Concept

1917 Canadian federal election

Summary
The 1917 Canadian federal election (sometimes referred to as the khaki election) was held on December 17, 1917, to elect members of the House of Commons of Canada of the 13th Parliament of Canada. Described by historian Michael Bliss as the "most bitter election in Canadian history", it was fought mainly over the issue of conscription (see Conscription Crisis of 1917). The election resulted in Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden's Unionist government elected with a strong majority and the largest percentage of the popular vote for any party in Canadian history. The previous election had been held in 1911 and was won by Borden's Conservatives. Normally, there is a constitutional requirement that Parliament last no longer than five years, which would have resulted in an election in 1916. However, citing the emergency of the Great War, the Parliament of Canada approved a one-year extension, which was implemented by the British Parliament. The Borden government hoped that the delay would allow the formation of a "grand coalition" government, encompassing all the parties, such as existed in Britain. Sir Wilfrid Laurier, head of the Liberal Party of Canada, refused to join the coalition over the issue of conscription, which was strongly opposed in the Liberal heartland of Quebec. Laurier worried that agreeing to Borden's coalition offer would cause that province to abandon the Liberals and perhaps even Canada. Borden proceeded to form a "Unionist" government, and the Liberal Party split over the issue. Many English Canadian Liberal MPs and provincial Liberal parties in English Canada supported the new Unionist government. To ensure victory for conscription, Borden introduced two laws to skew the voting towards the government. The first, the Wartime Elections Act, disenfranchised conscientious objectors and Canadian citizens if they were born in enemy countries and had arrived after 1902. The law also gave female relatives of servicemen the vote. Thus, the 1917 election was the first federal election in which some women were allowed to vote.
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