A History of Newspaper Endorsements in Federal Election Campaigns

Originally published on Torontoist on October 16, 2015.

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Cartoon urging readers to defeat Louis St. Laurent’s Liberal government, the Globe and Mail, August 10, 1953.

In the offices of Toronto’s major dailies, editorial boards have been cracking their knuckles tapping out each paper’s official election endorsement. As this article was being written, those which have been published for the 2015 campaign have not strayed from their traditional stances: Liberal for the Star, Conservative for the Sun (which we also expect from the National Post based on other Postmedia papers), and head-scratching caveats from the Globe and Mail, a paper whose choices depend on who’s running the presses and which side of the bed the editorial board woke up on.

During the Victorian era, endorsements were hardly necessary. Party organs pushed their backer’s platform. The Globe filled this role for the Liberals under founder George Brown, while the Conservatives bounced from paper to paper (usually the Mail) as owners developed independent streaks or were deemed useless. Feistier, populist papers like the NewsTelegram, and the World supported the Conservatives, but did so on their own terms.

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Toronto Star, November 6, 2000.

Occasionally, a paper rose above the fray, determined to appear impartial by backing nobody. Having declared itself independent of the Tories prior to the 1887 election, the Mail used its editorial page to criticize hyper-partisanship in ways which are still relevant:

The party organs furnish some extremely entertaining reading just now. All agree that what the Mail says favourable to their side is correct, and all are equally of the opinion that what the Mail says against their gods is wrong. If the party press is to be believed, the sheep and the goats have already been separated. The righteous are in one political camp and the wicked in the other. This being the case, the people, it seems, have no right to enquire further into the merits of the applicants for their suffrages. They must be content with such one-sided information as they can get from the partisan press, and the journal which tells them the unvarnished truth is criminal, except, of course, when the truth it relates is pleasant to the taste.

Several 19th-century newspaper proprietors ran for office, which affected their picks. For example, when Telegram owner, John Ross Robertson, was approached to run by Tories in Toronto East disgruntled with leader Charles Tupper in 1896, the paper backed fellow “independent Conservative” candidates.

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How to fill out a ballot in Parkdale for the 1917 federal election. Graphics such as these were used by many papers to depict how they felt readers should vote. Toronto Star, December 14, 1917.

Wartime united all the major dailies together for the first time in 1917. Conservative Prime Minister Robert Borden’s successful overture to pro-conscription Liberals to form a Union government was viewed as a patriotic act. The degree of jingoism varied between papers, with the remaining Liberal rump depicted as an unpatriotic bunch spreading Quebec’s evil influence. The World’s endorsement gives a flowery idea of where our media stood:

No Canadian will ever be able to look another American in the face again, nor a Briton either, if the soldiers’ cause and the new government is not sustained on Monday. It is the duty of every voter to cast his ballot for that sacred resolution taken by the whole civilized world that the sword will never be sheathed until the cause for which it is unsheathed has been won. Let us stand apart from those who wait, with infamous treachery to our gallant dead, ready to sheathe the sword of Canada on Monday. Let us be a solid phalanx to stand behind our armies to give them good courage, good faith, and good cheer.

Until the 1920s, the Globe stood solidly behind the Liberals. When the Brown family sold the paper during the 1880s, the new owners understood that the Globe would be “in perpetual trust for the Liberal party to act as its mouthpiece.” This disintegrated when William Gladstone Jaffray gained control. He despised William Lyon Mackenzie King, partly because he felt our longest-serving prime minister was an opportunist who’d do anything to stay in power, and partly because King failed to push through bills banning what Jaffray saw as one of the greatest evils plaguing humanity: the publication of horse-racing results. The Globe refused to back anyone during the tight campaigns of 1925 and 1926, but returned to the Liberal fold during the Great Depression.

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Advertisement for George McCullagh radio speech where he supported the Tories and attacked the Toronto Star. The Telegram, June 23, 1949.

The Globe’s lasting break with the Liberals came after George McCullagh merged it with the Conservative Mail and Empire in 1936. The new owner had a messianic complex, regarding it his personal destiny to save Canada, a worldview that didn’t mix with the federal Grits. He naively believed the country needed a non-partisan, pro-imperalist government, which citizens would unquestioningly rely on to solve all of its problems. In 1940, McCullagh’s Globe and Mail officially backed nobody, urging voters to elect MPs willing to eventually participate in a coalition government as the Second World War wore on.

By war’s end, McCullagh backed the newly renamed Progressive Conservative party. His hyper-partisanship grew after purchasing the Telegram in 1948, as did his goal to drive the Liberal Star out of business. “I’m going to knock that fucking rag right off its pedestal,” he told his staff. The 1949 federal election showed both sides at their worst, as news coverage was distorted in a partisan manner unseen for decades. McCullagh puffed up Tory leader George Drew, and attacked the Star for being a Commie rag, which allegedly dodged sales tax payments. The Star responded by depicting Drew as being in league with wartime isolationists like Montreal Mayor Camillien Houde. One headline was so over the top that Star execs scratched it for late editions. When the campaign was over, editors at all the papers agreed to exile excessive partisanship to the editorial page.

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Dief as Nero. Cartoon by Duncan Macpherson, Toronto Star, April 6, 1963.

