The 2004 Canadian federal election (more formally, the 38th General Election), was held on June 28, 2004, to elect members of 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 form a minority government after the elections. The main opposition party, the newly amalgamated Conservative Party of Canada, improved its position but with a showing below its expectations.
On May 23, 2004, Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, on the advice of Martin, ordered the dissolution of the House of Commons. Following a 36-day campaign, voters elected 308 Members of the House of Commons.
All three major national parties had changed their leaders since the 2000 election. Earlier the election was widely expected to be a relatively easy romp for Martin to a fourth consecutive Liberal majority government, but early in 2004 Liberal popularity fell sharply due to the sponsorship scandal. Polls started to indicate the possibility of a minority government for the Liberals, or even a minority Conservative government, fuelling speculation of coalitions with the other parties. In the end, the Liberals fared better than the final opinion polls had led them to fear, but well short of a majority.
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.
|2004 Canadian federal election|
308 seats in the House of Commons
155 seats needed for a majority
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.
In 2004, a federal party required 155 of the 308 seats to hold a majority 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 sub-totals 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.
|Party||Party leader||# of
|Bloc Québécois||Gilles Duceppe||75||38||33||54||+42.1%||1,680,109||12.39%||+1.67pp|
|New Democratic||Jack Layton||308||13||14||19||+46.2%||2,127,403||15.68%||+7.17pp|
|Independent / No Affiliation||64||-||10||1||-||64,864||0.48%||+0.05pp|
|Christian Heritage||Ron Gray||62||*||-||-||*||40,335||0.30%||*|
|Progressive Canadian||Ernie Schreiber||16||*||-||-||*||10,872||0.08%||*|
|Canadian Action||Connie Fogal||44||-||-||-||-||8,807||0.06%||-0.15pp|
|Marxist–Leninist||Sandra L. Smith||76||-||-||-||-||8,696||0.06%||-0.03pp|
|Sources: http://www.elections.ca -- History of Federal Ridings since 1867|
"% change" refers to change from previous election
* Party did not nominate candidates in the previous election. In the case of the CHP, which did have 46 candidates in the previous election, the party did not have official status and is not officially compared.
|Parties that won no seats:|
Source: Elections Canada
Until the sponsorship scandal, most pundits were predicting that new Prime Minister Paul Martin would lead the Liberal Party of Canada to a fourth majority government, possibly setting a record for number of seats won.
However, polls released immediately after the scandal broke showed Liberal support down as much as 10% nationwide, with greater declines in its heartland of Quebec and Ontario. Although there was some recovery in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, Liberal hopes of making unprecedented gains in the west faded. The unpopularity of some provincial Liberal parties may also have had an effect on federal Liberal fortunes. In Ontario, for instance, the provincial Liberal government introduced an unpopular budget the week of the expected election call, and their federal counterparts then fell into a statistical dead heat with the Conservatives in polls there. The Liberals were also harmed by high-profile party infighting that had been plaguing the party since Martin's earlier ejection from Cabinet by now-former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.
The campaign was criticized openly by Liberal candidates, one incumbent Liberal comparing it to the Keystone Kops.
Many pundits predicted that the combination of the popular and fiscally conservative Martin, along with continued vote-splitting on the right, could have led to the almost total annihilation of the Progressive Conservatives and Canadian Alliance. This fear prompted those two parties to form a united Conservative Party of Canada, which was approved by the members of the Canadian Alliance on December 5, 2003, and controversially by the delegates of the Progressive Conservatives on December 6, 2003.
The new Conservative Party pulled well ahead of the NDP in the polls just before the election, although its support remained below the combined support that the Progressive Conservatives and the Alliance had as separate parties. On March 20, the Conservatives elected Stephen Harper as their new leader.
The Conservatives gained more ground in polls after Harper became leader, and the poll results in the weeks before the election had them within one to two points of the Liberals, sometimes ahead, sometimes behind them. Party supporters hoped that the voters would react negatively to the Liberal attacks on what they called Harper's "hidden agenda", and that anger over the sponsorship scandal and other Liberal failures would translate to success at the polls.
Late in the campaign, the Conservatives began to lose some momentum, in part due to remarks made by MPs and candidates regarding homosexuality, official bilingualism and abortion. Additionally, the Liberal Party began airing controversial TV ads. Harper was also criticized for his position supporting the American-led 2003 invasion of Iraq. The term "hidden agenda", used commonly in the 2000 election to refer to Stockwell Day, began surfacing with increasing regularity with regard to Harper's history of supporting privatized health care. Further damaging the Conservative campaign was a press release from Conservative headquarters that suggested that Paul Martin supported child pornography. The momentum began to swing against his party, although some polls suggested it was neck and neck right up until election day.
Although on the eve of the election the party was polling slightly ahead of the Liberals everywhere west of Quebec, it had dropped in support, polling behind or on par with Liberals everywhere except the West (Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba), where it held onto its traditional support.
