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Government, Political Parties

Lucien Bouchard, Quebec separatism, Quebec sovereignty, Stockwell Day, Bloc Quebecois

The strongest national political parties in Canada during the 20th century were the Progressive Conservatives and the Liberals. The third party with a tradition of national support was the New Democratic Party (NDP). The Progressive Conservatives have generally favored an unfettered market, fiscal responsibility, and limits on state power. The Liberals are generally associated with the center of the political spectrum, which means that they advocate greater government involvement in the economy; they have also been traditionally seen as the party most open to immigration.

The smaller NDP, which emerged from Canadian labor and protest movements, supports programs to increase social and economic equality. The NDP claims to represent ordinary people. Although never achieving national power, the NDP has from time to time held the balance of power and used it to support the Liberals; it has also formed the provincial government at various times in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Saskatchewan.

In the 1993 election only the Liberals maintained their political base, while the Progressive Conservatives and the NDP waned in significance. Two new parties have arisen that have cut into their traditional support. The Bloc Quebecois (BQ) was formed to protect Quebec interests and promote Quebec sovereignty. It acts to a large extent as the federal arm of the provincial separatist party, the Parti Quebecois. The BQ has no support outside Quebec and no desire to form the government. To its own surprise, the collapse of the Progressive Conservatives and NDP in 1993 left it in the position of the official opposition. Its original leader, Lucien Bouchard, left the party to become the premier of Quebec. The BQ will cease to exist if Quebec gains independence; it will likewise decline if serious interest in Quebec separatism disappears.

In contrast, the Canadian Alliance, the successor to the Reform Party and originally an expression of western dissatisfaction with federal control, came to express right-wing conservative ideals. It supported reducing taxes and governmental functions and opposed concessions to Quebec. In the 1997 election it increased its standing in the west, replacing the Bloc Quebecois as the official opposition in Parliament. Led by Stockwell Day, the Canadian Alliance gained an even larger share of seats in the 2000 election and retained its position as the official opposition. However, the party failed to attract many voters from central or eastern Canada.

Article key phrases:

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