Endorsements rolled out as usual until 1963. Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s Progressive Conservatives were in disarray: an election the year before reduced them to a minority government, cabinet ministers fled the sinking ship, and the thin-skinned PM’s paranoia was operating at full tilt. The press’s desire to ditch Dief was so strong that, for the first time in its history, the Telegram backed the Liberals. In its March 30, 1963, editorial, the Tely declared that Diefenbaker had compromised the Progressive Conservatives’ principles so much “that Canada’s position at home and abroad will immeasurably deteriorate under his continued leadership.” The move confused longtime readers; one told columnist Douglas Fisher that the act was as if “devout Christians have had to face the fact that the Bible is a false, spurious document.” Publisher John Bassett’s decision also resulted in something that hadn’t happened since 1917: unanimous support for one party among all major Toronto dailies.

Bassett felt bad about the situation and sent Diefenbaker an apologetic response. Dief called him an SOB.

If the Tely’s support of the Liberals came as a shock in 1963, its rival’s turn in the opposite direction a decade later was equally stunning. The headline atop the Star’s October 19, 1972, editorial said it all: “After 50 Years—Liberals have forfeited our support.” Publisher Beland Honderich observed that the state of the Canadian economy under Pierre Trudeau was a shambles, and that poor management of foreign ownership threatened our nation’s independence. While dubious about both Progressive Conservative Leader Robert Stanfield and the NDP’s David Lewis, the Star sided with Stanfield (“an honest, sincere man”) for promising tax stimulus measures. “The easy way for a newspaper, as for a citizen, would be not to support any party in this election,” Honderich wrote. “But this is not a responsible course for a citizen in a democratic society—or for a newspaper that believes it has a responsibility to provide comment and opinions on the issues of the day.”

The Sun, covering its first election, hailed Honderich for “courage and the strength to break tradition. Canada may be better because of it.” Ironically, the Sun has never shown similar courage as federally it has never officially endorsed any party, other than the Canadian Alliance, which didn’t have “Conservative” in its name.

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Front page, Toronto Sun, February 3, 1980.

While the Globe backed Trudeau in 1972, it joined the Star and Sun on Stanfield’s side in 1974. Unfortunately for Stanfield, he literally fumbled the ball during that campaign. In 1979, the Star became the first Toronto paper to back the NDP (admiring its stands on social justice), but returned to its traditional Liberal support the following year.

As the political landscape realigned itself during the 1990s, our papers seemed lost. Both the Globe and Mail and the Sun continued to support the Progressive Conservatives after the party collapsed in 1993. But reading between the lines, it’s easy to see the editorial writers at both papers really wanted to back Reform and the Canadian Alliance, but felt they weren’t quite ready to hold power—they went out of their way to show that the new right movement weren’t evil, just occasionally wrong. Conducting strategic voting on the right passed for endorsements.

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Cartoon of Jean Chretien by Theo Moudakis, Toronto Star, November 25, 2000.

For elections where editorial writers united in feeling “meh” about the choices at hand, it’s hard to top the 2000 campaign. All endorsements came with heavy caveats. The Globe and Mail backed the Liberals as long as the party dumped Jean Chrétien in favour of Paul Martin ASAP. The Star, disappointed by a divisive campaign where none of the leaders impressed them, reluctantly stuck by the Grits; while Chretien was “an impediment to the renewal that Canadians seek,” the party “provided competent government and reflect the values Canadians cherish.” Though the Sun despised the Chrétien government, it believed Stockwell Day’s Canadian Alliance still wasn’t ready for prime time. It recommended right-wing strategic voting, backing whichever Canadian Alliance or Progressive Conservative candidates had the best chance of knocking off Liberals. Sun editor Lorrie Goldstein offered a list of 50 reasons voters should choose the “ABC” route: Anybody But Chretien.

Internal fissures were evident in the National Post, which was covering its first election. While columnists like Andrew Coyne, David Frum, and Mark Steyn favoured the Canadian Alliance, the paper officially endorsed a Liberal minority, while owner Izzy Asper penned a separate editorial promoting a Grit majority. The Post hoped that the NDP would lose their official party status “and one hopes their will to survive might go with it.” In the following elections, the Post lined up behind Stephen Harper.

Recent years have seen little deviation from traditional party lines, with the exception of the Star’s backing of the NDP in 2011. Sticking with the known has raised hackles among readers, especially when choices don’t mesh with public opinion. How much they still matter is debatable, but they offer an opportunity to argue about the role of the media in politics.

After having gone through nearly 150 years of election coverage, we’ve compiled stats on endorsements in Toronto’s major papers:

Globe/Globe and Mail
Elections: 42 (1867-present)
Liberal: 20; Conservative/Progressive Conservative: 17.5, Nobody: 3; Unionist: 1, Reform: 0.5
Endorsements realized: 21

Mail/Mail and Empire
Elections: 17 (1872-1935)
Conservative: 14; Nobody: 2; Unionist: 1
Endorsements realized: 6

Telegram
Elections: 25 (1878-1968)
Conservative/Progressive Conservative: 23; Liberal: 1; Unionist: 1
Endorsements realized: 11

News
Elections: 9 (1882-1917)
Conservative: 6; Nobody: 2; Unionist: 1
Endorsements realized: 4

World
Elections: 9 (1882-1917)
Conservative: 8; Unionist: 1
Endorsements realized: 5

