Canadian federal election, 1968

Last updated
Canadian federal election, 1968
Flag of Canada.svg
  1965 June 25, 1968 1972  

264 seats in the 28th Canadian Parliament
133 seats needed for a majority
Turnout75.7% [1] (Increase2.svg0.9pp)
 First partySecond party
  Pierre Trudeau (1975) cropped.jpg
Leader Pierre Trudeau Robert Stanfield
Party Liberal Progressive Conservative
Leader since April 6, 1968 September 9, 1967
Leader's seat Mount Royal Halifax
Last election131 seats, 40.18%97 seats, 32.41%
Seats before12894
Seats won15472
Seat changeIncrease2.svg26Decrease2.svg22
Popular vote3,686,8012,554,397
SwingIncrease2.svg5.18pp Decrease2.svg0.98pp

 Third partyFourth party
  TommyDouglas-c1971-crop.jpg Real Caouette2.jpg
Leader Tommy Douglas Réal Caouette
Party New Democratic Ralliement créditiste
Leader since August 3, 1961 September 1, 1963
Leader's seat Burnaby—Coquitlam
ran in Burnaby—Seymour (lost)
Last election21 seats, 17.91%9 seats, 4.66%
Seats before228
Seats won2214
Seat changeSteady2.svg0Increase2.svg6
Popular vote1,378,263360,404
SwingDecrease2.svg0.95pp Decrease2.svg0.22pp

Canada 1968 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

Pierre Trudeau

Prime Minister-designate

Pierre Trudeau

The Canadian federal election of 1968 was held on June 25, 1968, to elect members of the House of Commons of Canada of the 28th Parliament of Canada. The Liberal Party won a majority government under its new leader, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

House of Commons of Canada lower house of the Parliament of Canada

The House of Commons of Canada is a component of the Parliament of Canada, along with the Sovereign and the Senate. The House of Commons currently meets in a temporary Commons chamber in the West Block of the parliament buildings on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, while the Centre Block, which houses the traditional Commons chamber, undergoes a ten-year renovation.

28th Canadian Parliament

The 28th Canadian Parliament was in session from September 12, 1968, until September 1, 1972. The membership was set by the 1968 federal election on June 25, 1968, and it changed only slightly due to resignations and by-elections until it was dissolved prior to the 1972 election.

Canada Country in North America

Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering 9.98 million square kilometres, making it the world's second-largest country by total area. Canada's southern border with the United States is the world's longest bi-national land border. Its capital is Ottawa, and its three largest metropolitan areas are Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. As a whole, Canada is sparsely populated, the majority of its land area being dominated by forest and tundra. Consequently, its population is highly urbanized, with over 80 percent of its inhabitants concentrated in large and medium-sized cities, many near the southern border. Canada's climate varies widely across its vast area, ranging from arctic weather in the north, to hot summers in the southern regions, with four distinct seasons.


This was the last federal election in which some provinces (specifically Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Saskatchewan) had fewer seats they had been allocated in the previous election due to a redistribution. The 1966 census, for example, revealed that Alberta had a population about 50% greater than Saskatchewan's even though both provinces had the same number of seats at the time (17). Saskatchewan was the only province to lose multiple seats in the redistribution (4). It was also the only election in Canadian history where fewer total seats were contested compared to the previous vote (264 instead of 265). Changes to the Constitution enacted since that time have rendered the prospect of similar reductions far less likely.

Redistribution is the process, used in many Commonwealth countries, by which electoral districts are added, removed, or otherwise changed. Redistribution is a form of boundary delimitation that changes electoral district boundaries, usually in response to periodic census results. Redistribution is required by law or constitution at least every decade in most representative democracy systems that use first-past-the-post or similar electoral systems to prevent geographic malapportionment. The act of manipulation of electoral districts to favour a candidate or party is called gerrymandering.

Parties and campaigns

Trudeau, who was a relative unknown until he was appointed to the cabinet by Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, had won a surprise victory over Paul Joseph James Martin, Paul Hellyer and Robert Winters in the party's leadership election earlier in 1968. The charismatic, intellectual, handsome, single, and fully bilingual Trudeau soon captured the hearts and minds of the nation, and the period leading up to the election saw such intense feelings for him that it was dubbed "Trudeaumania." At public appearances, he was confronted by screaming girls, something never before seen in Canadian politics.

