Path: Table of Contents > Essay on Party Politics > Party 042
Canadian Liberal Party, 042
Variables and Codes for 1950-1962
For the concepts and variables below, use these links to Political Parties: A Cross-National Survey:
Governmental Status
Issue Orientation
Goal Orientation
Organizational Complexity
Organizational Power
Organizational Coherence
Membership Involvement
The "ac" code is for "adequacy-confidence"--a data quality measure ranging from 0 (low) to 9 (high)

Institutionalization Variables, 1.01-1.06
1.01 Year of Origin and 1.02 Name Changes
1872, ac7
0, ac9
The actual data of origin of the Liberal Party is open to dispute. The roots of the party go back to the alliance between the Parti Rouge and the Clear Grits in opposition to the first government of the federal union in 1867 (Hougham, 1967--3). If one seeks the founding of a national organization, then the date of 1887, when Sir Wilfrid Laurier became leader, is the better choice (Hougham, 1967- 3, 10). We have chosen 1872, when the Liberal factions in parliament first chose a common leader in parliament (Reid, 1967--18), which allows us to recognize the party as being in existence when it found itself in control of government in 1873. There have been no name changes since the party's origin.
1.03 Organizational Discontinuity
0, ac9
The Liberals did not undergo any splits or mergers during our period of interest.
1.04 Leadership Competition
12, ac9
In 1948, at the Liberal Convention, Louis St. Laurent was elected party leader. In 1958, Lester Pearson acquired the leadership by amassing 1074 of the 1380 delegates" votes. He was succeeded in 1958 by Pierre Trueau, elected leader in the Liberal's April convention.
1.05 Legislative Instability
Instability is .43, ac9
The fortunes of the Liberal party in parliament waned from the beginning of our period, when the party held some 70 percent of the seats, to 1961, when it could claim only 19 percent. Although the Liberals doubled their legislative strength in the house in 1962, they still held fewer seats than the Conservatives.
1.06 Electoral Instability
Instability is .12, ac9
During our time period, the Liberals made their best showing at the polls In 1953, when they won 49 percent of the votes. In the remaining elections of 1957, 1958, and 1962, the electoral strength of the Liberals ranged from 34 to 37 percent.

Governmental Status Variables, 2.01-2.07
 2.01 Government Discrimination
0, ac9
The government is neutral and indifferent towards the party. On the national level there is merely a 50 name petition and a $200 deposit required to get one's name on the ballot. In Quebec a candidate must declare a party affiliation, or declare himself an independent. The major parties in Quebec also enjoy the benefit of being put first in line on the ballot sheet.
2.02 Governmental Leadership
7 out of 7 for 1950-56, ac9
0 out of 6 for 1957-62, ac9
The Liberals won clear majorities in both the elections of 1949 and 1953, thus their leader Louis St. Laurent was Prime Minister. He lost the goveernment in 1957 to the conservatives and John Diefenbaker. In 1963 Lester Pearson became Prime Minister as the Liberals took control of the House of Commons. From 1968 until 1974 Pierre Trueau has held the post of Prime Minister.
2.03 Cabinet Participation
7 out of 7 for 1950-56, ac9
0 out of 6 for 1957-62, ac9
In 1957, the Liberal cabinet resigned its power to the Diefenbaker forces who had won a plurality of the houses" seats. The Diefenbaker cabinet lasted until the Election of 1963, since that time the Liberals have held all cabinet positions.
2.04 National Participation
6, ac9
Based on election returns from 1953 and 1962 the Liberals demonstrated a greater uniformity of support over the five major political regions than their chief rival, the Conservatives. In both periods, their source of strength roughly reflected the distribution of the electorate, as they deviated an average of 3.6 percent from the regional distribution of the vote in 1953 and 3.2 in 1962.
2.05 Legislative Strength
Strength is .67 for 1950-56, ac9 and .25 for 1957-62, ac9
The fortunes of the Liberal party in parliament waned from the beginning of our period, when the party held some 70 percent of the seats, to 1961, when it could claim only 19 percent. Although the Liberals doubled their legislative strength in the house in 1962, they still held fewer seats than the Conservatives.