Toronto Star
Elections: 35 (1896-present)
Liberal: 30; Conservative/Progressive Conservative: 2; NDP: 2; Unionist: 1
Endorsements realized: 20

Toronto Sun
Elections: 14 (1972-present)
Conservative/Progressive Conservative: 13.5; Canadian Alliance: 0.5
Endorsements realized:6

National Post
Elections: 6 (2000-present)
Conservative: 4; Liberal: 1
Endorsements realized: 4

Additional material from Scrum Wars by Allan Levine (Toronto: Dundurn, 1993); the February 7, 1887, edition of the Mail; the November 27, 2000, edition of the National Post; the October 19, 1972, May 21, 1979, and November 25, 2000, editions of the Toronto Star; the October 20, 1972, and November 26, 2000, editions of the Toronto Sun; the March 30, 1963, edition of the Telegram; and the December 15, 1917, edition of the Toronto World.

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Vintage Toronto Ads: Party Nomination Battles, 1926 Edition

Originally published on Torontoist on August 5, 2015.

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Mail and Empire, September 14, 1926.

The 1926 federal election campaign was going to be long and ugly. It was precipitated by a constitutional crisis, two brief minority governments, and a customs scandal involving bribery and booze. The two main party leaders—Conservative Arthur Meighen and Liberal William Lyon Mackenzie King—were mortal enemies whose war began as student debaters at the University of Toronto. Lasting over two months, the campaign witnessed vicious accusations, excessive media partisanship, and all the wonderful sides of humanity elections bring out.

In Toronto, the ugliness manifested itself in several ridings where more than one Conservative candidate ran. The noisiest battle was in Toronto Northeast, which covered the old City of Toronto north of Bloor Street and east of Bathurst Street.

When the election was called at the beginning of July 1926, the Conservatives held every seat in Toronto and York County. Incumbents elected the previous year, such as rookie Toronto Northeast MP Richard Langton Baker, expected to be acclaimed at nomination meetings. The first sign of trouble for Baker’s coronation occurred during a July 27 Toronto Northeast Conservative Association (TNCA) meeting, when Lieutenant-Colonel Newton Manley Young’s name was suggested as a potential candidate during a motion to support Baker. Accusations flew between supporters of both men during the next few weeks over unfair tactics.

By the time the official nomination meeting was held at the Masonic Temple at Yonge and Davenport on August 17, a third candidate had emerged. Speaking last, Baker sensed something was amiss. He dropped a bombshell during the final sentence of his speech. Baker declared, “I will not submit my name to this convention, but I will submit my name again to those who voted for me last October, for I will be nominated and I will be elected again by the 20,877.”

Shouts ranging from “Atta boy” to “He’s a traitor” echoed through the hall. Young received the nomination, thanks to the support of local ward associations and women in the audience. Despite urging party unity and denying rumours he was really a Catholic with Liberal leanings, Young was booed off the stage. The same treatment greeted Young supporter John Currie after he criticized Baker.

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The Globe, August 18, 1926.

Baker immediately bought newspaper ad space stating his interpretation of what had transpired. He filed a protest with the Central Conservative Association of Toronto (CCAT), claiming that neither delegate who nominated Young lived in the riding. He officially launched his campaign a few days later in North Toronto at a TNCA meeting, where some members noted irregularities in the distribution of delegate cards and demanded the resignation of the TNCA’s president. Baker refused to “lie down and allow a steam roller to run backward and forward over him.” He also grumbled that while he had recently heard the concept of “British fair play” uttered 10 times in as many minutes, it wasn’t fair play to dump him for no reason.

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The Globe, August 24, 1926.

The CCAT ignored Baker’s complaints and reaffirmed Young’s candidacy. The ensuing advertising war (a melodrama played out in the gallery above) trumpeted each man’s Conservative qualifications and loyalties. Both insisted Prime Minister Meighen backed their candidacy, though it was claimed Baker only quoted the first half of a telegram from Meighen—the balance stressed party unity.

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The Globe, September 2, 1926.

Baker depicted the party establishment as downtown “bosses” akin to the corrupt Tammany Hall political machine which ran New York City for decades. He also ran splashy rallies, including one at St. Alban’s Square in the Annex that included bagpipers and a cornet player. Alternately, Baker was accused of having paid for 143 party memberships during the 1925 campaign, and of trying to convert the TNCA into his own political machine.

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The Telegram, September 11, 1926.

Newspaper editorials across the political spectrum frowned upon the antics in Toronto Northeast. On the Liberal side, the Globe felt the row was “wholly degrading, and must result in lowering the tone of politics.” The Star observed that the shaky Conservative nomination process “does something to explain the often extraordinary selection of candidates which the Conservatives make in a city that should be able to send half-a-dozen men of cabinet rank to Ottawa, but scarcely ever sends even one.” It suggested that the Ministry of Justice launch an inquiry. The Telegram backed Young for his military service and promises to support veterans’ issues. They went overboard denouncing Baker, painting him as a mere civilian who opposed the public ownership of hydro and provided the Liberals with a wedge to split the Conservative vote. The Telegram saw a vote for Baker as a vote for Mackenzie King, who was frequently depicted as a traitor preparing to sell Canada out to the Americans (while Meighen was the saviour of the British Empire).

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The Globe, September 13, 1926.

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The Globe, September 14, 1926.