Prime Minister of Canada head of government for Canada

The Prime Minister of Canada is the primary minister of the Crown, chairman of the Cabinet, and Canada's head of government. The current, and 23rd, Prime Minister of Canada is the Liberal Party's Justin Trudeau, following the 2015 Canadian federal election. Canadian prime ministers are styled as The Right Honourable, a privilege maintained for life.

Lester B. Pearson 14th Prime Minister of Canada

Lester Bowles "Mike" Pearson was a Canadian scholar, statesman, soldier, prime minister, and diplomat, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for organizing the United Nations Emergency Force to resolve the Suez Canal Crisis. He was the 14th prime minister of Canada from 22 April 1963 to 20 April 1968, as the head of two back-to-back Liberal minority governments following elections in 1963 and 1965.

The Liberal campaign was dominated by Trudeau's personality. Liberal campaign ads featured pictures of Trudeau inviting Canadians to "Come work with me", and encouraged them to "Vote for New Leadership for All of Canada". The substance of the campaign was based upon the creation of a "just society", with a proposed expansion of social programs.

The principal opposition to the Liberals was the Progressive Conservative Party led by Robert Stanfield. The party was still smarting from the nasty infighting that had led to the ousting of leader John Diefenbaker. The PCs also had problems with their policy on Quebec: the Tories, hoping to contrast with the rigidly federalist Trudeau, and embraced the idea of deux nations, meaning that their policies would be based on the idea that Canada was one country housing two nations - French-Canadians and English-speaking Canadians. As Conservative candidates began to renounce this policy, the party was forced to backtrack, and late in the campaign, ran ads signed by Stanfield that stated that the PC Party stood for "One country, one Canada". Trudeau had more success on this point, promoting his vision of a Canada whole and indivisible. The Tories were also hurt by the aforementioned redistribution of seats, which disproportionately reduced representation in their traditional strongholds.

Progressive Conservative Party of Canada former Canadian political party

The Progressive Conservative Party of Canada (PC) was a federal political party in Canada.

Robert Stanfield Canadian politician, Premier of Nova Scotia and Federal Leader of the Queens Loyal Opposition

Robert Lorne Stanfield, was the 17th Premier of Nova Scotia and leader of the federal Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. He was born into an affluent Nova Scotia clothing manufacturing and political family in 1914. He graduated from Dalhousie University and Harvard Law School in the 1930s. Stanfield became the leader of the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party in 1948, and after a rebuilding period, led the party to government in 1956. As premier, he won three straight elections. His government was credited with modernizing the way the province delivered education and medical services. In 1967, he resigned as premier and became the leader of the federal Progressive Conservative Party. He was the leader of the Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition and fought three general elections, losing each time to the Liberals under Pierre Trudeau. He resigned as leader in 1976 and from public office in 1979. In retirement, he lived mostly in Ottawa, and died there in 2003 from complications due to pneumonia. He is sometimes referred to as "the best prime minister Canada never had". As one of Canada's most distinguished and respected statesmen, he was one of several people granted the style "The Right Honourable" who were not so entitled by virtue of an office held.

John Diefenbaker 13th Prime Minister of Canada

John George Diefenbaker was the 13th prime minister of Canada, serving from June 21, 1957 to April 22, 1963. He was the only Progressive Conservative party leader after 1930 and before 1979 to lead the party to an election victory, doing so three times, although only once with a majority of seats in the House of Commons of Canada.

On the left, former long-time Premier of Saskatchewan Tommy Douglas led the New Democratic Party, but once again failed to make the electoral break-through that was hoped for when the party was founded in 1960. Douglas gained a measure of personal satisfaction - the ouster of Diefenbaker had badly damaged the PC brand in Saskatchewan, and played a major role in allowing the NDP to overcome a decade of futility at the federal level in Saskatchewan to win a plurality of seats there. Nevertheless, these gains were balanced out by losses elsewhere in the country. Under the slogan, "You win with the NDP", Douglas campaigned for affordable housing, higher old age pensions, lower prescription drug prices, and a reduced cost of living. However, the NDP had difficulty running against the left-leaning Trudeau, who was himself a former supporter of the NDP. Douglas would step down as leader in 1971, but remains a powerful icon for New Democrats.

