1980 Canadian federal election

Last updated
1980 Canadian federal election
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg
  1979 February 18, 1980 [lower-alpha 1] 1984  

282 seats in the House of Commons
142 seats needed for a majority
Turnout69.3% [1] (Decrease2.svg6.4pp)
 First partySecond party
  Pierre Trudeau (1975) cropped.jpg JoeClark.jpg
Leader Pierre Trudeau Joe Clark
Party Liberal Progressive Conservative
Leader since April 6, 1968 February 22, 1976
Leader's seat Mount Royal Yellowhead
Last election114 seats, 40.11%136 seats, 35.89%
Seats before114136
Seats won147103
Seat changeIncrease2.svg33Decrease2.svg33
Popular vote4,855,4253,552,994
SwingIncrease2.svg4.23pp Decrease2.svg3.44pp

 Third partyFourth party
  Smiling ed (cropped).jpg
Leader Ed Broadbent Fabien Roy
Party New Democratic Social Credit
Leader since July 7, 1975 March 30, 1979
Leader's seat Oshawa Beauce (lost re-election)
Last election26 seats, 17.88%6 seats, 4.61%
Seats before275
Seats won320
Seat changeIncrease2.svg5Decrease2.svg5
Popular vote2,165,087185,486
SwingIncrease2.svg1.89pp Decrease2.svg2.91pp

Canada 1980 Federal Election.svg
Popular vote by province, with graphs indicating the number of seats won. As this is an FPTP election, seat totals are not determined by popular vote by province but instead via results by each riding.

Prime Minister before election

Joe Clark
Progressive Conservative

Prime Minister after election

Pierre Trudeau

The 1980 Canadian federal election was held on February 18, 1980, to elect members of the House of Commons of Canada 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.


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 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. [2] 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 (Alvin Hamilton) was too ill to attend the vote while two others (Flora MacDonald and Lloyd Crouse) were abroad on official business. Meanwhile, the Liberals assembled all but one member of their caucus (Serge Joyal), even going as far as to take two MPs out of the hospital (Maurice Dionne and Claude Lajoie) for the vote. [3] 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 33 more seats than in the 1979 federal election. That enabled the Liberals to form a 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 in 1983.

The Socreds' abstention on the crucial budget vote, even if not decisive (the vote would still have passed by 139-138 had they opposed it), contributed to the growing perception that the party had become irrelevant since the death of iconic leader Réal Caouette. The party lost more than three-fifths of its vote share, and while four of its incumbents still managed to each post respectable second-place finishes, none were re-elected. Having lost its presence in Parliament, Social Credit rapidly declined into obscurity and would never be a serious contender to win seats again, although the party nominally continued to exist until 1993.

The new House was very regionally polarized. While the Liberals were shut out west of Manitoba, they were able to win by piling up massive majorities in the two most populous provinces. The Tories won only one seat out of 75 in Quebec while winning 43 percent of the seats in the 4 atlantic provinces.

The voter turnout was 69.3%. [4]

National results

1980 Canadian parliament.svg
PartyParty leader# of
SeatsPopular vote
1979 Dissolution Elected% Change#%Change
  Liberal Pierre Trudeau 282114114147+28.9%4,855,42544.34%+4.23pp
  Progressive Conservative Joe Clark 282136136103-24.3%3,552,99432.45%-3.44pp
  New Democratic Party Ed Broadbent 280262732+23.1%2,165,08719.77%+1.89pp
Social Credit Fabien Roy 8165--100%185,4861.70%-2.91pp
Rhinoceros Cornelius I 121--- 110,5971.01%+0.46pp
Marxist–Leninist Hardial Bains 177----14,7280.13%+0.01pp
Libertarian  58----14,6560.13%-0.01pp
Union populaire  54----14,4740.13%-0.04pp
Communist William Kashtan 52----6,0220.05%-0.02pp
 No affiliation14----3,0630.03%+0.03pp

Sources: Elections Canda,History of Federal Ridings since 1867


"% 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 and territory

Party name BC AB SK MB ON QC NB NS PE NL NT YK Total
  Liberal Seats:---252747525--147
 Popular Vote:
  Progressive Conservative Seats:162175381362211103
  New Democratic Party Seats:12-775-----1-32
Total seats:28211414957510114721282
Parties that won no seats:
Social Credit Vote:0.11.0xx xx5.9      1.7
Rhinoceros Vote:  1.1 1.0
Marxist–Leninist Vote:  0.1
Libertarian Vote:  xx 0.30.1xx     0.1
Union populaire Vote:     0.5      0.1
 IndependentVote:  0.1
 Non-AffiliatedVote:xx0.50.20.1xx0.20.3  0.1  0.1
Communist Vote:0.10.1xx0.10.1xx      0.1
 No affiliationVote:    xx0.10.1     xx

xx - less than 0.05% of the popular vote.


  1. In Frontenac, the election was postponed to March 24 following the death of Social Credit candidate Nelson Lassard.

See also

Articles on parties' candidates in this election:

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  1. Pomfret, R. "Voter Turnout at Federal Elections and Referendums". Elections Canada. Elections Canada. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
  2. "House of Commons Journals, 31st Parliament, 1st Session". Canadian Parliamentary Historical Resources. Queen's Printer for Canada. 1979-12-13. Retrieved 2016-07-09. Debate was resumed on the motion of Mr. Crosbie (St John's West), seconded by Mr. MacDonald (Egmont),-That this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the Government. And on the motion of Mr. Gray, seconded by Mr. Lalonde, in amendment thereto,-That all the words after the word 'That' be deleted and the following substituted therefor: 'this House condemns the Government for its budget which will place and unfair and unnecessary burden of higher gasoline prices, higher fuel oil prices, and higher taxes on middle and lower income Canadians.' And on the motion of Mr. Rae, seconded by Mr. Knowles, in amendment to the amendment,-That the amendment be amended by changing the period at the end thereof to a comma, and by adding immediately after the words: 'and this House unreservedly condemns the Government for its outright betrayal of election promises to lower interest rates, to cut taxes, and to stimulate the growth of the Canadian economy, without a mandate from the Canadian people for such a reversal.'
  3. "The Leader-Post". news.google.com. 14 December 1979. Archived from the original on 2020-06-21. Retrieved 2020-06-17.
  4. Pomfret, R. "Voter Turnout at Federal Elections and Referendums". Elections Canada. Elections Canada. Retrieved 11 January 2014.

Further reading