2.06 Electoral Strength
Strength is .49 for 1950-56, ac9 and .37 for 1957-62, Ac9
During our time period, the Liberals made their best showing at the polls In 1953, when they won 49 percent of the votes. In the remaining elections of
1957, 1958, and 1962, the electoral strength of the Liberals ranged from 34 to 37 percent.
2.07 Outside Origin
4, ac9
The Liberals emerged from a group of legislators who originally opposed confederation, and supported the rights of the provinces. The Clear Grits of upper Canada and the Parti Rouge of Quebec formed the base of the Liberal Party.

Issue Orientation Variables, 5.01-5.15
 5.01 Ownership of Means of Production
0, ac7
The Liberal platform of 1949 rejected "the theory that state ownership of the instruments of production in itself constitutes progress and a solution of social problems." their subsequent platforms, however, called for the maintenance of the Canadian National Railways and the Trans Canada Airlines as publicly owned and publicly controlled services.
5.02 Government Role in Economic Planning
1, ac9
The Liberal platforms called for a rigorous development program of national resources, in cooperation with the provinces, in accordance with a program of research, exploration and survey. They also aimed to reduce those forms of taxation which interfered with freedom of trade, increased the cost of living, reduced incentive or discouraged the expansion of national production and national income. The Liberal party, however, believed in a "minimum of interference and control by the state in the daily lives and occupation of the people and is opposed to any system of overall control of the economy." in 1957 they reaffirmed these positions, and specifically stated they would not tell the farmers what to grow, or set a price on agricultural products, it was not the Liberal way.
5.03 Redistribution of Wealth
1, ac9
The Liberals called for a sound fiscal policy, the tax burden being distributed equitably and in accordance with capacity to pay. In reducing taxes, the Liberals just sought to ease the burden of the lowest income groups. Their policy was summarized in one statement--"a free economy distributes plenty rather than rations scarcity," and provides for more and more people a larger share of more and more.
5.04 Social Welfare
2, ac9
The Liberal party was usually concerned with social reform. The platforms stressed the steady extension of insurance on a contributory basis to protect all citizens, provide for old age, health insurance covering medical, dental, surgical and hospital health services on a contributory basis and more equal care and opportunity for all children through family allowances, and pensions for the blind. The federal and provincial governments would supply funds for such a programme. In 1958 the Liberals proposed a liberal social security charter, along with a six dollar monthly increase in old age pensions-which the Conservatives attacked as too little.
5.05 Secularization of Society
0, ac7
Religious issues do not normally become national since the areas in which they are more likely to arise, child welfare, solemnization of marriage, divorce, and education are all under provincial jurisdiction. The conciliation of all religious bodies is a general aim of all parties. The two major Canadian political parties have strong religious ties with two different affiliations. The Protestants are more likely to be Progressive-Conservatives rather than Liberals, while The Liberals are basically the party of the Roman Catholics. In english speaking Canada, the history has been one of unsympathetic treatment of the Roman Catholics generally at the hands of the Conservative provincial administration, especially in matters concerning education. This behavior by the Conservatives and their stand on conscription in both world wars, are factors of the grievances against conservatives in the Province of Quebec.
5.06 Support of the Military
3, ac9
The Liberals in Canada stress the need for a solid military more than any other party. They support a defence policy to provide against attack, and also from internal subversion. The platforms ask for accelerated research and development of weapons equipment, and procedures for continental defence by air and sea. The Liberal practice in power was to escalate, and this became an issue in 1957.
5.07 Alignment with East-West Blocs
5, ac9
The Liberal party favored the association of Canada with the United States, United Kingdom, and other countries of Europe in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The Canadians played a role in forming NATO, and The Liberals were in office at the time.
5.08 Anti-Colonialism
1, ac9
The Liberal platform of 1949 considered the problem of United States investment in Canada, and took the following position--each person shall be safe against all forms of oppression or exploitation, whether by the state or by other individuals of interest. In 1958, the platform elaborated on this issue by supporting economic co-operation with the US, and at the same time stressing that such cooperation would not mean economic or political subordination (Carrigan, 1968--243).