As the ballots were counted on September 14, numbers from North Toronto gave Baker a comfortable lead. Around 9 p.m., the faces at Young’s headquarters brightened when they were notified 1,000 votes had been miscounted. The votes from the south end reversed the results, and Young defeated Baker by over 1,100 votes. The Liberals failed to benefit from the split, as the combined Baker-Young total outpaced the Grits by over 12,000 votes.

“My idea of things is to win without boasting, and lose with a smile,” Young told the Globe. When a Telegram reporter visited Baker’s headquarters around 11 p.m. to check if the losing candidate was around, a worker replied “no, but there are a lot of undertakers around here just now.” Baker’s later response lacked grace: “Apparently the people do not want cleaner politics,” he muttered. Reflecting upon the Conservatives’ national loss to the Liberals, Baker observed that “[i]f the same effort had been made by the machine to defeat the forces of Mackenzie King in the other Ontario risings as was expended in Toronto Northeast the Conservative majorities would have brought more honour to the party.”

Baker spent the next few years mending fences with the party establishment. In 1930, he wrested the nomination from Young, and won the riding as part of R.B. Bennett’s national sweep. Moving to the new riding of Eglinton in 1935, he remained an MP until 1940.

Additional material from the July 28, 1926, August 18, 1926, August 19, 1926, August 23, 1926, September 10, 1926, and September 15, 1926 editions of the Globe; the September 15, 1926 edition of the Mail and Empire; the August 20, 1926, August 21, 1926, September 9, 1926, September 10, 1926, and September 15, 1926 editions of the Toronto Star; and the September 9, 1926, September 11, 1926, September 13, 1926, and September 15, 1926 editions of the Telegram.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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Mail and Empire, September 7, 1926.

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Mail and Empire, September 8, 1926.

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Mail and Empire, September 11, 1926.

Whacking Whitney While Keeping Drew Out

Originally published on Torontoist on October 5, 2011 with additional material mixed in.

Besides lawn signs and public meetings, newspaper advertisements have long been a preferred method for Ontario politicians to spread their message to the public. Whether it’s a simple promise to provide “good government” or a full platform requiring a magnifying glass to read, the press has offered a forum for candidates to make their case to voters as long as they paid for the ad. Today’s gallery shows the evolution of Ontario election ads from short notices in partisan papers to spots where the reproduction quality barely hides the lines of a candidate’s toupee (sorry Mel).

1886

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Richmond Hill Liberal, December 23, 1886.

Back in the 19th century, a candidate generally placed ads in publications slanted toward their political party. Such was the case with G.B. Smith, a Liberal endorsed by the Richmond Hill Liberal. It wouldn’t be a great shock to discover that the paper’s December 23, 1886 editorial portrayed him as “man whose every utterance is straight-forward and fair, for a man whose conduct is open and fearless, for a man whose character and abilities should commend themselves to all.” Voters in York East agreed—Smith represented the riding until 1894.

Results December 28, 1886:
Liberal (Oliver Mowat): 57 seats
Conservative (William Ralph Meredith): 32 seats
Other: 1 seat

1898

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Short , sweet, to the point. The voters fulfilled the Globe’s vow, as the Liberals won their eighth consecutive term in office and their first without longtime premier Oliver Mowat at the helm. Conservative leader James Pliny Whitney was whacked again in the 1902 election, then finally won the premiership in 1905.

Results March 1, 1898:
Liberal (Arthur Hardy): 51 seats
Conservative (James Pliny Whitney): 42 seats
Other: 1 seat

1905

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News, January 24, 1905.

Liberal candidate Hugh Blain claimed nasty things were afoot in North Toronto as the campaign drew to a close. A poster entitled “Will Hugh Blain Deny” that alleged the candidate took advantage of government subsidies for beet sugar was circulated by Conservative supporters of incumbent MPP Dr. Beattie Nesbitt. Attacks on the Grits were common during an election that saw the end of 34 years of Liberal government. Nesbitt won, but he resigned his seat a year later to accept an appointment as registrar of West Toronto.

Results January 25, 1905:
Conservative (James Pliny Whitney): 69 seats
Liberal (George William Ross): 28 seats
Other: 1 seat

1919

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The Globe, October 18, 1919.

The first postwar election was accompanied by a referendum on the prohibition of alcohol, which the province had enacted three years earlier. There were four questions regarding varying degrees of repeal, from dumping the Ontario Temperance Act altogether, to allowing beer to be sold through the government. Voting on each question ranged from 60 to 67 percent against bringing legal booze back.

Results October 20, 1919:
United Farmers of Ontario (no official leader): 44 seats
Liberal: (Hartley Dewart): 27 seats
Conservative (William Hearst): 25 seats
Labour (Walter Rollo): 11 seats
Other: 4 seats

1923

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Toronto Star, June 23, 1923.

Voters didn’t heed Groves’s ad, as she finished second in Toronto Northwest, with 20.9% of the ballots. Her candidacy was attacked by the Telegram for ‘grossly violating” laws which prohibited political activity in schools. Brock Avenue School principal D.W. Armstrong posted a note on a bulletin board urging staff to support Groves, who ran for the Progressive Party. Armstrong accepted all responsibility. “Mrs. Groves did not speak to me about it and in no way have I heard from her in connection with the campaign,” he told the Star. “If it was an error it was mine and I must take the consequences.” Groves she had not campaigned in any schools, but was aware of support from teachers.