Premier of Saskatchewan first minister for the Canadian province of Saskatchewan

The Premier of Saskatchewan is the first minister for the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. They are the province's head of government and de facto chief executive. The current Premier of Saskatchewan is Scott Moe, who was sworn in as premier on February 2, 2018 after winning the Saskatchewan Party leadership election, 2018. The first Premier of Saskatchewan was Thomas Walter Scott, who served from 1905–1916. Since Saskatchewan joined Confederation as a province in 1905, 15 individuals have served as premier.

Tommy Douglas 7th Premier of Saskatchewan

Thomas Clement Douglas was a Canadian politician who served as Premier of Saskatchewan from 1944 to 1961 and Leader of the New Democratic Party from 1961 to 1971. A Baptist minister, he was elected to the House of Commons of Canada in 1935 as a member of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF). He left federal politics to become Leader of the Saskatchewan Co-operative Commonwealth Federation and then the seventh Premier of Saskatchewan. His cabinet was the first social democrat government in North America and it introduced the continent's first single-payer, universal health care program.

This was the first Canadian federal election to hold a leaders debate, on June 9, 1968. The debate included Trudeau, Stanfield, Douglas, and in the latter part Réal Caouette, with Caouette speaking French and Trudeau alternating between the languages. The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy three days before cast a pall over the proceedings, and the stilted format was generally seen as boring and inconclusive. [2]

Réal Caouette Canadian politician

David Réal Caouette was a Canadian politician from Quebec. He was a Member of Parliament (MP) and leader of the Social Credit Party of Canada and founder of the Ralliement des créditistes. Outside politics he worked as a car dealer.

Robert F. Kennedy American politician and brother of John F. Kennedy

Robert Francis Kennedy was an American politician and lawyer who served as the 64th United States Attorney General from January 1961 to September 1964, and as a U.S. Senator from New York from January 1965 until his assassination in June 1968. Kennedy, like his brothers John and Edward, was a prominent member of the Democratic Party and has come to be viewed by some historians as an icon of modern American liberalism.

National results

The Canadian parliament after the 1968 election Chambre des Communes 1968.png
The Canadian parliament after the 1968 election

The results of the election were sealed when on the night before the election a riot broke out at the St. Jean Baptiste Day parade in Montreal.[ citation needed ] Protesting the prime minister's attendance at the parade, supporters of Quebec independence yelled Trudeau au poteau [Trudeau to the gallows], and threw bottles and rocks. Trudeau, whose lack of military service during World War II had led some to question his courage, firmly stood his ground, and did not flee from the violence despite the wishes of his security escort. Images of Trudeau standing fast to the thrown bottles of the rioters were broadcast across the country, and swung the election even further in the Liberals' favour as many English-speaking Canadians believed that he would be the right leader to fight the threat of Quebec separatism.

The Social Credit Party lost all four of its seats. On the other hand, the Ralliement des créditistes (Social Credit Rally), the Québec wing of the party that had split from the English Canadian party, met with great success. The créditistes were a populist option appealing to social conservatives and Québec nationalists. They were especially strong in rural ridings and amongst poor voters. Party leader Réal Caouette campaigned against poverty, government indifference, and "la grosse finance" (big finance). The Canadian social credit movement would never be represented at the federal level in English Canada again.

Atlantic Canada bucked the national trend, with the Tories making large gains in that region and winning pluralities in all four Atlantic provinces. In that region, the Tory brand was strengthened by the leadership of former Nova Scotian premier Stanfield. Voters in Newfoundland, who were growing increasingly weary of their Liberal administration under founding Premier Joey Smallwood, voted PC for the first time since entering Confederation.

LiberalProgressive ConservativeNDPRCO
PartyParty leader# of
SeatsPopular vote
1965 Dissolution Elected% Change#%Change
  Liberal Pierre Trudeau 262131128154+18.3%3,686,80145.37%+5.18pp
  Progressive Conservative Robert Stanfield 263979472-25.8%2,554,39731.43%-0.98pp
  New Democratic Party Tommy Douglas 263212222+4.8%1,378,26316.96%-0.95pp
     Ralliement créditiste Réal Caouette 729814+55.6%360,4044.43%-0.22pp
  Liberal-Labour Pierre Trudeau [NB 1] 1  1 10,1440.12% 
Social Credit A.B. Patterson 3254--100%68,7420.85%-2.82pp
 Independent Liberal 11----16,7850.21%-0.01pp
Communist William Kashtan 14----4,4650.05%x
 Independent PC 51---100%2,7620.03%-0.14pp
  Démocratisation Économique  5  - 2,6510.03% 
  Franc Lib  1  - 2,1410.03% 
 Independent Conservative 1----6320.01%x
 Reform 1  - 4200.01% 
Rhinoceros Cornelius I 1  - 354xx
 Conservative 1----339xx
 Esprit socialH-G Grenier1----311xx
  Socialist Labour  1----202xx
  Republican  1  - 175x 
  New Canada Fred Reiner 1  - 148x 
  National Socialist  1  - 89x 
Total 967 265 265264-0.4% 8,126,768 100% 
Sources: History of Federal Ridings since 1867, Toronto Star , June 24, 1968.