5.09 Supranational Integration
1, ac9
The Liberal platform of 1949 supported a measure to facilitate trade between countries of the British Commonwealth. The Liberals worked while in office to develop the United Nations, and worked to reduce world trade barriers . The Liberals took pride in their role as peace-keeper in the UN, and took every available means to maintain and expand Canada's external trade, and eventually remove trade barriers generally.
5.10 National Integration
1 for 1950-56, ac9 -
1 for 1957-62, ac9
The Liberals" platform of 1949 showed the development of confederation, remembering the meaning of the word and its assumption of unity in diversity. They supported unity and harmony among Canadians whatever origin, language, or creed. In 1958 the Liberals were accused of over centralizing the government and shifted to a more decentralized policy dictated by cooperative federalism. In 1958 the Liberal party reaffirmed their support of federation in the initiation of the arrangement for tax sharing of tax revenues between the federal and provincial government.
5.11 Electoral Participation
5, ac9
In 1958 The Liberals sponsored the Canadian Citizenship Act, which stands for the absolute equality of all Canadians, whether born in Canada or naturalized. The Liberal party endorsed the policy of voluntary integration of The Canadian Indians into the national life as full citizens. The Indians received the franchise in 1960. Electoral discrimination against asiatics in British Columbia ended in 1945 (Qualter, 1970--10).
5.12 Protection of Civil Rights
5, ac7
The Liberals have continually stressed the equality of women in the state, and the encouragement of the young to participate in the government. They encouraged fair employment practices and non discrimination in employment under federal jurisdiction. On the French Canadian question the Liberal party believed in the recognition of special status in Quebec. The Liberals in 1958 advocated the assimilation of Canadian Indians into the mainstream of Canadian life.
5.13 Interference with Civil Liberties
3, ac9
The platform of 1953 gave strong opposition to the control of men's opinions. It stressed the maintenance of public control of national films. In 1962 the Liberals attacked the conservatives" misuse of the CBC and vowed to restore the CBC's morale and integrity.
5.14 / 5.15 US--Soviet Experts Left-Right Ratings
US says 2, center
Soviets say 1, represents the interests of major monopolistic capital, closely allied with US monopolies.

Goal Orientation Variables, 6.01-6.55
 6.00 Open Competition in the Electoral Process
6.00--4, ac9.
The Liberal party relies exclusively on a system of open competition.
6.01-6.05--2, ac9.
It is a common practice of The Liberal Party to advertise candidates through various media, to canvass voters during campaigns, to hold campaign rallies, and to facilitate voting for Liberal supporters.
6.10 Restricting Party Competition
6.10--0, ac9.
The Liberals strongly opposed the tactic of restricting party competition. The Liberals, when in office, have been accused of 'stealing" planks from opposing party platforms, but this is in no way overtly restricting a party's participation in the political process.
6.11-6.15--0, ac9. Offenses in voting regulations in Canada usually concern the deliberate falsification of voters' lists. In the Toronto riding of St. Pauls, for example, the Liberal Party candidate was involved in illegal activities during the 1957 election. No court action was taken against him, but 4 campaign Workers were found guilty of adding 474 ficticious names to the voting list. Despite such occasional transgressions, the Canadian Election Act is reasonably effective, and there seems no reason to believe elections are won for any other reason than the voters" ballots.
6.20 Subverting the Political System
6.20--0, ac9.
There is no subverting of the political system by the Liberals in Canada.
6.21-6.26--0, ac9.
The Liberal Party never participated in subversive tactics.
6.30 Propagandizing Ideas and Program
6.31--1, ac9.
The Liberal Party publishes a quarterly magazine "the Canadian Liberal." during campaigns, tv and radio time is bought and offered free from The CBC, which provides free time programs to "bonafide parties which are national in extent and which reflect a substantial body of opinion throughout the country." The parties and the CBC together decide how the time should be distributed. The election of 1957 saw the Liberals with 33 percent of the free air time.
6.32--0, ac9.
The Liberals run no school as such, but do have a youth organization, the "Young Liberal Federation" which parallels the national party structure.
6.33--1, ac9.