Results June 25, 1923:
Conservative (Howard Ferguson): 75 seats
United Farmers of Ontario/Labour (E.C. Drury): 21 seats
Liberal (Wellington Hay): 14 seats
Other: 1 seat

1926

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Toronto Star, November 30, 1926.

Alcohol was the key issue of the 1926 campaign. Premier Howard Ferguson ‘s Conservatives proposed repealing the act to allow government sales, which led to ads like this one. Killjoy drys were overruled in this election: Ferguson won a majority and introduced the Liquor License Act in March 1927, which led to the birth of the LCBO.

Results December 1, 1926:
Conservative (Howard Ferguson): 72 seats
Liberal (W.E.N. Sinclair): 15 seats
Other: 12 seats
Progressive (William Raney): 10 seats
United Farmers of Ontario (Leslie Oke): 3 seats

1934

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The Enterprise, June 13, 1934.

Proof scare tactics can backfire on a party: Premier George Stewart Henry (whose name lives on in the North York neighbourhood named after his farm) saw his party’s fortunes collapse as the Conservatives dropped from 90 to 17 seats against the populist appeal of Mitch Hepburn’s Liberals.

Results June 19, 1934:
Liberal (Mitch Hepburn): 65 seats
Conservative (George Stewart Henry) 17 seats
Liberal-Progressive (Harry Nixon): 4 seats
Other: 4 seats

1943

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Globe and Mail, August 4, 1943.

Governor-generals have to start somewhere. Though unsuccessful in his 1943 campaign against future Toronto Mayor William Dennison, Roland Michener was elected to Queen’s Park two years later.

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Toronto Star, August 3, 1943. 

Following its opposition to Canada’s entry into World War II, the Communist Party of Canada was officially banned in 1940. Despite this, candidates continued to run in federal and provincial elections. In Toronto, A.A. MacLeod (Bellwoods) and J.B. Salsberg (St. Andrew), who advertised themselves as “Labour” candidates, won their ridings. Shortly after the election, they agreed to sit as MPPs for the Communists’ new legal entity, the Labour-Progressive Party.

Results August 4, 1943:
Progressive Conservative (George Drew): 38 seats
CCF (Ted Jolliffe): 34 seats
Liberal (Harry Nixon): 15 seats
Labour-Progressive (no leader): 2 seats
Other: 1 seat

1945

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Toronto Star, June 2, 1945.

Building on the success of MacLeod and Salsberg in the 1943 election, the Labour-Progressive Party ran 31 candidates across the province, some of whom were allied with Mitch Hepburn’s Liberals. They failed to keep Drew out, as the Conservatives returned with a majority government. Part of the Tories’ success may have been due to a radio speech given by CCF leader Ted Jollife which accused Drew of establishing a “Gestapo” within the Ontario Provincial Police to keep watch on the opposition. The speech backfired on Jolliffe, though evidence was found years later to support his claims of government spying.

Results June 4, 1945:
Progressive Conservative (George Drew): 66 seats
Liberal (Mitch Hepburn): 14 seats
CCF (Ted Jolliffe): 8 seats
LPP (Leslie Morris): 2 seats

1948

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Toronto Star, June 5, 1948.

However, Drew lost his own seat to CCF candidate/temperance zealot Bill Temple in High Park. He quickly went into federal politics and won the federal Tory leadership. Peel MPP Thomas Kennedy served as interim premier until Leslie Frost became party leader the following spring.

Other notable candidates featured in this ad include CCF leader Ted Jollifee (running in a seat that another CCF/NDP party leader, Bob Rae, would hold), Agnes Macphail (Canada’s first female MP and one of Ontario’s first pair of female MPPs), Reid Scott (at 21, then the youngest MPP in Ontario history), and William Dennison (future mayor of Toronto).

Results June 7, 1948:
Progressive Conservative (George Drew): 53 seats
Liberal (Farquhar Oliver): 14 seats
CCF (Ted Jolliffe): 21 seats
LPP (no leader): 2 seats

1951

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Weston Times and Guide, November 8, 1951.

The province didn’t feel the same chill: Premier Leslie Frost’s Progressive Conservatives won all but 11 of the 90 seats at Queen’s Park.

Results November 22, 1951:
Progressive Conservative (Leslie Frost): 79 seats
Liberal (Walter Thomson): 8 seats
CCF (Ted Jolliffe): 2 seats
LPP (Stewart Smith): 1 seat

1963

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Don Mills Mirror, September 18, 1963.

Yes, the colour of margarine was once considered a major election issue, though butter-hued oil spread was not 100% legal in Ontario until 1995. The ’63 campaign was the first for John Robarts after succeeding Leslie Frost. Note the promises related to the Toronto area—Robarts flipped the switch when the Bloor-Danforth line opened three years later.

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Don Mills Mirror, August 14, 1963.

While Jim Service was unsuccessful in his run for the provincial legislature, he would serve North York as reeve and mayor from 1965 to 1969.

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Don Mills Mirror, September 18, 1963.

1963 was the first provincial election for the NDP, having changed its name from the CCF two years earlier. Party leader Donald MacDonald stayed through the transition, remaining in charge until 1970.

