The first election of the 20th century would arguably, be one of its most boring. The Liberals were coming off four years of power, and the Conservatives were in disarray after they were ousted from power in 1896.
While it was a success for the Liberals, it would also see the Conservatives make a change after the election that would bring success 11 years later.
So, this won’t be a long episode by any means.
Over the previous four years, Laurier had dealt with the Manitoba Schools Question, creating the Laurier-Greenway Agreement, which confirmed that separate schools would not be re-established, but that religious instruction in schools could happen between 3:30 and 4 p.m. if requested by parents of 10 children in rural areas or 25 in urban ones. As well, at least one Roman Catholic teacher had to be hired if the parents of 40 children in urban areas and 25 in rural areas demanded it. If a school had 10 children who spoke a language other than English, instruction would be given in English and the children’s mother tongue. His government would also bring in a two-level tariff system that penalized countries that had a protective tariff against Canadian goods, and those that admitted Canadian goods at a minimum rate. He also implemented a huge immigration effort to settle the west, which would bring in hundreds of thousands of new Canadians over the course of the decade after 1896.
One of the biggest issues of the previous year before the election was the decision to send 1,000 Canadian volunteers to South Africa, with England taking on the cost of maintenance, to fight in the Boer War.
Charles Tupper, who had spent the previous four years as Leader of the Opposition, had done what he could to hold the party together during those years, but he knew that his time as leader was coming to an end and Laurier was simply too popular to defeat. The Conservatives were hopeful of an election upset considering the results were close enough in 1896. For that reason, they had asked Tupper to stay on as leader, despite the fact that in 1900, he was 79 years old. Another reason that the Liberals were sure of victory was that Canada was going through an economic boom, which started soon after the Liberals came to power. That boom continued through 1900, and would help to fuel the Liberal success for several elections to come.
Tupper would attack Laurier, ironically calling him “too English” The Liberals would also campaign on the slogan of “Union, Peace, Friendship and Fraternity.”
While the 1896 election had seen several different parties after the Conservative Party fractured amid the Manitoba Schools Question, the 1900 election saw the old stalwarts of the Conservatives and the Liberals going toe-to-toe. There were the usual group of independents, and the Labour Party, which had been formed after the 1896 election.
While the 1896 election was a decisive election, the 1900 election was a much more sedate affair. The issue of sending troops to the Boer War had been resolved, the Manitoba Schools Question had appeased most and was not an issue in Quebec four years after it nearly split the country. As such, there were no hard issues for the parties to campaign on. The Liberals built on their success from the previous election and the Conservatives did what they could to hold onto Ontario.
In the November 7 election, the Liberals increased their seat total to 128 seats, the highest for any political party since the Conservatives won 134 seats in 1882. They also increased their share of the popular vote, with 50.3 per cent, an increase of 8.9 per cent.
On the Conservative side of things, they lost seven seats, falling to 79 seats and their share of the popular vote fell two per cent to 46.1 per cent. The number of independents elected was also down, with only six elected total.
The Liberals once again dominated in Quebec, picking up 57 seats, while the Conservatives could only muster eight in total. The Conservatives continued to rely on Ontario to bring in seats, winning 47 while the Liberals picked up 34. Only in Ontario and Manitoba did the Conservatives beat the Liberals. In British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and on Prince Edward Island the Liberals held the majority of seats.
While Laurier entered his second term as Prime Minister of Canada, Tupper announced his resignation as leader of the Conservatives two days after the election. He would select a new man from Nova Scotia to lead the party, a man named Robert Borden.
Information from Dynasties and Interludes, Wikipedia, Biographi
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