The Liberals occasionally adopt party platforms, usually at times when they elect a new leader, or at election time.
6.34--1, ac9.
The publishing of position papers usually coincides with an election year.
6.50 Providing for Welfare of Party Members
6.51-6.55--0, ac3.Although no written material that contained information on the party's role of distributing social benefits was available, talks with Canadian political scientists led to the conclusion that the Liberal party never involved itself with this issue.

Autonomy Variables, 7.01-7.05
 7.01 Sources of Funds
1 (sector 04), ac6
Business supplies the bulk of the Liberal Party funds. In 1953 it was estimated that 50 percent of its campaign funds were derived from commerce and industry, 40 percent from businessmen linked to particular firms, and only 10 percent from private individuals. Little is received from MP's, senators, trade unions or individual contributions (Paltiel, 1970--34).
7.02 Source of Members
5, ac9
Like the PC's, The Liberal's general members pay an annual membership fee. Not all members pay this fee, but membership is entirely direct (Engelmann and Schwartz, 1975--170).
7.03 Sources of Leaders
2 (sectors 03, 04), ac6
Kornberg states "Canadian MP's like their counterparts in other western democracies, tend to be members of a profession, usually law," (Kornberg, p.43). In Kornberg's 165 sample constituencies it was found that 32 percent of all Liberal candidates in eight national elections during the period 1945-1965 were members of the legal profession. Fully 40 percent of Liberal winners were lawyers. Kornberg, in the same study, also notes that businessmen were over represented in the House. Taken together, 76 percent of the sample were included in these two categories, (Kornberg, p.44).
7.04 Relations with Domestic Parties
7, ac9
There has been only one parliamentary coalition in Canada's history, And this was in 1917. The Liberal party enjoyed complete autonomy in Canada, for it engaged in no electoral or parliamentary coalitions.
7.05 Relations with Foreign Organizations
4, ac6
The Liberal Party is affiliated with the Liberal International. Its main association with the organization is merely in attending meetings.

Organizational Complexity Variables, 8.01-8.07
 8.01 Structural Articulation
11, ac9
In the Liberal Party, the national party structure includes a convention, a council, an executive, table officers, and a central party bureaucracy which includes numerous standing committees. The national meeting, Or "convention" is called by the National Executive, and must be held at least every two years. The functions are clearly defined--the selection of national leaders and establishing basic policies of the party. The latter function is often ignored. Representation is vast, numbering over 2,000, and selection procedures are basically characterized by prescribed selection. The national party organ provides guidelines for selection, for both provincial and local organizations. For instance, the Liberal members of each provincial assembly and the Liberal candidates defeated at the last provincial assembly election in each province or new candidates nominated, acting jointly, have the right to select from among themselves a number of delegates equal to 1/4 of the total membership of each provincial assembly. In the Liberal National Organization there is also a national council. Council meets at least twice a year and it tncludes eleven representatives from each province (must include the provincial leader, youth, and women). These delegates must be reelected annually. The functions and purposes are related not only to intra party federal-provincial relations, but also to serve as a forum for the examination of important political issues. The national executive which meets no fewer than four times a year, has the duty to carry out the aims and purposes of the Liberal Party. Members of the executive are both selected by informal co-option and prescribed selection, basically however by the latter process. The executive committee is clearly more authoritative than the council. There are also standing committees on policy organization finance, communications and publicity, constitution and party structure.
8.02 Intensiveness of Organization
5, ac9
The poll organization in Canada is the lowest level of party organization. The Liberal Party poll organizations meet irregularly and practically cease to exist between elections. An average constituency will have about 150 or more polls (a smaller number in cities, a larger amount in rural areas). At this level, a well staffed machine, (according to Meisel) " consists of a poll captain, assisted by two or three helpers, one of whom at least have a car. Anywhere from six to ten polling subdivision organizations will be under the direction of a group captain," (Meisel, 1962, p.86). But permanent poll organizations do not normally exist in the Liberal Party ( Engelmann and Schwartz, 1975--172).