All together the new Conservatives fell from the combined Canadian Alliance-Progressive Conservative vote in 2000 of 37%, to only 29% of the vote, yet still gained 21 extra seats, finishing in second-place with 99 seats.
Before the announcement of the union of the right-of-centre parties, some were predicting that the New Democratic Party (Canada) would form the official opposition because the NDP was polling ahead of both right-of-centre parties. A new leader (Jack Layton) and clear social democratic policies helped revitalize the NDP. Polls suggested that the NDP had returned to the 18% to 20% level of support it enjoyed in the 1984 election and 1988 election. Layton suggested that the NDP would break their previous record of 43 seats won under former leader Ed Broadbent.
The NDP focused the campaign on winning ridings in Canada's urban centres, hoping especially to win seats in central Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa and Winnipeg. The party's platform was built to cater to these regions and much of Layton's time was spent in these areas.
The campaign stumbled early when Layton blamed the deaths of homeless people on Paul Martin, prompting the Liberals to accuse the NDP of negative campaigning. The NDP benefited from the decline in Liberal support, but not to the same extent as the Conservatives. There was an increasing prospect that NDP voters would switch to the Liberals to block a Conservative government. This concern did not manifest itself in the polls, however, and the NDP remained at somewhat below 20 percent mark in the polls for most of the campaign.
The NDP achieved 15% of the popular vote, its highest in 16 years. However, it only won 19 seats in the House of Commons, two less than the 21 won in 1997, and far short of the 40 predicted. There was criticism that Layton's focus on urban issues and gay rights marginalized the party's traditional emphasis on the poor, the working class, and rural Canadians. Long-time MP Lorne Nystrom and several other incumbents from the Prairie provinces were defeated, with the NDP being shut out of Saskatchewan for the first time since 1965. Layton won his own seat in a tight race, while Broadbent was returned to Parliament after many years of absence.
The Bloc Québécois (BQ) had managed their best showing back in 1993, but they lost seats to the Liberals in 1997 and 2000, prompting pundits to suggest a decline in support for Quebec sovereignty. The Bloc continued to slide in the polls in most of 2003 after the election of the federalist Quebec Liberal Party at the National Assembly of Quebec under Jean Charest, and during the long run-up to Paul Martin becoming leader of the federal Liberals.
However, things progressively changed during 2003, partly because of the decline in popularity of the Liberal Party of Quebec government of Jean Charest, and partly because support for independence in Quebec rose again (49% in March). The tide took its sharp turn when, in February 2004, the sponsorship scandal (uncovered in considerable part by the Bloc) hit the Liberal federal government.
These events led to a resurgence of the BQ, putting it ahead of the pack once again: according to an Ipsos-Reid poll carried out for The Globe and Mail and CTV between the 4th and the 8th of June, 50% of Quebecers intended to vote for the BQ against 24% for the Liberals.
Speculation was ongoing about the possibility of the Bloc forming alliances with other opposition parties or with an eventual minority government to promote its goals of social democracy and respect of the autonomy of provinces. Leader Gilles Duceppe stated that the Bloc, as before, would co-operate with other opposition parties or with the government when interests were found to be in common, but that the Bloc would not participate in a coalition government.
The Greens ran candidates in all 308 ridings for the first time in its history. The party won twice as many votes in this election than it had over the previous 21 years of its history combined, although it failed to win a seat. It also spent more money than in the previous 21 years, and although much of this money was borrowed, the Greens' share of the popular vote enabled them to receive federal funding.
These are the official slogans for the 2004 campaigns. The optional parts of the mottos (sometimes not used for efficiency) are put in brackets.
|Liberal Party||English: Moving (Canada) Forward or Choose your Canada|
French: Allons (or Aller) droit devant (avec l'Équipe Martin) (Moving forward with Team Martin)
|Conservative Party||English: Demand Better|
French: C'est assez! (Enough!)
|Bloc Québécois||Un parti propre au Québec (A party belonging to Quebec or An honest party in Quebec) |
Pre-election: Parce qu'on est différent (Because we're different)
|New Democratic Party||English: [New Energy.] A Positive Choice.|
French: [Une force nouvelle.] Un choix Positif. (A New Force, A Positive Choice)
|Green Party||English: Someday is now|
French: L'avenir c'est maintenant
Important issues in the election:
On March 26, 2011, Gilles Duceppe stated that Harper had tried to form a coalition government with the Bloc and NDP two months after this election in 2004. He was responding to Harper's warnings in 2011 that the Liberals might form a coalition with the Bloc and the NDP.
