- Third party (Canada)
Canada, a third party usually refers to a relatively small federal or provincial political party that is not considered to have a realistic chance of forming a government, but has representation in the federal House of Commons or the provincial legislature. However, due to the Parliamentary form of government, during minority governmentsituations, third parties may hold the balance of power, and thus exercise significant control over the government's policy.
In Canadian politics, the term "third party" is also sometimes used to refer to agents other than candidates and voters who participate in elections. For example, campaign advertisements funded by groups other than the parties and candidates running may be called "third party advertising". This term has become more prevalent recently, since the current Canadian Parliament has seated members from four different parties, making the usual usage less meaningful.
Federal third parties
On the federal level, since the formation of Canada in 1867, for most of the time the political scene has been dominated by the Liberal Party and the Progressive Conservative, and its successor, the modern Conservative Party. The first notable third party was the Progressive Party, which appeared in 1920 and had a strong showing in the 1921 elections coming second after the Liberal party. Its success did not last long, however: in the following election of 1925 the Progressive Party came only third, though it did hold the balance of power in the resulting minority government; by the mid-30s it has effectively disappeared.
Great Depressiontwo new third parties emerged: the democratic socialist Co-operative Commonwealth Federation(CCF), formed from the remnants of the Progressive Party, and the Social Credit Party of Canada, which sought reform of monetary policy. Both of these persisted for several decades, the Social Credit eventually disappearing by 1980s, and the CCF merging with the Canadian Labour Congressto form the social democratic New Democratic Party(NDP). The NDP played an important role in several minority governments and still exists today.
Following the 1993 election, the division between the "main" and the "third" parties started to break down, due to the poor showing by the Progressive Conservative Party and the rise of the Reform Party and the
Quebec-based Bloc Québécois. While the Bloc could never form a government because it never contested ridings outside Quebec, the Reform Party and its successor Canadian Alliancehad some modest success and eventually merged with the Progressive Conservative Party to form the new Conservative Party which forms the current federal government.
Although the term is rarely used now on the federal level, three of the five main parties could still be called "third parties": the
New Democratic Party, the Bloc Québécois, and the Green Party of Canada.
Provincial third parties
A number of provinces in Canada have a two-party system (that is, the two major political parties alternate governing, though the identity of these parties may change over time). Provinces west of
Quebechave, for most of the 20th and 21st centuries, had a three-party system, though the identity of these parties may have changed over time. For the most part, these are the provincial Liberals, provincial Progressive Conservatives and the NDP.
Provincial parties that may currently be considered third parties are:
Newfoundland and Labrador, the New Democratic Party of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Prince Edward Island, the Green Party of Prince Edward Island.
Nova Scotia, the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia
New Brunswick, the New Brunswick New Democratic Party.
Ontario, the Ontario New Democratic Party.
Manitoba, the Manitoba Liberal Party.
Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Liberal Party.
Alberta, the concept of a third party may be misleading since typically elections are not competitive between even two parties. All of Alberta’s past governments formed very long political dynasties, which then disappeared, never to hold power again. Currently, the Alberta New Democratic Party, with two members in the legislature is the third party in the legislature. Among parties not represented in the legislature, the Green Party of Albertaand Wildrose Alliance Party of Alberta, are especially prominent.
Quebec, the Action démocratique du Québec, third in the Quebec National Assembly, was considered the province's third party, despite briefly leading in public opinion polls in the early 2000s. However, a major realigning election in 2007 has propelled them to official opposition status.
Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Liberal Partyhas traditionally been one of the two major parties, along with the Progressive Conservative Association of Nova Scotia. However, in the 1999, 2003, and 2006 elections the NDP outperformed the Liberals each time, leading to the NDP and the Liberals to largely switch places in provincial elections. Also, during John Hamm's minority government after the 2003 election the Tories collaborated with the NDP instead of the Liberals, largely leaving them out of policy making decisions. Currently, only the NDP and the Tories can conceivably hold government.
British Columbia, the Green Party of British Columbiawas third in the 2005 election with over 9% of the popular vote, wherein the fourth finishing party and down all received less than 1%. It would generally be identified as the province's third party since at least that election. However, the Greens have never held a seat in the Legislative Assembly, while several others recently have. Since the 1991 election in chronological order, these were the British Columbia Social Credit Party, the Reform Party of British Columbia, the Progressive Democratic Alliance, and Democratic Reform British Columbia. Except for the PDA, these are all still registered parties.
tatus of provincial parties
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