"% change" refers to change from previous election

x - less than 0.005% of the popular vote

"Dissolution" refers to party standings in the House of Commons immediately prior to the election call, not the results of the previous election.

  1. John Mercer Reid won as a Liberal-Labour candidate but remained a member of the Liberal Party caucus, led by Pierre Trudeau.

Vote and seat summaries

Popular vote
Ralliement créditiste
Seat totals
Ralliement créditiste

Results by province

Party name BC AB SK MB ON QC NB NS PE NL NT YK Total
  Liberal Seats:16425635651-11-154
 Popular vote:41.835.727.141.546.253.644.438.045.042.863.847.045.4
  Progressive Conservative Seats:-155517451046-172
  New Democratic Seats:7-636-------22
     Ralliement créditiste Seats:     14-     14
 Vote:     16.40.7     4.4
 IndependentSeats:----1--     1
 Vote:     0.4
  Liberal-Labour Seats:    1       1
 Vote:    0.3       0.1
Total seats:23191313887410114711264
Parties that won no seats:
Social Credit Vote:6.41.9 1.5xx    0.1  0.8
 Independent LiberalVote: 1.5  0.10.2      0.2
Communist Vote:      0.1
 Independent PCVote: 0.2  xxxx0.10.1    xx
  Démocratisation Écon. Vote:     0.1      xx
  Franc Lib Vote:     0.1      xx
 Independent Cons.Vote:   0.2        xx
 ReformVote:0.1           xx
Rhinoceros Vote:     xx      xx
 ConservativeVote:     xx      xx
 Espirit socialVote:     xx      xx
  Socialist Labour Vote:    xx       xx
  Republican Vote:xx           xx
  New Canada Vote:    xx       xx
  National Socialist Vote:    xx       xx


xx - less than 0.05% of the popular vote.

See also

Related Research Articles

The Canadian social credit movement is a Canadian political movement originally based on the Social Credit theory of Major C. H. Douglas. Its supporters were colloquially known as Socreds in English and créditistes in French. It gained popularity and its own political party in the 1930s, as a result of the Great Depression.

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Historically in Quebec, Canada, there was a number of political parties that were part of the Canadian social credit movement. There were various parties at different times with different names at the provincial level, all broadly following the social credit philosophy; at various times they had varying degrees of affiliation with the Social Credit Party of Canada at the federal level.

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In 1963, the Quebec wing of the Social Credit Party of Canada split off from the national party as the Ralliement des créditistes. The split had its roots in a long-standing dispute between the de facto leader of the Ralliement, Réal Caouette, and the party’s national leader, Robert N. Thompson. At the party’s 1960 leadership convention, held two years after the party lost all of its seats in the House of Commons of Canada, Thompson defeated Caouette for the leadership. The party returned to Parliament in the 1962 federal election, but all but four of its 29 MPs came from Quebec. Under the circumstances, Thompson was all but forced to name Caouette as deputy leader of the party. The relationship was strained, however, and the strain was exacerbated when the party failed to make any gains in its old heartland of the Prairies in the 1963 federal election. Only Thompson and three others were elected outside of Quebec, while 20 Socreds were elected in Quebec. The two factions of the party were not re-united until October 1971.

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The Canadian social credit movement first contested the 1935 federal election in order to capitalize from the Alberta Social Credit League's surprise victory in Alberta's August 1935 provincial election. Social Credit supporters ran as the Western Social Credit League and John Horne Blackmore was appointed the movement's parliamentary leader following the election although Alberta Premier William Aberhart was generally regarded as the unofficial national leader of the movement.


  1. Pomfret, R. "Voter Turnout at Federal Elections and Referendums". Elections Canada. Elections Canada. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
  2. CBC Archives

Further reading