Articles on parties' candidates in this election:
Al McDonald is a politician in Ontario, Canada, currently serving as mayor of North Bay, Ontario. He was previously a Progressive Conservative member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 2002 to 2003, and ran unsuccessfully for the Conservative Party of Canada in the 2004 federal election.Canadian Action Party candidates in the 2004 Canadian federal election
The Canadian Action Party ran a number of candidates in the 2004 federal election, none of whom were elected. Information about these candidates may be found here.Chris Bradshaw
Christopher John Bradshaw (May 20, 1944 – November 3, 2018) was a Canadian politician and businessman. He served as interim leader of the Green Party of Canada from 2001 to 2003, and has sought public office as a candidate of the Green Party of Canada and the Green Party of Ontario.Christian Heritage Party of Canada candidates in the 2004 Canadian federal election
The Christian Heritage Party is a minor political party in Canada. It ran 62 candidates in the 2004 federal election. Information about some of these candidates may be found here. The leader of the party at the time of the election was Ron Gray.Communist Party of Canada (Marxist–Leninist) candidates in the 2004 Canadian federal election
The Communist Party of Canada - Marxist-Leninist ran several candidates in the 2004 federal election, none of whom were elected. Information about these candidates may be found on this page.Communist Party of Canada candidates in the 2004 Canadian federal election
The Communist Party of Canada ran a number of candidates in the 2004 federal election, none of whom were elected. Information about these candidates may be found here.Conservative Party of Canada candidates in the 2004 Canadian federal election
The Conservative Party of Canada ran a full slate of candidates in the 2004 federal election, and won 99 seats out of 308 to form the Official Opposition. Many of the party's candidates have their own biography pages; information about others may be found here.Green Party of Canada candidates in the 2004 Canadian federal election
The Green Party of Canada ran a full slate of 308 candidates in the 2004 federal election. Some of these candidates have separate biography pages; relevant information about other candidates may be found here.
The candidates are listed by province and riding name.Independent candidates in the 2004 Canadian federal election
Several independent candidates campaigned as candidates in the 2004 federal election, representing a variety of political viewpoints and ambitions. One independent candidate, Chuck Cadman, was elected. Information about another candidates may be found on this page.Ken Nicol (politician)
Ken Nicol is a Canadian politician and academic.
He served as the MLA for Lethbridge-East from 1993 to 2004. During his final three years, he was the leader of the Alberta Liberal Party, and leader of the official opposition in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta. He was credited with bringing a more conciliatory approach in the legislature, different from his predecessor Nancy MacBeth, however his soft-spoken nature did not help the party rise in polls.
He left provincial politics to run for the federal Liberals in the riding of Lethbridge in 2004, but lost in a landslide to incumbent Rick Casson.
Nicol is currently an associate professor at the University of Lethbridge.Liberal Party of Canada candidates in the 2004 Canadian federal election
The Liberal Party of Canada ran a full slate of candidates in the 2004 federal election, and won 135 out of 308 seats to emerge with a minority government. Many of the party's candidates have their own biography pages; information about others may be found here.Marijuana Party of Canada candidates in the 2004 Canadian federal election
The Marijuana Party of Canada fielded a number of candidates in the 2004 federal election, none of whom were elected. Information about these candidates may be found here.Moondog King
Edward John White (May 18, 1949 – August 26, 2005) was a Canadian professional wrestler, best known as Sailor White and as Moondog King of The Moondogs when he joined the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) in the early 1980s. White won championships in Canada and around the globe. He also wrestled in South Africa as Big John Strongbo.Naomi Rankin
Naomi Rankin (born c. 1953) is the current leader of the Communist Party of Alberta in Alberta, Canada.
She has been leader of the Communist Party since 1992 and has run in every provincial and federal election in Alberta since 1982, for the Communist Party (Alberta) or the Communist Party of Canada. She has run in many of Edmonton's ridings. In the last two decades, the Communist Party has rarely managed more than a few hundred votes, and has only fielded a small number of candidates.
Naomi is widowed with two children, and is retired from her career as a computer programmer. She has lived in Edmonton since 1964. She is a social activist and sings in a choir called "Notre Dame des Bananes", as well as the Richard Eaton Singers.New Democratic Party candidates, 2004 Canadian federal election
The New Democratic Party ran a full slate of candidates in the 2004 federal election and elected nineteen members to become the fourth largest party in parliament.Nina Tangri
Nina Tangri is a Canadian politician, who was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in the 2018 provincial election. She represents the riding of Mississauga—Streetsville as a member of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.
Tangri ran previously ran as a Conservative Party of Canada candidate for Mississauga—Streetsville in the 2004 federal election, as an Ontario Progressive Conservative candidate for Mississauga West in the 2003 provincial election, and as an Ontario Progressive Conservative candidate for Mississauga—Streetsville in the 2007 and 2014 provincial elections.Opinion polling for the 2004 Canadian federal election
Note: the Bloc Québécois runs candidates only in Québec, so its Canada-wide poll percentage is not very meaningful. Therefore, the relevant poll numbers isolated for Québec only are also shown, if available.
