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Liberal Party of Canada leadership election, 1948

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Title: Liberal Party of Canada leadership election, 1948  
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Subject: Louis St. Laurent, James Garfield Gardiner, Charles Gavan Power, Canadian federal election, 1949, Canadian federal election, 1953, Gordon Fogo
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Liberal Party of Canada leadership election, 1948

Liberal leadership election, 1948
Date August 7, 1948
Convention Ottawa
Resigning leader William Lyon Mackenzie King
Won by Louis St. Laurent
Ballots 1
Candidates 3

The 1948 Liberal Party of Canada leadership election was called to replace retiring Liberal leader and sitting Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King. The convention was held exactly 29 years after the 1919 leadership convention that saw King elected Liberal leader.

Secretary of State for External Affairs Louis St. Laurent defeated Minister of Agriculture (and former Premier of Saskatchewan) James Garfield Gardiner and former cabinet minister Charles Gavan Power on the first ballot, and would be sworn in as Prime Minister later that year.


James Garfield Gardiner

James Garfield Gardiner

Premier of Saskatchewan (1926–1929, 1934–1935)
MP for Melville, Saskatchewan (1940–1958)
MP for Assiniboia, Saskatchewan (1936–1940)
Minister of Agriculture (1935–1957)

Gardiner called for increased immigration and closer ties to the United Kingdom. His support was strongest in Alberta, British Columbia, and his home province of Saskatchewan, and he was seen as St. Laurent's primary competition. His convention speech, which went over the allotted 20 minutes, asked for a change to be the party's "spark plug." King campaigned hard against Gardiner, calling his campaign "ruthless and selfish," and criticized his tactics.[1]

Charles Gavan Power

Charles Gavan Power

MP for Quebec South, Quebec (1917–1955)
Senator for Gulf, Quebec (1955–1968)
Minister of Pensions and National Health (1935–1939)
Postmaster General (1939–1940)
Minister of National Defence for Air (1940–1944)
Associate Minister of National Defence (1940–1944)

During World War II, Power had resigned from cabinet amidst the Conscription Crisis of 1944 due to his opposition to conscription. Power left the Liberals to sit as an "Independent Liberal," and was elected as such during the 1945 election. Following the war, Power rejoined the Liberals. His convention speech called for electoral reform (including placing limits on campaign spending), and called on the party to return to its policy of protecting individual rights.[1]

Louis St. Laurent

Louis St. Laurent

MP for Quebec East, Quebec (1942–1958)
Minister of Justice and Attorney General (1941–1946, 1948)
Secretary of State for External Affairs (1946–1948)

St. Laurent was King's personal choice, and King campaigned hard for St. Laurent to win. King lobbied hard behind the scenes, reversing his earlier pledge not to vote on the first ballot and convincing various other cabinet ministers (as seen below) to enter the race and withdraw in favour of St. Laurent. St. Laurent's support was seen as strong throughout the country, especially Ontario and Quebec. St. Laurent's convention speech told delegates that his government would fight to prevent the spread of communism abroad, and that the Liberals were the only party capable of bridging the gap between English Canada and French Canada, and respect provincial rights.[1]

Withdrawn candidates

King, in his behind the scenes attempt to swing the convention in favour of St. Laurent, convinced the following candidates to run for the leadership but withdraw at the convention to support St. Laurent:[1]


First Ballot
Candidate Delegate Support Percentage
ST. LAURENT, Louis Stephen 848 69.1%
GARDINER, James Garfield 323 26.3%
POWER, Charles Gavan 56 4.6%
Total 1,227 100%


  1. ^ a b c d "1948 Liberal Convention". CPAC. Retrieved April 24, 2014. 
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