossed the floor, so its majority was not affected by these losses. From November 25, 1924, to the dissolution of parliament, it held a two-seat majority because of its victory in a by-election in a seat that had been held by the Conservatives.

The Progressive caucus was less united than the Liberals or Conservatives, due to the formation of the Ginger Group and the semi-autonomous United Farmers of Alberta group. The Farmer MPs had promised among other things that they would reject the traditional Parliamentary traditions such as that of bending to the will of the party leader and whip. Many Progressives argued that an MP should be able to vote against the party line so long as the vote was in accordance to his constituents' wishes. As a result, King always found enough Progressive MPs who were willing to back him on crucial votes and generally had a working majority, until after four years his government was brought down by an adverse vote due to a moment of confusion.

National results

PartyParty leader# of
SeatsPopular vote
1917 Elected% Change#% pp Change
  Liberal W. L. Mackenzie King 20482118+43.9%1,285,99841.15%+2.34
Progressive T. A. Crerar 137*58*658,97621.09%*
  Conservative Arthur Meighen 20415349-68.0%935,65129.95%-26.98
  Labour J. S. Woodsworth 28-3 85,3882.73%+0.90
 Independent45-2 94,9013.04%+2.40
United Farmers of Alberta  2*2*22,2510.71%*
 Independent Conservative2*1*12,3590.40%*
United Farmers of Ontario  1*1*3,9190.13%*
 Independent Progressive1*1*3,3090.115%*
Socialist  1*-*3,0940.10%*
 Independent Liberal1---2,7640.09%-0.32
Sources: http://www.elections.ca -- History of Federal Ridings since 1867


* not applicable - the party was not recognized in the previous election

Vote and seat summaries

Popular vote
Seat totals

Results by province

Party name BC AB SK MB ON QC NB NS PE YK Total
  Liberal Seats:3-1321655164-118
 Popular vote (%):29.815.818.718.930.
  Progressive Seats:38151120-1-- 58
 Vote (%):11.739.661.741.925.63.18.710.212.3 21.1
  Conservative Seats:7---36-5--149
 Vote (%):47.920.316.324.438.818.539.432.337.251.130.0
  Labour Seats:-2-1-- -- 3
 Vote (%):6.811. 3.54.8 2.7
 IndependentSeats:-  -2--  -2
 Vote (%):3.5  1.33.0
  United Farmers of Alberta Seats: 2        2
 Vote (%): 12.9        0.7
 Independent ConservativeSeats:    1-    1
 Vote (%):    0.90.3    0.4
  United Farmers of Ontario Seats:    1     1
 Vote (%):    0.3     0.1
 Independent ProgressiveSeats:    1     1
 Vote (%):    0.3     0.1
Total seats 131216158265111641235
Parties that won no seats:
 OtherVote (%):  0.6 1.65.2 1.0
  Socialist Vote (%):   1.8      0.1
 Independent LiberalVote (%):    0.2     0.1

See also

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