Results September 25, 1963:
Progressive Conservative (John Robarts): 77 seats
Liberal (John Wintermeyer): 24 seats
NDP (Donald MacDonald): 7 seats

1967

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Globe and Mail, October 16, 1967.

At least two of the “action politicians” were or would be easily recognized by the public. Stephen Lewis would win a second term in Scarborough West. Three years later, he became party leader. Over in High Park, Dr. Morton Shulman ran after he was fired from his role as Ontario’s chief coroner earlier in the year for embarrassing the government over inadequate fire protection in a new hospital. Shulman’s crusading medical career had also inspired a popular CBC drama, Wojeck.

Results October 17, 1967:
Progressive Conservative (John Robarts): 69 seats
Liberal (Robert Nixon): 28 seats
NDP (Donald MacDonald): 20 seats

1971

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Don Mills Mirror, October 6, 1971.

The Progressive Conservatives earned their ninth consecutive mandate under new leader William Davis, whose team. All of the candidates pictured in this ad, except for Deane (who lost to veteran Liberal Vern Singer) joined Davis at Queen’s Park. Timbrell ran for the party leadership twice in 1985, losing to Frank Miller in January and Larry Grossman in November.

Results October 21, 1971:
Progressive Conservative (William Davis): 78 seats
Liberal (Robert Nixon): 20 seats
NDP (Stephen Lewis): 19 seats

1975

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Toronto Star, September 16, 1975.

Who’s a better provincial candidate than Mel Lastman? EVVVERYBODY! Well, actually former Toronto mayor Philip Givens, who won Armourdale for the Liberals in election that produced Ontario’s first minority government since 1943.

Results September 18, 1975:
Progressive Conservative (William Davis): 51 seats
NDP (Stephen Lewis): 38 seats
Liberal (Robert Nixon): 36 seats

Vintage Toronto Ads: Election Central ’68

Originally published on Torontoist on November 6, 2012.


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American presidential candidates, 1968. Left to right: George Wallace (American Independent), Richard Nixon (Republican), Hubert Humphrey (Democratic). Toronto Star, November 5, 1968.

It’s election day south of the border, which means many Torontonians will spend tonight glued to televisions or to social media, awaiting the results of an endless campaign. Among tonight’s options for analysis is CBC, which provided plenty of coverage during a three-way presidential race 44 years ago—even if most of it came from another broadcaster.

Viewers settling in for the evening on November 5, 1968 witnessed the final chapter of a tense race. Democrat Hubert Humphrey’s campaign hadn’t made anyone forget the battles between police and antiwar protestors at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Republican Richard Nixon had vowed to the media that they didn’t “have Nixon to kick around anymore” after his defeat in the 1962 California gubernatorial contest. Former Alabama Governor George Wallace, whose pro-segregation platform emphasized law and order, had mounted a strong third-party challenge. When the ballots were counted, Nixon carried 32 states, Humphrey 13, Wallace 5.

In Toronto, CBC television carried NBC’s election feed. To fill the peacock’s commercial breaks, the public broadcaster offered analysis from Washington correspondents Knowlton Nash and Gordon Donaldson. While the Globe and Mailpraised Nash’s solid commentary, the paper felt that NBC anchors David Brinkley and Chet Huntley lacked the “person to person strength” of CBS’s Walter Cronkite.

Star TV critic Patrick Scott preferred ABC’s coverage, citing the concise analysis of anchor Howard K. Smith and the reunion of the “incomparable comedy team” of guest commentators William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal following their combative performance during the Republican National Convention. “If you are going to go with NBC anyway,” Scott observed, “you might as well go with it all the way and spare yourself the tortures of the CBC’s guest commentator, a sort of pauper’s combination of Buckley and Vidal called Tony Howard, whom I can only assume Knowlton Nash found on his doorstep on Hallowe’en.”

Additional material from the November 6, 1968 editions of the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

gm 68-11-06 election coverage

Globe and Mail, November 6, 1968.

ts 68-11-06 analysis of cbc coverage

Toronto Star, November 6, 1968.

Election Results, 1930s Style

Originally published on Torontoist on April 29, 2011.

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Newsstand at the northeast corner of King and Bay, November 9, 1931. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 58, Item 1289.

How will you discover the latest election results on Monday night? Watch them on television? Head to the neighbourhood bar? Follow Torontoist’s coverage? Take the matter into your own hands and tweet the early returns to the entire world? OK, maybe you should be careful with that last option—if a tattletale rats you out, an Elections Canada official may reward you with a hefty fine, since social media is off-limits while the west coast is still voting.

Back in 1930, early reporting wasn’t a problem. The internet hadn’t been invented yet, Canada didn’t have a national broadcasting network, any telegraph and telephone operators who sent early results to the west wouldn’t have faced any harsh legal penalties, as section 329 of the Canada Elections Act wasn’t enacted for another eight years.

How did Torontonians satisfy their election night curiosity at the dawn of the Great Depression? Thanks to the city’s four daily newspapers, voters who cast their ballots on July 28, 1930, had two options: listen to special radio broadcasts in the comfort of their homes, or join the crowds gathered outside the cluster of press buildings around King and Bay to find out if Conservative leader R.B. Bennett would topple the Liberal government of William Lyon Mackenzie King.

