Opposition-measuring contest - Macleans.ca

Opposition-measuring contest

A few notes on your new official opposition.


A few notes on your new official opposition.

In yesterday’s speech to the Canadian Labour Congress, Jack Layton boasted that the NDP’s 103 MPs represented the “largest, most united official opposition in 31 years.”

Most counts presently give the NDP a mere 102 seats, but that does not seem to include an apparently narrow, and apparently late-breaking, victory in Montmagny—L’Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup. Assuming that NDP victory holds up to a recount, Layton will be free to continue boasting of 103 MPs. By number, that would, technically, be the largest official opposition since 2006, when the Liberals also won 103 seats. But in that case, David Emerson crossed the floor to the Conservatives before the House could reconvene, so the Liberals more accurately numbered 102.

As a result you do indeed have to go back to Joe Clark’s Progressive Conservatives, who came second in 1980 with 103 MPs, to find the last official opposition of this size.

Considering the last 50 years, by post-election seat count, only two official oppositions have surpassed the 103-mark.

1962 Liberal 99
1963 Progressive Conservative 95
1965 Progressive Conservative 97
1968 Progressive Conservative 72
1972 Progressive Conservative 107
1974 Progressive Conservative 95
1979 Liberal 114
1980 Progressive Conservative 103
1984 Liberal 40
1988 Liberal 83
1993 Bloc Quebecois 54
1997 Reform 60
2000 Canadian Alliance 66
2004 Conservative 99
2006 Liberal 103
2008 Liberal 77


Opposition-measuring contest

  1. I think it was intended as a rhetorical flourish – a leader’s biased appraisal of the unity of his own caucus.

    Incidently, why not ‘caucus mesuring contest?’

  2. Interesting that the only larger official oppositions were to minority governments.

  3. I think it’s also important to remember that, prior to 2000, the House of Commons was smaller, making the Official Opposition a larger percentage of the House.

  4. And?

    We just went through a long period of minority governments where the power of the opposition has been incredibly prevalent.

    Am I supposed to now see some special significance in the size of the official opposition in a majority government?

    I guess when you’re reaching for something, anything, to scrape together some relavence, even “moral authority” will do eh?


    • One way in which size matters is that the bigger the official opposition caucus now, the fewer seats they have to swing next time to form a government.

      • Except of course this presumes that the opposition would have continuous support and be able to attract additional support in the following election. I think it’s a bit early to assume this of the NDP, though I except the premise in general.

        In any case, the current situation is that the number of Canadians in opposition to the CPC government has shrunk, not grown, and the support which gave the NDP it’s current seat count can by no means be considered a stable constituency in future elections.

        I understand that Jack wants to inflate the importance of his caucus as much as possible, but I wish he’d find a more convincing stance to take.

      • @Phil_King:disqus makes a good point. Having swelled to such a large number might actually hurt the NDP in that if/when their MPs don’t satisfy the people of their ridings, they may be more inclined to vote a different party come 2015. If the NDP had a much more manageable caucus and less “green” MPs, it might have been easier to unite under one message and attract votes in different ridings. Instead, it is possible that when the 2015 election rolls around, the NDP lose as many seats as they gain. Of course, this is all speculation. :-)

        With Love and Gratitude,


  5. Wow, Lapointe only won by five votes?

    That seems to be the closest federal election result in at least 35 years.

  6. Yeah, you might have won all the marbles, but I tried harder then any loser in a long time!

    • See, this is where a “thumb down” would come in handy. Are you listening, Macleans?

  7. Like our good friend @scottfeschuk:disqus likes to say A D O R A B L E !!

    It doesn’t matter, the NDP is irrelevant in this session of Parliament and unless he delivers BIG TIME to Quebec, there is not going to be another 102-103 sit count.

    Having said that, it is his moment and he should enjoy it, congrats Jack!!