Originally published on Torontoist on April 12, 2011.
The Globe, September 13, 1926.
“Ensure stable government.” Isn’t stable government what the present-day Conservative party is promising if you vote for them during the 2011 election campaign? Some things never change…
Mind you, the situation when voters went to the polls on September 14, 1926, was volatile. It was the second election campaign in less than a year, thanks to a highly unstable parliament. Despite coming in second place after the vote on October 29, 1925, William Lyon Mackenzie King’s Liberals clung to power with the backing of Progressive party MPs. King’s government faced a never-ending series of non-confidence votes launched by the Conservatives, which finally looked like they were going to succeed after a report regarding a scandal over booze smuggling at a federal customs warehouse was presented to the House of Commons in June 1926. What followed was the constitutional crisis known as the King-Byng affair, which one usually needs a scorecard to follow.
In the midst of procedural mayhem, Conservative leader Arthur Meighen assumed power for three days before falling to another non-confidence vote and being granted the dissolution of parliament that Governor General Lord Byng had just refused to give King. During the campaign, King worked out arrangements with the Progressives and strong farmer/labour candidates so that in ridings where one party was stronger, the other wouldn’t run (hence the reason for the majority of the 48 blacked-out ridings in the map above).
As John Duffy noted when he profiled the campaign in his book Fights of Our Lives, “For many reform-minded electors, the three-day Meighen government of 1926 had shown that the hated Tories had a chance at power as long as the Liberals and Progressives remained divided; voting Progressive seemed a luxury to be indulged when the Tories were safely off in third place, as in 1921, but not now.” Meighen initially focused on attacking Liberal corruption, but when that ran out of steam he pulled out the patriotism-to-Britain card and attacked King for being a rebel like his grandfather William Lyon Mackenzie.
Meighen’s plea for a stable government succeeded…for King, who, with a handful of Progressives who ran under the Liberal-Progressive banner, easily formed a majority. Toronto did not succumb to King’s charms, as all of the Conservative candidates listed in today’s ad won. The tightest race was in York North, where Thomas Herbert Lennox defeated Liberal Henry Arthur Sifton by less than 300 votes (King had held the seat from 1921 to 1925). Others on the local Conservative slate included three former mayors of Toronto (Church, Hocken, and Geary), and a rookie whose parliamentary career lasted into the space age (McGregor, who served as an MP until 1962).
Additional material from Fights of Our Lives by John Duffy (Toronto: HarperCollins, 2002).
In an earlier post, I covered the nasty fight for the Conservative nomination in Toronto Northeast in 1926, which played itself out in newspaper advertising. And stay tuned for another tale of the ’26 campaign in Toronto…
The Globe, September 11, 1926.
The Globe, September 11, 1926.
Ads published on the same day for the Conservatives and Liberals. The Tories harped on the previous year’s customs scandal (which involved corruption at the federal customs department), while the Liberals touted their achievements and upcoming goals.