8.03 Extensiveness of Organization
5, ac5
Meisel reports "during the 1957 election there were 44,055 polling stations in Canada. It is likely that both the Conservative and Liberal Parties tried to establish an adequate poll organization in a vast majority of those." the strength of these organizations is variable, however, (Meisel 1962, P.86). Throughout our period, the Liberals contested virtually all the seats In federal elections (Beck, 1968).
8.04 Frequency of Local Meetings
2, ac9
The Liberal Party local organizations build up as voting day approaches, specifically for the direction of the upcoming campaign.
8.05 Frequency of National Meetings
2, ac9
The consultative council of the Liberal Party is activated by the national executive upon notice. However, it usually meets only twice a year, which is the minimum as stated in the party's constitution.
8.06 Maintaining Records
9, ac6
The Liberal Party publishes party propaganda, usually policy statements around election time. The party publishes a quarterly publication - The "Canadian Liberal." leaflets of the party leaders" speeches are also distributed at election time. The Liberal Party has a standing committee on communications and publicity which handles the party archives. There is a party archive, but the extent to which it is a viable resource is ambiguous. The Liberal Party has no complete membership list, only lists of those party activists who have helped in past elections.
8.07 Pervasiveness of Organization
6, ac6
The National Liberal Federation has affiliated National Federations of the Liberal Women, the Young Liberals, and the University Liberals. Williams recognizes the strength of these organizations in commenting that the PC's comparable organizations were window dressing, and only there to keep abreast with the Liberal Party. (Williams, p.120). The Roman Catholic voter generally Is associated with the Liberal Party, as well as the French Canadian. Big Business also showed considerable support for the Liberals, but this came basically through campaign donations. However, there are no ancillary organizations of Roman Catholics, French-Canadians, or businessmen.

Organizational Power Variables, 9.01-9.08
 9.01 Nationalization of Structure
3, ac9
As noted in variable 8.01, there are distinct national organs, however , their control over the provincial governments is minimal. For instance, the Saskatchewan Liberal Party does not have a particularly friendly relationship with its federal counterpart. The Quebec Liberal Party might as well be a separate entity in much of the upper level. Regional cleavages predominate in the Liberal Party organizations, thus many of the western provinces, as well as Quebec, enjoy a semi-indepdent status. There are consequently poor lines of communications between the federal and provincial levels of the party.
9.02 Selecting the National Leader
3, ac9
The national leader in the Liberal Party is the Prime Minister when in power and the Prime Ministerial candidate when the party is the official opposition. The leader is selected by a national convention, with representatives from throughout the country. The leader must win by a majority of votes at the convention.
9.03 Selecting Parliamentary Candidates
3, ac9
In the two older parties, the Liberals and Progressive-Conservative, the procedure for selecting parliamentary candidates is similar. In the 1957 election the rule of thumb was that the local party organization selects the person it desires to run, and in the case of 1957, the provincial party always accepted the local parties decision. Nonetheless, the provincial executive of each party has the final responsibility for seeing that each constituency party picks a suitable candidate (Meisel, p. 120). At the local level, when an active local organization exists, there is a special nominating meeting at which the choosing of a candidate is the main business. Exceptions to the rule exist in 'safe" seats. Selection committees sometimes appoint candidates without bothering to have them choice confirmed by a meeting of the Constituency Party. This instance is prevalent in constituencies where local organizations have degenerated.
9.04 Allocating Funds
4, ac6
The Liberal Party is more federalized than its counterpart, the PC, with respect to the collection of party funds. The funds of the party are basically collected, pooled, and distributed by the provincial organizations. Constituency organizations do, of course, raise funds with varying degrees of success depending largely on whether or not a strong local organ exists. Basically, the Liberals do not seek funds from the citizens at large. (Paltiel , 1970--12)
9.05 Formulating Policy
6, ac8
The Liberal Party Convention is supposed to formulate the main policy statements. However, these statements which issue from conventions are often ignored by the parliamentary party (Courtney, 1973--97). Policy initiatives are explored at "thinkers policy conference," attended by MP's and MLA's. In
1960, the Conference at Kingston did produce a discernible change in party policy. In Kingston the party was helped in moving more to the left.