Nanos Research nightly tracking poll (2004-June-25) (changes from first day, 2004-May-25, listed in parentheses): Liberals 34% (−7), Conservatives 30% (+2), NDP 20% (+2), BQ 12% (+3), Green 4% (+1)
Ipsos-Reid poll (2004-June-25): Liberal 32%, Conservative 31%, NDP 17%, BQ 12%, Green 6%
Nanos Research regional breakdown (2004-June-24) (earlier results at )
Atlantic: Liberals 45%, NDP 25%, Conservatives 24%, Green 4%, BQ 2%
Quebec: BQ 51%, Liberals 28%, Conservatives 11%, NDP 7%, Green 3%
Ontario: Liberals 39%, Conservatives 32%, NDP 25%, Green 4%, BQ 1%
Manitoba and Saskatchewan: Liberals 39%, Conservatives 34%, NDP 24%, Green 2%, BQ 1%
Alberta: Conservatives 62%, Liberals 23%, NDP 13%, Green 2%
British Columbia: Conservatives 38%, Liberals 28%, NDP 28%, Green 6%
Nanos Research nightly tracking poll (2004-June-18) (changes from first day, 2004-May-25, listed in parentheses): Liberals 34% (−7), Conservatives 29% (+1), NDP 22% (+4), BQ 10% (+1), Green 5% (+2)
Nanos Research nightly tracking poll (2004-June-16) (changes from first day, 2004-May-25, listed in parentheses): Conservatives 34% (+6), Liberals 32% (−9), NDP 19% (+1), BQ 12% (+1), Green 3% (0)
Ipsos-Reid poll (2004-June-15): Liberal 31%, Conservative 32%, NDP 17%, BQ 12%, Green 6%
Nanos Research nightly tracking poll (2004-June-7) (changes from first day, 2004-May-25, listed in parentheses): Conservatives 34% (+6), Liberals 32% (−9), NDP 20% (+2), BQ 11% (0), Green 4% (+1)
Ipsos-Reid poll (2004-June-4): Liberal 32%, Conservative 31%, NDP 17%, BQ 11%, Green 6%
Quebec only: BQ 45%, Liberal 28%
Ontario only: Conservative 35%, Liberal 32%, NDP 23% (first poll showing Conservatives in front in Ontario since 1985)
Leger Marketing poll (2004-June-2): Liberal 35%, Conservative 30%, NDP 17%, BQ 12%, Green 5%
Ipsos-Reid poll (2004-May-31): Liberal 34%, Conservative 30%, NDP 16%, BQ 12%
Quebec only: BQ 44%, Liberal 29%
Ontario only: Liberal 36%, Conservative 36%
EKOS poll (2004-May-30): Liberal 38%, Conservative 30%, NDP 18%, BQ 11%
Ipsos-Reid poll (2004-May-22): Liberal 35%, Conservative 26%, NDP 18%, BQ 12%
Quebec only: BQ 50%, Liberal 28%, NDP 8%, Conservative 7%
Ipsos-Reid poll (2004-May-7): Liberal 38%, Conservative 26%, NDP 16%, BQ 10%
Québec only: BQ 41%, Liberal 36%
Leger Marketing poll (2004-Apr-28): Liberal 38%, Conservative 26%, NDP 17%, BQ 12%, Green 4%
Québec only : BQ 46%, Liberal 34%, Conservative 8%, NDP 8%, Green 3%
Ipsos-Reid poll (2004-Apr-26 –Apr-28) Liberal 40%, Conservative 23%, NDP 18%, BQ 11%, Green 5%
Québec only: BQ 46%, Liberal 33%, Conservative 8%, NDP 8%
Environics poll (2004-Mar-29 – 2004-Apr-18): Liberal 39%, Conservative 29%, NDP 19%, BQ 11%
Québec only: BQ 45%, Liberal 37%, Conservative 8%, NDP 8%
Ipsos-Reid poll (2004-Apr-06 – 2004-Apr-08): Liberal 35%, Conservative 28%, NDP 18%, BQ 10%, Green 5%
Québec only: BQ 45%, Liberal 30%, Conservative 11%, NDP 10%
Leger Marketing poll (2004-Mar-28): Liberal 38%, Conservative 26%, NDP 16%, BQ 13%
Québec only : BQ 45%, Liberal 36%, Conservative 8%, NDP 8%Source: http://www.canadawebpages.com/pc-polls.aspProgressive Canadian Party candidates in the 2004 Canadian federal election
The Progressive Canadian Party fielded sixteen candidates in the 2004 federal election, none of whom were elected. Information about these candidates may be found here.Timeline of the Canadian federal election, 2004
The following is a timeline of the Canadian federal election, 2004. More on the election in general is available in the article Canadian federal election, 2004.
Bold indicates parties with members elected to the House of Commons.