For those in a partying mood, the liveliest festivities were found at the Star’s new headquarters at 80 King Street West (now the site of First Canadian Place). Four screens were set up: one for typed bulletins with the latest results, one utilizing a telautograph (an ancestor of the fax machine) “by which the actual writing of the operator at the telegraph wire is made visible to the crowd,” and two movie screens. To soothe those who were anxious and to entertain those who were bored waiting for the results, a 22-piece orchestra was on hand. For readers who couldn’t make it downtown, the Star set up two screens at Fairmount Park at Bowmore Road and Gerrard Street East (one featuring the latest bulletins, the other comedies), which were accompanied by diversions ranging from a military band to a ladies’ softball game. Coverage on the Star’s radio station, CFCA, was anchored by hockey broadcasting pioneer Foster Hewitt.

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Mail and Empire building, northwest corner of Bay and King streets, December 30, 1913. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 2037.

A few doors east of the Star at the northwest corner of King and Bay, the Mail and Empire didn’t add any frilly touches to its offerings, apart from a loudspeaker that played music and a platform for candidates to address the crowd. Results were screened across the street on the side of Cawthra House. The paper promised that during its four hours on air over radio station CKNC, there wouldn’t be any breaks from its election coverage for regular programming—“lulls, if any, between results will be filled in with music.”

The opposite was true of the Telegram’s radio plan. Listeners of CKGW were promised that there would be little disruption to the programs they normally enjoyed on a Monday night, as updates from the Tely intruded for three brief election bulletins. Meanwhile, down at the Tely’s office at Bay and Melinda (now occupied by Commerce Court), results were flashed on the side of the building. Breaks were filled by movies, projected drawings sketched on the spot by the paper’s cartoonists, and live music courtesy of the 48th Highlanders. (We wonder if any of the pro-Bennett blurbs the paper used as space fillers during the campaign—such as “British Bankers Back Bennett…So Should You” and “Vote Bennett and a Boom/Oust W.L.M. King and Gloom”—were projected on “the old lady of Melinda Street.”)

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Advertisements, the Globe, July 26, 1930 (left); the Globe, July 28, 1930 (right).

The Globe, then located at 64 Yonge Street, projected returns for the public via a stereopticon (or magic lantern) onto a canvas hanging on the Melinda Street side of the Dominion Bank Building (now One King West). Seven phone lines were set up to provide returns for eager callers. The paper promised that for its radio coverage on CFRB, “Special preparations have been made to make the radio newscast as rapid and accurate as human ingenuity and the super-powered equipment of CFRB will permit.” Regardless of which way the vote went, readers were promised that Prime Minister King would provide a short radio message once the results were in.

That speech turned out to be a concession address, as Bennett emerged the victor. While the result may have disappointed ardent followers mulling outside the Liberal-leaning Globe, we suspect the crowd was jubilant outside the staunchly Tory Telegram. Despite each paper’s fierce partisanship, no fights between neighbouring left-leaning Star readers and right-leaning Mail and Empire fans were reported. If there were any bitter feelings, voters bottled them up until the internet comments section was invented.

Additional material from the July 28, 1930, edition of the Globe; the July 26, 1930, edition of the Mail and Empire; the July 26, 1930, and July 28, 1930, editions of theTelegram; and the July 28, 1930, edition of the Toronto Star.

Vintage Toronto Ads: A Checklist for Discriminating Voters

Originally published on Torontoist on April 26, 2011.

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The Telegram, June 8, 1957.

As the federal election campaign hits its final week, one of the big stories is a series of polls that shows a rise in the NDP’s popularity. Whether the party will retain its current momentum and wind up with a substantial increase in seats remains to be seen. Digging around for old party election ads, we discovered a “checklist for discriminating voters” that the NDP’s predecessor, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) provided for electors back in 1957. While there was a crest of support for an opposition party that year, the tide went with John Diefenbaker’s Progressive Conservatives.

By the 1950s, the CCF wielded influence on social welfare policy that far outweighed its representation on Parliament Hill, and the party was not shy taking credit for inspiring legislation passed by the Liberal administrations of Mackenzie King and Louis St. Laurent. During a party convention in Winnipeg in 1956, the delegates updated parts of the Regina Manifesto to reflect current realities and to make these policies less scary to voters who thought the CCF were no better than Communists: threats to eradicate capitalism were changed to policies supporting public ownership wherever most appropriate.

One claim leveled at the CCF during the 1957 campaign is one which still plagues the NDP (or did until recently, perhaps): that a vote for the party is a wasted ballot. Though aimed specifically at voters in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, a press release from Saskatchewan Premier Tommy Douglas could have applied to dithering voters in Toronto too:

In this constituency you are being told that you will be wasting your vote by voting CCF. The fact remains that over the past quarter of a century every important economic reform and every piece of progressive social legislation has been popularized by the CCF and has been forced upon a timid and reluctant government. The Liberal Party does not need a bigger majority. What it needs is to be shaken out of its complacency and indifference.

With limited resources to run a federal campaign, the CCF relied more on dedicated volunteers than hired staff. Newspaper ads such as today’s featured item appeared in conjunction with one of the party’s few CBC radio and television spots. Maybe the party should have plastered each candidate’s photo in this ad, as the other major parties did: the best results local CCF candidates mustered were second-place finishes in Danforth and Greenwood. The party lost the only local seat it won in the previous election (York South, where MP Joseph Noseworthy served until his death in March 1956) and would not win again federally until future party leader David Lewis recaptured it in 1962.