9.06 Controlling Communications
4, ac9
The control of the media in the Liberal Party is shared by all levels. The greatest amount of information is distributed to party members at election time. The national headquarters distributes literature to the constituencies for distribution to party members, but the individual local organs are not restricted in printing their own materials. The flow of directives which issues from provincial or national headquarters is often ignored by local organizers for they feel that they are better informed on local issues.
9.07 Administering Discipline
3, ac6
The only discernable disciplinary techniques are found in the Liberal Party's House of Commons Caucus. The Caucus which decides how the party is to vote on certain issues, disciplines only in the sense of stressing the importance of group solidarity. Caucus decisions, however, are not always binding.
9.08 Leadership Concentration
3, ac9
The leadership of the Liberal Party was held by Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent from 1950-1957. When The Liberals were out of power, the leader of the opposition, Laurent in 1957 and Lester Pearson from 58-62, was in charge of the party. Although these two were formally leaders of the party, when in power, the Prime Minister had to consult with his cabinet. While in the opposition, the party leader and other influential MP's usually developed policy jointly.

Coherence Variables, 10.01-10.06
 10.01 Legislative Cohesion
.90, ac3
The paucity of literature made it nearly impossible to give the two major parties in Canada a viable estimate on this variable. However, the literature implies that unless for conscience issues (birth control, capital punishment, etc.) issues that adversely effect one's constituencies, or for some other agreement reached beforehand with the party, the MP will usually follow party lines (Kornberg, p. 149).
10.02 Ideological Factionalism
1, ac6
Little ideological factionalism was present during our time period. Within the Quebec wing, however, there was tension between the old guard and the Young Turks committed to social change (Engelmann and Schwartz, 1975--36).
10.03 Issue Factionalism
3, ac4
Some degree of issue factionalism within the Liberal Party corresponds to provincial orientations. The Quebec Group, for example, was more favorable toward tariff protection, while the Prairie Liberals backed free trade (Scarrow, 1965--69, 70).
10.04 Leadership Factionalism
1, ac9
At the Liberal National Convention of 1958 there was a contest between Paul Martin and Lester Pearson for national leadership, but no factional divisions resulted.
10.05 Strategic or Tactical Factionalism
0, ac9
There was little disagreement in the Liberal Party concerning strategies. Although they were the opposition party in the latter half of the time period, there was agreement on how to solve the problem of getting back into power.
10.06 Party Purges
0, ac9
The Liberal Party experienced no purges and carried out none.

Involvement Variables, 11.01-11.06
11.01 Membership Requirements
2, ac9
Annual dues to the Liberal Party are small. They are not always essential, for while a fee is a formal requirement, party supporters who have paid none may serve on committees and in various other capacities, (Dawson p. 440).
11.02 Membership Participation
0, ac5
Membership in the Liberal Party is casual at best. The only stipulation seems to be that members have no affiliation with other parties. Moreover, members do not always vote for "their" party.
11.03 Material Incentives
1, ac3
Research on incentives for party activists in Canada is at its infant stage. In a study by Kornberg, et al., it is stated that participation in the local organizations of Winnipeg and Vancouver offers little or nothing in the way of tangible rewards, although many party activists gave the institution a high ranking in their values of important objects in their life, (p. 46). It seems that Liberal poll captains tend to be paid for their duties, however (Engelmann and Schwartz, 1975--278).
11.04 Purposive Incentives
1, ac3
Liberal "militants" apparently wish to keep the party in power, but purposive incentives do not appear to be the reason for staying on the job for most. We judge that purposive incentives are important to some significant group, however.
11.05 Doctrinism
0, ac9
No body of material is evident as the touchstone of Liberal Party policy (Engelmann and Schwartz, 1975--108).
11.06 Personalism
0, ac3
Regenstreif comments that "Canadian political parties are all leadership oriented" (p. 126). The 1953 campaign strategy consisted of presenting Louis St. Laurent (Prime Minister candidate), as the nation's Uncle Louis. In the election of 1958, the Liberals chose Lester B. Pearson, a well known foreign affairs expert as their candidate for P.M. However, the party militants who were moved by personalism probably were considerably less than one-third. To this group participation was not based on objective concerns but on personality differences.