Carrément, une première (presque)

Fun fact: If the NDP take a plurality of the vote in Quebec this election, as some recent polls indicate they would, Jack Layton would be, with one, somewhat arguable exception*, the first non-francophone party leader to defeat a francophone leader in any federal election in the province’s history.

Up until Sir Wilfrid Laurier, all federal elections were contests between anglophone leaders. Though Sir John A. Macdonald defeated Laurier in 1891, the Liberals took Quebec, beginning the party’s near-century long domination of federal politics in the province. Laurier held Quebec, narrowly, in his 1911 loss to Sir Robert Borden, and by a resounding 3-1 margin in the conscription election of 1917.

Francophones Louis St Laurent and Pierre Trudeau also held the province, effortlessly, though their anglophone successors were not so lucky. John Diefenbaker’s sweep of the province in 1958 was at the expense of Lester Pearson, while Brian Mulroney’s 1984 victory was over John Turner (besides, Mulroney was the more francophone of the two).

Jean Chretien failed to carry the province in 1993, 1997, and 2000 (though he did win the popular vote in 2000), but lost to francophones, first Lucien Bouchard and then Gilles Duceppe — who went on to win in 2004, 2006, and 2008.

Of course, in one way Layton’s victory, if it came, would confirm the rule: though less francophone than Duceppe, he is easily the most francophone of the four national party leaders, and the only one born in Quebec.

*The exception: The Ralliement Créditiste, under leader Réal Caouette, in 1965, took only 9 seats, to 56 for Lester Pearson’s Liberals. The Créditistes were born of the breakup of the Social Credit party two years earlier. They contested one more election before rejoining Social Credit in 1971, with Caouette as national leader.

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