The Pollcast: The story of Canada's first elections

As Canada celebrates its 150th year since Confederation, Pollcast host Éric Grenier is joined by Carleton University's Jon Pammett and Ryerson University's Patrice Dutil to discuss when Canadians first voted.

Host Éric Grenier is joined by Jon Pammett of Carleton University and Patrice Dutil of Ryerson University

Conservative campaign poster from 1891 featuring Prime Minister John A. Macdonald. (Library and Archives Canada)

The CBC Pollcast, hosted by CBC poll analyst Éric Grenier, explores the world of electoral politics, political polls and the trends they reveal.

Debates over trade with the United States, concerns over national unity, winning political slogans and leader-centric campaigns — Canadian elections 150 years ago had many similarities to the votes we have today.

Canada's first elections after Confederation in 1867 established the foundations of today's political party system, dominated by two national parties whose leaders personified what it meant to be a Liberal or a Conservative.

But not everything was the same. The first elections took place over several weeks. Some votes had to be cast publicly. Only a tiny proportion of the population was eligible to vote and representing both a provincial and a federal riding — even when you're the premier — was allowed.

To discuss how Canadian elections have changed and how they have stayed the same, as well as the history of Canada's first political dynasty under John A. Macdonald and the transition to Liberal rule under Wilfrid Laurier, Pollcast host Éric Grenier is joined by political science professor Jon Pammett of Ottawa's Carleton University and Patrice Dutil, professor of politics and public administration at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Listen to the full discussion above — or subscribe to the CBC Pollcast and listen to past episodes.

Follow Éric Grenier on Twitter.


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