Canadian federal election, 1957

Canadian federal election, 1957

Infobox Election
election_name = Canadian federal election, 1957
country = Canada
type = parliamentary
ongoing =no
party_colour =
previous_election = Canadian federal election, 1953
previous_year = 1953
next_election = Canadian federal election, 1958
next_year = 1958
seats_for_election = 265 seats in the 23rd Canadian Parliament
election_date = June 10, 1957
next_mps = 24th Canadian Parliament
previous_mps = 22nd Canadian Parliament

colour1 =
leader1 =John Diefenbaker
leader_since1 =1956
party1 =Progressive Conservative Party of Canada
leaders_seat1 =Prince Albert
last_election1 =51
seats1 =111
seat_change1 =+60
popular_vote1 =2,564,732
percentage1 =38.81%
swing1 =+7.79%

colour2 =
leader2 =Louis St. Laurent
leader_since2 =1948
party2 =Liberal Party of Canada
leaders_seat2 =Quebec East
last_election2 =169
seats2 =104
seat_change2 =-65
popular_vote2 =2,692,986
percentage2 =40.75%
swing2 =-7.67%

colour4 =
leader4 =Major James Coldwell
leader_since4 =1942
party4 =Co-operative Commonwealth Federation
leaders_seat4 =Rosetown—Biggar
last_election4 =23
seats4 =25
seat_change4 =+2
popular_vote4 =707,828
percentage4 =10.71%
swing4 =-0.57%

colour5 =
leader5 =Solon Earl Low
leader_since5 =1944
party5 =Social Credit Party of Canada
leaders_seat5 =Peace River
last_election5 =15
seats5 =19
seat_change5 =+4
popular_vote5 =434,312
percentage5 =6.57%
swing5 =+1.17%


map_size =
map_caption =

title = PM
before_election = Louis St. Laurent
before_party = Liberal Party of Canada
after_election = John Diefenbaker
after_party = Progressive Conservative Party of Canada

The Canadian federal election of 1957 was held June 10, 1957, to elect members of the Canadian House of Commons of the 23rd Parliament of Canada. An unexpected victory by the Progressive Conservative Party, led by John Diefenbaker, brought an end to 22 years of Liberal government.

The Liberals had won several consecutive elections on programs of successful fiscal management and moderate and conciliatory policies. By the 1950s, many believed that the party was arrogant and too close to business. Controversial debates, such as the 1956 "Pipeline Debate" over the construction of the Trans-Canada Pipeline, had hurt the government and exposed it to charges of arrogance. In addition, Western Canadians felt alienated from a government that they believed was dominated by Ontario and Quebec interests. Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent, nicknamed 'Uncle Louis', was still popular, but many felt he had lost touch with ordinary Canadians.

In 1956, the PC party had elected the fiery and charismatic Diefenbaker as their leader. Many people disliked him and felt that he did not have enough experience to be a strong challenger to the Liberals. Because they believed that there was little hope of defeating the Liberals in the next election, many Tories supported Diefenbaker as a caretaker leader.

The PC campaign was based on Canadian nationalism and the need for a change. The "Tories" also embraced their Red Tory side, pledging to out-spend the Liberals on social programs. The Liberals were attacked as free marketers who would leave the Canadian population without an adequate safety net. One of the most ambitious elements of the Tory program was the "New Frontier Policy" of infrastructure development that would lead to the populating of the north.

The Liberal campaign was far less ambitious, supporting a stay-the-course message with moderate reforms and a continuation of competent administration. The economy was booming and the Liberals felt this was enough to win a re-election. The Liberals also had ammunition to use against Diefenbaker: he was a member of the Orange Order and had a history of making anti-Catholic statements.

However, the Tories' greatest asset soon turned out to be Diefenbaker. The great-grandson of a German immigrant, his ethnic background attracted a new group of supporters to the traditionally Anglo-Saxon Tory party. He was also able to use his charisma to great success. This was the first Canadian election to be televised, and while only a minority of Canadians owned a television, most got some opportunity to see the candidates they were voting for. Diefenbaker was viewed as honest and dedicated, while the 75 year old St. Laurent was felt to be distant and humourless.

The worst moment for the Liberals, however, would be a rally at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. While St. Laurent spoke on the stage, a 15 year old protester jumped on stage and tore up a poster. When security came to bring the boy off stage, he fell down a set of stairs and hit his head on the concrete floor, knocking him unconscious. While the boy turned out to be fine after being revived, the optics of having an opponent being hurt at the rally stung the Liberals. Diefenbaker would use this example in speeches, echoing the Pipeline Debate and perceived Liberal arrogance against opponents.

Social Credit campaigned on a platform of lowering personal income taxes by raising the basic amount of income exempt from tax by 50 percent to compensate for inflation; providing an old age pension of $60 per month for all pensioners, plus $40 a month extra for those in need; a national medicare plan for those provinces than want it; "parity prices" for farmers, and a program to sell surplus agricultural products to developing nations by accepting their own currencies instead of requiring payment in Canadian or US dollars; low-interest, long-term loans to encourage house construction; an income tax deduction for mortgage interest; and an end to the Bank of Canada's "tight money" policy. Social Credit won four additional seats, and increased its share of the popular vote by a small amount.

The campaign was also the first in Canada to use modern political advertising techniques. PC strategists such as Dalton Camp and Allister Grosart ran a more tightly-planned campaign than any in Canadian history. An important strategy was almost completely ignoring the province of Quebec -- the PC strategists felt they had little chance there. They also believed they could win without the province.

In an era before widespread polling, the results of the election came as a surprise to most Canadians, including most politicians. The Liberals won the popular vote, but lost the election as they piled up massive majorities in Quebec. In the West, Ontario, and the Maritimes, the Tories gained enough seats to form a minority government. Noted Liberal ministers like C.D. Howe, the "Minister of Everything", lost their seats.

Many Canadians were overjoyed to see change, and spontaneous celebrations occurred in many parts of the country. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation anchor covering the election famously lit a cigar in satisfaction with the results.


The Liberal defeat caused many high profile Liberals to resign and be replaced by younger members. St. Laurent resigned and was replaced by Lester B. Pearson. The Tory minority government lasted for less than a year before Diefenbaker called another election in which he won the largest majority in Canadian history, including winning many seats in Quebec.

National results

Turn-out: 74.1% of eligible voters voted.


1 The Liberal-Labour MP sat with the Liberal caucus.

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

x - less than 0.005% of the popular vote

Results by province

xx - less than 0.05% of the popular vote

ee also

*23rd Canadian Parliament

External links

* [ The Elections of 1957 and 1958, by P.E. Bryden]

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