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Minority setback for Diefenbaker, Tories in 1962

Serious, captivating and at times downright nasty, the political roadshow known as the federal elections never fails to entertain. Politicians crisscross the country making impassioned speeches and grand promises in an attempt to woo voters. From Mackenzie King to Stephen Harper, CBC Archives examines the turning points, missteps and victories in Canada's federal elections.

Four years after a stunning majority win, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker returns to the polls to seek a second mandate from Canadians. His Liberal opponent once more is Lester Pearson, but the 1962 campaign sees a new player on the federal stage: the New Democratic Party, led by former Saskatchewan premier Tommy Douglas.

When it all shakes out, Diefenbaker is humbled by the narrow margin of victory for his Progressive Conservatives. Douglas, who failed to win his seat, is unbowed by the result. In this election-night recap, he quotes an English ballad: "I will lay me down and bleed a while, and then I'll rise and fight again." 

• The final seat tally in the 1962 election was: Progressive Conservatives, 116; Liberals, 99; Social Credit, 30; NDP, 18; others, two.

• According to the Globe and Mail, the 1962 election was the most expensive ever to that point.

• In the days following the election, Diefenbaker told reporters he intended to follow the example set in 1921 by William Lyon Mackenzie King in running his minority government. With support by the Progressive party, King remained in power for four years before the next election.

• Ten months after the 1962 election, Diefenbaker's minority government fell when the Liberals and NDP joined forces in a February 1963 confidence vote. An editorial in the Globe and Mail suggested that given Diefenbaker's indecision as prime minister - the "precipitating factor" in the government's defeat - he was unfit to lead his party in another election. He held on, however, and fought the next two elections in 1963 and 1965. 

• Tommy Douglas lost his bid for a seat in Regina by about 10,000 votes. Four months later he ran again in a by-election in Burnaby-Coquitlam, B.C., and won.
Medium: Television
Program: Document
Broadcast Date: Sept. 16, 1962
Guest(s): John Diefenbaker, Tommy Douglas, Lester B. Pearson
Producer: Douglas Leiterman
Duration: 8:34

Last updated: September 17, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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