2004 Canadian federal election facts for kids
308 seats in the House of Commons
155 seats needed for a majority
The Canadian parliament after the 2004 election
The 2004 Canadian federal election was held on June 28, 2004, to elect members to the House of Commons of Canada of the 38th Parliament of Canada. The Liberal government of Prime Minister Paul Martin lost its majority but was able to continue in office as a minority government after the election. This was the first election contested by the newly amalgamated Conservative Party of Canada, after it was formed by the two right-of-centre parties, the Progressive Conservative Party and the Canadian Alliance.
On May 23, 2004, the governor general, Adrienne Clarkson, on the advice of Martin, ordered the dissolution of the House of Commons, triggering an early election despite the Liberals being only three and a half years into their five-year mandate. Earlier, the election result was widely expected to be a fourth consecutive majority government for the Liberals, but early in 2004 Liberal popularity fell sharply due to the emerging details of the sponsorship scandal. Polls even started to indicate the possibility of a Conservative minority government. In the end, the Liberals won a minority government, though they were well short of a majority and lost nearly three dozen seats.
On election day, polling times were arranged to allow results from most provinces to be announced more or less simultaneously, with the exception of Atlantic Canada, whose results were known before the close of polling in other provinces due to the British Columbia Supreme Court's decision in R v Bryan.
Important issues in the election:
- Sponsorship scandal: badly hurt the Liberals in the polls and the theme of widespread corruption was used by all opposition parties, especially the Bloc.
- Health care: all parties support Canada's government-administered health care system but acknowledge that improvements must be made to meet new demographic challenges and to reduce long wait times. Transfer payments to the provinces have been cut substantially to 16% by the federal Liberal government and it was difficult for Paul Martin to reconcile these cuts with his plan to improve the system.
- Fiscal imbalance: all major parties except the Liberals claimed that there was a monetary imbalance between Ottawa and the provinces and spoke of plans to reduce it, the Bloc Québécois probably being the strongest denouncer of the situation.
- Taxation: for the Conservatives, significantly lowering taxes, to stimulate the economy, was a central issue. The Conservatives also promised to end "corporate welfare" and replace it with tax cuts for all businesses. The Liberals, Communist Party and NDP opposed large tax cuts and argued that money should instead be spent to improve social programs.
- Child care: The Liberals and NDP promised national child care programs.
- Parliamentary reform: The Conservatives accused the Liberals of perpetuating "undemocratic practices" in Parliament, by limiting the powers of MPs. Martin called for some reform, but not to the satisfaction of the Conservatives. The Conservatives promised an elected Senate and standing committee and provincial review of judicial appointments. The NDP spoke of abolishing the Senate.
- Electoral reform: Conservatives promised fixed election dates. The NDP promoted the idea of proportional representation voting.
- Same-sex marriage: The Bloc Québécois and the NDP strongly favoured same sex marriage. The NDP considers it a human rights issue, and requires its MPs to either support legislation favouring same-sex marriage or abstain on such questions. The Bloc, on the other hand, treats it as a matter of conscience, allowing its members free votes on the issue. The Liberals sent the issue to be ruled upon by the Supreme Court, and the Liberal caucus was publicly divided on the issue. The majority of Conservative candidates opposed it; the Conservative party's official stance was for the issue to be resolved by a free vote in the Commons.
- National Missile Defence: the Bush administration in the U.S. wanted Canada to join the missile shield. The Conservatives strongly supported such a plan while the Bloc and the NDP opposed it. Although the Liberals reiterated past opposition to the weaponization of space, they did not have an expressed opinion on the shield.
- 2003 invasion of Iraq: the Conservatives supported the United States over Iraq, while the other parties generally opposed it.
- Gun registry: The Conservatives strongly opposed the gun registry while the other parties support it.
- Ontario budget: The introduction by the Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty of "Ontario Health Premiums" was very unpopular, despite Mr. McGuinty's claim that this new tax was necessary because of the budgetary deficit left by the previous Progressive Conservative government. The Conservatives and the NDP capitalized on this and other unpopular fiscal and tax-related policy to attack the Liberals at the federal level.
In 2004, a federal party required 155 of the 308 seats to form a majority government in Canada. The Liberals came short of this number, winning 135. Until extremely close ridings were decided on the west coast, it appeared as though the Liberals' seat total, if combined with that of the left-wing New Democratic Party (NDP), would be sufficient to hold a majority in the House of Commons. In the end, the Conservatives won Vancouver Island North, West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast, and New Westminster-Coquitlam, after trailing in all three ridings, as preliminary results were announced through the evening.
As a result, the combined seat count of the Liberals and the NDP was 154, while the other 154 seats belonged to the Conservatives, Bloquistes, and one independent Chuck Cadman (previously a Conservative). Rather than forming a coalition with the NDP, the Liberal party led a minority government, obtaining majorities for its legislation on an ad hoc basis. Nevertheless, as the showdown on Bill C-48, a matter of confidence, loomed in the spring of 2005, the Liberals and NDP, who wanted to continue the Parliament, found themselves matched against the Conservatives and the Bloc, who were registering no confidence. The bill passed with the Speaker casting the decisive tie-breaking vote.
Voter turnout nationwide was 60.9%, the lowest in Canadian history at that time, with 13,683,570 out of 22,466,621 registered voters casting their ballots. The voter turnout fell by more than 3pp from the 2000 federal election which had 64.1% turnout.
Vote and seat summaries
- List of Canadian federal general elections
- List of elections in the Province of Canada (pre-Confederation)
- Politics of Canada
- List of political parties in Canada
- Minority governments in Canada
2004 Canadian federal election Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.