Parliamentary Chamber: House of Commons - Chambre des Communes


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  House of Commons - Chambre des Communes

Dates of elections / renewal (from/to):

  2 June 1997

Purpose of elections:

  Elections were held for all members of the House of Commons following the premature dissolution of this body on 27 April 1997. Previous general elections had been held in October 1993.

Background and outcome of elections:

  In the wake of the premature dissolution of the House of Commons, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien (Liberal Party) announced the date on the general elections on 27 April. In doing so, he asked his fellow countrymen "to give the Liberal Party a new mandate to build on its record of the last four years". At the time of dissolution (some 17 months early), the centrist Liberals held a wide lead in popularity polls over the divided opposition. Since the previous general elections, the Chrétien administration had successfully focused on slashing the country's budget deficit but had refused to yield to calls for tax cuts by its conservative rivals. In this connection, the Prime Minister declared that his Government had restored the "financial sovereignty" of Canada and stabilised public spending.

During the five-week campaign, the right-wing Reform Party, led by Mr. Preston Manning, advocated government decentralisation and took a hard line on the issue of the separation of Quebec province as opposed to the Bloc québécois (BQ), headed by Mr. Gilles Duceppe, which stood for Québec sovereignty. The opposition as a whole criticised the Government's austerity budgets (which reduced spending on health, welfare, and higher education) and its inability to lower the unemployment rate. According to polls, the Liberals lost support throughout the pre-election period. This was borne out on polling day, as the party slipped in percentage of votes obtained compared to 1993 but nevertheless managed to retain its absolute parliamentary majority for the first time in more than 40 years; this was largely due to performance in the key province of Ontario, where the party captured 101 of the 103 seats.

The voting outcome in general underlined the pronounced regionalisation of Canadian politics, with each party, besides the Liberals, being backed mainly on geographical basis (Reform Party in west, BQ in Quebec, Progressive Conservative Party (PCP) in the east) except for the socialist New Democratic Party (NDP), headed by Ms. Alexa McDonough. The NDP, PCP (led by Mr. Jean Charest) and Reform Party all made impressive gains, with the last becoming the official opposition in the expanded (by six seats) House. Throughout the country, the Liberals may have benefited from a Reform-PC split of the right-of-centre vote.

In light of these final results, Prime Minister Chrétien announced the formation of a new Cabinet on 11 June.

Round no 1 (2 June 1997): Elections results  
Number of registered electors 19,161,003
Voters 13,171,628 (68.74%)
Blank or invalid ballot papers 187,559
Valid votes 12,984,069

Round no 1: Distribution of votes  
Political Group Candidates Votes %
Liberal Party 301 4,982,502 38.37
Reform Party 227 2,512,570 19.35
Bloc québécois (BQ) 75 1,385,630 10.67
New Democratic Party (NDP) 301 1,434,705 11.05
Progressive Conservative Party (PCP) 301 2,456,770 18.92
Independents/Others 467 211,892 1.63

Round no 1: Distribution of seats  
Political Group Total Gain/Loss
Liberal Party 155 -22
Reform Party 60 +8
Bloc québécois (BQ) 44 -10
New Democratic Party (NDP) 21 +12
Progressive Conservative Party (PCP) 20 +18
Independents/Others 1 =

  6 seats added since last elections

Distribution of seats according to sex:  
Men: 239
Women: 62
Percent of women: 20.60

Distribution of seats according to age:  
20-29 years 8
30-39 years 31
40-49 years 111
50-59 years 116
60-69 years 23
70-79 years 4
Unknown 8

Distribution of seats according to profession:

Politicians (at provincial or municipal level) 67
Administrators 38
Businessmen and women, industrialists, managers, merchants and property owners 35
Legal profession 31
Teaching profession 29
Consultants 20
Farmers and ranchers 15
Medical professions 8
Public servants 8
Journalists 7
Chartered accountants 3
Brokers and insurance agents 3
Others 33

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Copyright © 1997 Inter-Parliamentary Union