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

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

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.

Majority or minority?

The government that King formed in the parliament resulting from this election was a majority government but then became a minority government before the next election. King's party won a slim majority of seats at the election but 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. King was politic enough to ensure that his government's bills had support from many farmers.

King always found enough Progressive MPs who were willing to back him on crucial votes and thus had a working majority and remained in power for a period about as long as most majority governments. After four years his government was brought down by an adverse vote due to a moment of confusion.

Electoral system

Most of the MPs were elected as the single member for their district, through First past the post. Six MPs were elected in multi-member ridings. These were in Halifax, Ottawa and Queen's (PEI). They were elected through Block Voting.

National results

1921 Canadian parliament (1).svg
PartyParty leader# of
SeatsPopular vote
1917 Elected% Change#% pp Change
  Liberal W. L. Mackenzie King 20482118+43.9%1,285,99841.15%+2.34
  Conservative Arthur Meighen 20415349-68.0%935,65129.95%-26.98
Progressive T. A. Crerar 137*58*658,97621.09%*
  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

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

Related Research Articles

The Progressive Party of Canada was a federal-level political party in Canada in the 1920s until 1930. It was linked with the provincial United Farmers parties in several provinces, and it spawned the Progressive Party of Saskatchewan, and the Progressive Party of Manitoba, which formed the government of that province. The Progressive Party was part of the farmers' political movement that included federal and provincial Progressive and United Farmers' parties.

There have been various groups in Canada that have nominated candidates under the label Labour Party or Independent Labour Party, or other variations from the 1870s until the 1960s. These were usually local or provincial groups using the Labour Party or Independent Labour Party name, backed by local labour councils made up of many union locals in a particular city, or individual trade unions. There was an attempt to create a national Canadian Labour Party in the late 1910s and in the 1920s, but these were only partly successful.

John Bracken Canadian politician

John Bracken was a Canadian agronomist and politician who was the 11th and longest-serving premier of Manitoba (1922–1943) and later the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada (1942–1948).

J. S. Woodsworth Canadian social democratic leader

James Shaver Woodsworth was a pre–First World War pioneer of the Canadian Social Gospel, a Christian religious movement with social democratic values and links to organized labour. He was a long-time leader and publicist in the movement and was an elected politician under the label, serving as MP from 1921 to his death in 1942. He helped found the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), a forerunner of today's New Democratic Party (NDP), in 1932.

1925 Canadian federal election 15th Canadian federal election

The 1925 Canadian federal election was held on October 29, 1925 to elect members of the House of Commons of Canada of the 15th Parliament of Canada. The Conservative party took the most seats in the House of Commons, although not a majority. Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King's Liberal Party was invited to form a minority government. Unlike the Conservative party, King's Liberals had the conditional support of the many Farmer/Progressive MPs.

1945 Canadian federal election 20th Canadian federal election

The 1945 Canadian federal election was held June 11, 1945, to elect members of the House of Commons of Canada of the 20th Parliament of Canada. Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King's Liberal government was re-elected to its third consecutive government, although this time with a minority government as the Liberals fell five seats short of a majority.

Federal minority governments in Canada Canadian political history

During the history of Canadian politics, thirteen minority governments have been elected at the federal level. There have also been two minority governments resulting from governments being replaced between elections, for a total of fifteen federal minority governments in thirteen separate minority parliaments. There have been historical cases where the governing party had fewer than half of the seats but had the support of independents who called themselves members of the party; these cases are not included, as there was never any serious chance of the government falling.

Seymour James Farmer was a politician in Manitoba, Canada. He served as Winnipeg MLA from 1922 to 1949. During this time he also served as mayor of Winnipeg 1923-1924 and later as city councillor in the late 1920s and in the 1930s. He was the leader of the Manitoba Co-operative Commonwealth Federation from 1935 to 1947. He served as a cabinet minister in Manitoba's World War I coalition government.

1917 Canadian federal election 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.

1926 Canadian federal election 16th Canadian federal election

The 1926 Canadian federal election was held on September 14, 1926, to elect members of the House of Commons of Canada of the 16th Parliament of Canada. The election was called after an event known as the King–Byng affair.

Robert Forke Canadian politician

Robert Forke, was a Canadian politician. He was elected as Member of Parliament for Brandon in 1921. In 1922, he replaced Thomas Crerar as leader of the Progressive Party of Canada. Forke served as a cabinet minister in the government of William Lyon Mackenzie King.

Humphrey Mitchell Canadian politician

Humphrey Mitchell, was a Canadian politician and trade unionist.

Ewan Alexander McPherson was a politician in Manitoba, Canada. He served in the House of Commons of Canada from 1926 to 1930. He was also a member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba from 1914 to 1920 and from 1932 to 1936, and served as a cabinet minister in the government of John Bracken.

The 1922 Manitoba general election was held on July 18, 1922 to elect Members of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Manitoba, Canada. The United Farmers of Manitoba won a narrow majority in the legislature.

Arthur Meighen 9th Prime minister of Canada (1920–1921; 1926)

Arthur Meighen was a Canadian lawyer and politician who served as the ninth prime minister of Canada from 1920 to 1921 and from June to September 1926. He led the Conservative Party from 1920 to 1926 and from 1941 to 1942.

Tobias Norris Canadian politician

Tobias Crawford Norris was a Canadian politician who served as the tenth premier of Manitoba from 1915 to 1922. Norris was a member of the Liberal Party.

1927 Conservative leadership convention

A Conservative leadership convention was held on October 12, 1927 at the Winnipeg Amphitheatre in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The convention was held to choose a new leader of the Conservative Party to choose a successor to former Prime Minister of Canada Arthur Meighen who had led the party since 1920. This was the first time the Conservatives used a leadership convention to choose a leader. Previous leaders had been chosen by the party's caucus, the previous leader, or by the Governor General of Canada designating an individual to form a government after his predecessor's death or resignation.

Electoral history of Arthur Meighen

The article is the Electoral history of Arthur Meighen, the ninth Prime Minister of Canada.

Electoral history of William Lyon Mackenzie King

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" . Retrieved 10 March 2019.

Further reading