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Conservative Party of Quebec (historical)

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Conservative Party of Quebec
Parti conservateur du Québec
Founded1867; 157 years ago (1867)
Dissolved1936; 88 years ago (1936)
Preceded byParti bleu
Merged intoUnion Nationale
Political positionRight-wing

The Conservative Party of Quebec (French: Parti conservateur du Québec) was a political party in Quebec, Canada, from 1867 until 1936, when it merged with members of the Action libérale nationale to form the Union Nationale.


The party originated as the Parti bleu which was formed around 1850. The parti bleu opposed the anti-clericalism of its rival, the parti rouge.

The parti bleu supported the role of the clergy in Quebec society. Members of the parti bleu, led by George-Étienne Cartier from Canada East, joined with the followers of Sir John A. Macdonald in Canada West to form a coalition government with Cartier as co-premier from 1857 to 1862. It was out of this coalition that the Conservative Party was formed (then known as the Liberal-Conservative Party), laying the basis for Confederation in 1867.


With Confederation and Quebec's entry as a province, what had been the parti bleu became the Quebec wing of Macdonald's Conservative Party. It formed the government in the province, with Pierre-Joseph-Olivier Chauveau as Quebec's first premier. Cartier acted as Macdonald's Quebec lieutenant in the federal House of Commons. The Conservatives dominated Quebec politics at both the federal and provincial level for the next 30 years. The Conservatives held power in Quebec for 25 out of 30 years, providing eight of the province's ten premiers in that period.

However, the party became increasingly divided between a moderate wing and an Ultramontane wing of Catholic fundamentalists. As well, the party's links with the federal Conservatives harmed the party as the Tories in English Canada became increasingly identified as hostile to French Canadians and Quebec. The execution of Louis Riel in 1885 outraged French Canadians and hurt the Macdonald Conservatives at the polls.

After Macdonald's death in 1891, the coalition that formed the national Conservatives unravelled, particularly around the Manitoba Schools Question that pitted English-Canadian Protestants against French-Canadian Catholics. This issue essentially ended the possibility of a significant French-Canadian presence in western Canada.

The federal Conservatives lost the 1896 federal election, largely due to the collapse of their support in Quebec. The provincial Conservative government of Edmund James Flynn lost the 1897 Quebec election.

With the defeats of 1896 and 1897, the Conservatives became a minority party in Quebec at both levels of government. The Conservative Party of Quebec never formed another provincial government. The Quebec Liberal Party held power without interruption for the next 38 years.

Decline and re-emergence as Union Nationale

Conservative fortunes were further hurt by the Conscription Crisis of 1917 when the federal Conservative government of Sir Robert Borden invoked conscription against the opposition of Quebec. This led to riots in the province.

In 1929, mayor of Montreal Camillien Houde succeeded Arthur Sauvé as leader of the Conservative Party, which went on to lose four by-elections.[1]

In 1933, Maurice Duplessis became leader of the Quebec Conservatives. The next year, the ruling Liberal party split when a group of nationalist Liberals dissatisfied with the government of Louis-Alexandre Taschereau bolted from the party to form the Action libérale nationale or ALN. Duplessis wooed the dissident party and, two weeks before the 1935 election, the Conservatives and ALN formed a "Union Nationale" alliance to contest the election. On June 20, 1936 the Quebec Conservative Party dissolved when the alliance became a formal merger into a single political party, the Union Nationale.

Two months later, the UN took power in the 1936 election under the leadership of Duplessis. The party was unexpectedly defeated in 1939, but went on to dominate Quebec politics from 1944 until Duplessis died in 1959.

The Union Nationale formed the government again from 1966–1970 and afterwards went into rapid decline, being supplanted by the Parti Québécois as the main opposition to the Liberals.

Federal Tories and Quebec after the Union Nationale

Since the late 1960s, the main divide in Quebec politics was between supporters of Quebec separatism and federalism, rather than the traditional conservatism and liberalism. This resulted in a reorientation of Quebec politics with the conservative Union Nationale collapsing in the early 1970s and the new polarization in Quebec politics being between the separatist Parti Québécois and the federalist Quebec Liberal Party.

Federalists, whether conservative or liberal, generally supported the Liberals with federalist former Union Nationale members joining that party in the 1970s while more nationalist UN members joined the PQ. This reorientation could be seen in the family of former Union Nationale premier Daniel Johnson, Sr. whose son, Daniel Johnson, Jr. joined and eventually became leader of the Quebec Liberals while his brother, Pierre-Marc Johnson, joined and eventually led the PQ.

Claude Wagner, a judge and a prominent Quebec Liberal cabinet minister who departed provincial politics in 1970, ran successfully as a Progressive Conservative in the 1972 federal election, and was the front-runner in the party leadership convention in 1976 before losing on the final ballot to Joe Clark. When Bourassa returned to politics in the 1980s, he worked closely with the federal Progressive Conservatives led by Brian Mulroney. During that decade, the Liberals won the majority of Quebec's seats in 1985 and 1989, while the PCs did so at the federal level in 1984 and 1988. Some Quebec Progressive Conservatives attempted to form a provincial party, the Progressive Conservative Party of Quebec, in the 1980s but this effort was not supported by the federal party and failed to win any seats.

In 1998, federal PC leader Jean Charest moved to provincial politics as the leader of the Quebec Liberals.

With the decline of support for separatism in the early twenty-first century there are indications that Quebec politics is returning to a right/left divide and there have been several attempts to create centre-right parties, with varying success. The Action démocratique du Québec was formed in 1994 and attracted support from a number of federal Conservatives due to its neoliberal economic program and populist conservative social positions. In the years following the ADQ's collapse following the 2008 Quebec election a new nationalist party was formed, the Coalition Avenir Québec, which absorbed the ADQ in 2012. Conservative Quebec federalists have created a new Quebec Conservative Party under the leadership of former Conservative Party of Canada MP Luc Harvey.

Leaders of the Parti conservateur du Québec

Election results

General election # of candidates # of seats won % of popular vote
1867 69 51 53.48%
1871 67 46 51.72%
1875 68 43 50.67%
1878 66 32 49.49%
1881 62 49 50.38%
1886 63 26 46.19%
1890 62 23 45.39%
1892 71 51 52.41%
1897 67 23 43.82%
1900 34 7 41.85%
1904 24 7 26.73%
1908 62 14 39.92%
1912 75 16 43.01%
1916 55 6 35.09%
1919 22 5 16.96%
1923 71 20 39.32%
1927 69 9 34.31%
1931 89 11 43.54%
1935 34 17 18.93%
1939 3 0 0.3%

See also


  1. ^ Paulin, Marguerite (2005). Maurice Duplessis: Powerbroker, Politician. Montréal: XYZ Pub. p. 215. ISBN 9781894852173.
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Conservative Party of Quebec (historical)
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