Canada History

Canada History   timelines 
AskAHistorian    blog 




Prehistory | 2 Worlds Meet | New France | England Arrives | Clash of Empires | Revolution | British America | Reform/Revolt | Responsible Government | Confederation | Nation Building | Laurier | The Great War | Roaring 20's | Great Depression | WWII | The Peace | Cold War | Trudeau | PC's in Power | Modern Canada

Wind from the West | Avro Arrow | Quiet Revolution | Pearson | NORAD | Liberals Win Quebec | NDP | Bill of Rights | The Flag | FLQ | Expo 67

As the Liberals stagger to recover from their loss in the 1957 Federal election and the resignation of their leader, Louis St Laurent, most eyes in the party looked towards Lester Bowles Pearson. Pearson had made his reputation in external affairs, had served a year as chairmen of the General Assembly of the United Nations and had been awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his solution to the 1956 Suez Crisis.

He easily defeated his nearest rival, Paul Martin, during the leadership convention and defiantly called for Prime Minister Diefenbaker to either allow the Liberals to take over the Government or call an election. Although Pearson was an experienced and skilled manager of affairs at the UN he was not accustomed to the rough and tumble chaos of the House of Commons and was not completely in touch with the Canadian public. The Conservatives won in a landslide and Pearson's Liberals were reduced 49 seats.

As Diefenbaker's popularity began to wane during his majority mandate and the Conservative party begin to tear apart with internal infighting, Pearson was learning the skills needed to succeed in Canadian politics. He rebuilt party moral, recruited young people, built up support across the country and repaired his damage image with Canadians. When the 1962 election was called the Liberals came close to winning the most seats by doubling their total to 100 while the Conservatives lost 92 seats dropping to just 118. The real wrench in the electoral landscape was the 26 seats which Real Caouette's Social Credit party picked up in Quebec. The Liberals needed a dominate showing in Quebec to win and Caouette had prevented that.

Diefenbaker was a handicapped Prime Minister at best with no clear way find support and a majority vote in the House. divisions in the Conservatives were causing the party to disintegrate and in early 1963 the Minister of Defence resigned because he disagreed with Diefenbaker over the question of Nuclear warheads in the new Canadian Bo marc missiles. Pearson and the other parties saw their chance and called for a confidence vote which the Conservatives lost and were then forced to call an election, The Conservatives then experienced a full scale revolution with Cabinet Ministers jockeying to replace Diefenbaker. This move failed but Diefenbaker was mortally wounded.

The Liberals gained enough seats to defeat the Conservatives but not enough t form a majority government. Pearson had 129 seats to the Conservatives 95, the Social Credit 24 and the NDP 17. 

Pearson led his party in the unification of the Canadian armed forces choose a new flag for Canada, which proved to be an emotional debate, and had to deal with rising nationalistic forces in Quebec. Federal-Provincial relations also began to move onto centre stage as an issue and the Pearson government tried o work out revenue sharing plans and pension plans with the provinces.

By 1965 Pearson felt that he could win a majority and called an election but due to unfavourable press regarding potentially scandalous actions of a few of his Cabinet Ministers he was able to win only 131 seats, to the Conservatives 97, the NDP's 21, Social Credit's 5 and other parties 11.

Pearson pushed ahead and was able to expand welfare programs, provide additional support to universities, developed programs for aiding regional development and signed the auto pact with the United States which lead to a boom in the automobile industry in Canada. The biggest plus that Pearson was able to capitalize was the centennial celebrations that were quickly approaching in 1967. Expo 67 was to be a national celebration.

Pearson had decided to resign by 1967 believing that the time was right to have a new Liberal leader try to win the elusive majority and he specifically recruited star candidates from Quebec such as Gerald Pelletier, Jean Marchand and Pierre
. His career in politics and as Prime Minister was an effective successful one with many highlights and achievements but when e departed the political stage the 60s; were in full swing and it was time for a new generation of leaders.