Nationally, the results were slightly brighter: the CCF gained two seats for 25 overall. The party’s most stunning performance in Ontario was in Port Arthur, where schoolteacher (and future Telegram and Sun parliamentary columnist) Douglas Fisher knocked off “minister of everything” C.D. Howe.

Additional material from The Canadian General Election of 1957 by John Meisel (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1962).

Vintage Toronto Ads: The Rise and Fall of a Diefenbaker MP

Originally published on Torontoist on April 19, 2011.

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Don Mills Mirror, June 6, 1957.

If you think we’ve headed to the polls one too many times to elect a federal government over the past decade, then you’ll feel a twinge of sympathy for the average Canadian voter who had the opportunity to exercise his or her democratic privilege five times between 1957 and 1965.

The unifying figure through all of those elections was Progressive Conservative leader John Diefenbaker and his roller-coaster ride of popularity. Running alongside him: a Metro Toronto candidate whose fortunes mirrored those of Dief the Chief.

And so, a chronicle of five elections in five election ads…

1957: Frank McGee had politics in his blood. One grandfather served as an MP for eight years, while another was the longest serving Clerk of the Privy Council in Canadian history. His great uncle was assassinated Father of Confederation D’Arcy McGee. His father-in-law was Senator Grattan O’Leary. Shortly before his 32nd birthday, department store merchandise buyer McGee was chosen to carry the Progressive Conservative banner in York-Scarborough. During the February 25 nomination meeting, McGee promised to hold Liberal incumbent Frank Enfield accountable on the government’s role in the pipeline debate and the Suez crisis. The vigour of the national Tory campaign, as opposed to the stay-the-course mode the Liberals adopted, must have left an impression on York-Scarborough voters, as McGee received the largest personal majority in the country on June 10 (just under 20,000 votes more than Enfield).

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Don Mills Mirror, June 13, 1957.

Of the 18 seats in Metro Toronto, the Tories captured all but one (rookie Liberal Stanley Haidasz won Trinity). Twenty-two years of Liberal rule was replaced with a Diefenbaker-headed minority government.

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Don Mills Mirror, March 13, 1958.

1958: McGee and Diefenbaker experienced a record-breaking election night. When the ballots were counted on March 31, the Tories captured a record number of seats—with 208 seats out of 265, they still hold the federal record for the highest seat percentage in an election. Every seat in Metro Toronto went blue. York-Scarborough voters did their part by giving McGee the largest majority ever received up to that time in a single riding as he defeated Enfield by 35,377 votes (the current record holder is Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua, who crushed his closest opponent in York North by 51,389 votes in 1993). During the 24th Parliament, McGee introduced a private member’s bill to abolish capital punishment. Though McGee’s proposal met the fate usually meted out to such bills, it helped pave the way for the eventual abolition of the death penalty.

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Toronto Star, June 13, 1962.

1962: It didn’t take long for internal squabbling and Diefenbaker`s penchant for nursing grudges to cause rancor within the Tories. As John Duffy summed up in his book Fights of Our Lives, by 1962 “John Diefenbaker was already the doomed Tory hero, wrapped in a Union Jack and battling alone against the dragons of Americanization, big business, and technology itself.” Diefenbaker’s government was reduced to a minority, thanks to a resurgent Liberal party and the success of Social Credit in Quebec. Of the 20 candidates shown in this ad, only McGee and six others headed to Ottawa to take their place in Diefenbaker’s minority government. Our man’s margin of victory dropped to just over 5,000 votes over the resurgent Liberals. In the short-lived session that followed, McGee served as parliamentary secretary to the minister of citizenship and immigration.

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Don Mills Mirror, April 3, 1963.

1963: Shortly before Diefenbaker’s minority government fell amid disarray over nuclear defence policy, McGee was made a minister without portfolio. By this point, he was campaigning on his own merits without comparisons to Diefenbaker. Voters decided that McGee wasn’t a good enough MP as he lost to Liberal Maurice Moreau by 21,500 votes. He wasn’t the only Tory out of a job; Diefenbaker lost the reins of power to Lester Pearson. Following his defeat, McGee became a political columnist covering the Conservative point of view for the Toronto Star and hosted a public affairs program on CBC Television.

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Don Mills Mirror, October 27, 1965.

1965: When another election loomed, McGee left his media gigs in an attempt to regain his old seat. There’s no mention of Diefenbaker in McGee’s ad, which may reflect the ever-increasing animosity within the party toward the former PM. Local officials blamed Diefenbaker for turning local voters away from McGee, who was tied with Liberal Robert Stanbury for a time before losing by just under 4,000 votes. Still, it was a slight improvement on McGee’s performance in ’63, just as the Tories modestly upped their standing in the House of Commons by a couple of seats.

McGee came oh-so-close to returning to office during his final political run in the suburban riding of Ontario (which included parts of present-day Durham Region stretching from Pickering to Uxbridge) in 1972, but lost to the Liberals by four votes in a recount. Before his death in 1999, McGee also served as an executive at a public relations firm, a member of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, and a citizenship judge in Toronto.

Additional material from Fights of Our Lives by John Duffy (Toronto: HarperCollins, 2002), the November 10, 1965, edition of the Don Mills Mirror, and the February 26, 1957, edition of the Toronto Star.