It makes for a somewhat more convoluted history to recite, but it is also a good example of what can happen in ridings with multiple candidates. In all but five of 27 general elections held in Halifax until 1968 only one party captured both seats. It was very rare for voters to select candidates from two different parties, though most of those elections were decided by the slimmest of margins.
The first election in Halifax was different from any other. Instead of the usual contest between Liberals and Conservatives, the 1867 vote in Nova Scotia was primarily between Joseph Howe's Anti-Confederation Party, which opposed Nova Scotia joining Canadian confederation, and the Conservatives.
Howe's party triumphed in Nova Scotia, as well as in Halifax, though it was close: 52.4% for the two anti-Confederate candidates against 47.6% for their pro-confederation opponents.
Staunchly anti-confederation since 1864, he nevertheless decided to take his seat in the House of Commons after winning election in Halifax. In his maiden speech, he said he would "support good measures and oppose bad, without regard to either party."
Once it became clear that, despite their victory at the polls, the Anti-Confederates would not get their way, Joseph Howe led most of his party into John A. Macdonald's cabinet. Neither Power nor Jones followed. Jones was especially angered at Howe's betrayal, and actively campaigned against him in the by-election that followed Howe's naming to cabinet. Arguing that a victory by Howe would mean "Canadian rule for ever", Jones failed to prevent Howe from winning.
In 1872, Power ran as an Independent Liberal and Jones just as an independent, and both failed to secure re-election by a slim margin. Power took 2,452 votes and Jones 2,430, while William Almon of the Liberal-Conservatives captured 2,528 votes and Stephen Tobin of the Liberals took 2,486.
Almon, an influential and important physician in the province, was about as pro-Confederate as it gets - he was a supporter of the Confederacy during the American Civil War and was said to have been personally thanked by Jefferson Davis, president of the South. Tobin had a less unusual history, being an insurance agent and merchant who served as mayor of Halifax from 1867 to 1870.
When the next federal election occurred in 1874, both Almon and Tobin chose not to run again. Both would continue their political careers elsewhere, however, as Almon would be named to the Senate in 1879 by Macdonald and serve until 1901. Tobin would be mayor of Halifax again between 1878 and 1881.
This paved the way for the re-election of both Power and Jones, as they were up against only one independent candidate. Power was listed as an Independent Liberal again and Jones an independent, but both were supporters of Alexander Mackenzie's Liberals in Ottawa.
The Conservatives and Borden to the fore, 1878-1935
Halifax would see two federal elections in 1878. The first was a by-election forced by Jones's resignation. Seeing the writing on the wall that he would be booted from the House of Commons, Jones stepped down for an apparent conflict of interest (a government contract had been awarded to the Halifax Citizen, in which he had some holdings). He nevertheless won the by-election, and was named Minister of Militia and Defence for the rest of the year.
|M. B. Daly|
John Stairs, a wealthy industrialist, was acclaimed in his place. Recruited by Charles Tupper, this former provincial Liberal-Conservative would become a confidant of Macdonald.
Stairs had better luck in 1891, as he and Kenny were elected. But Jones and Edward Farrell, his running mate, accused Stairs and Kenny of 'bribery and other illegal acts', leading to the election results of 1891 being declared void. It didn't matter, though, as both Conservatives were returned to Ottawa in 1892.
By 1896, Jones was through with elected politics (but he would be named Lieutenant-Governor in 1900, serving until his death in 1906) and declined the Liberal nomination. Stairs, too, was done with federal politics. He stepped aside to make room for a certain Robert Borden, and returned to provincial politics. He took over the Nova Scotia Liberal-Conservative Party, leading it to catastrophic defeats in 1897 and 1901.
He would go through some rough patches, however. In the 1904 election, Laurier's Liberals were re-elected and swept both of the seats in Halifax. Borden came up short by some 500 votes, but decided to stay on as leader (Laurier allowed Borden to be acclaimed for the riding of Carleton when it became vacant in 1905).
Instead of Borden, Roche was re-elected and joined by Michael Carney, a businessman born in Ireland. With 52.5% of the vote, it was the best performance by a joint-list of Liberal candidates since Confederation.
The pendulum swung back to the Conservatives in Halifax in 1908, as Borden and Adam Crosby (a former mayor) defeated both Roche and Carney. Laurier would late name Roche to the Senate, where he would sit until 1925.
Borden had increased the Conservatives' seat haul in Ottawa, but he had again failed to lead the party to victory. He decided to stay on, and would have to quell a few revolts within his own party along the way.
|Borden and Winston Churchill, 1912|
Borden was now Prime Minister, and he also took on the portfolio of Secretary of State for External Affairs. His first term in power would soon become quite complicated, as Canada was brought into the First World War in 1914.
By 1917, the killing fields in Flanders had bled the Canadian Army dry, and new recruits were being woefully outnumbered by the casualty lists. Borden wanted to enact conscription, and invited Laurier to join him in a unity government. Laurier declined, but many of his MPs from outside Quebec, where conscription was extremely unpopular, crossed the floor.
By 1921, the country and Borden had moved on from the Conservatives. The Liberals, under Mackenzie King, were brought to power and Blackadder and MacLean (now back with his old party) won Halifax handily. They took a combined total of 53% of the vote, with the Conservatives, now under Arthur Meighen, taking just 34%. Two Labour candidates split 13% of the vote between them.
Martin would not run again, as was named to the Senate by Meighen and would sit there for Nova Scotia until 1935.
Another by-election had to be held in 1923 after MacLean was named President of the Exchequer Court of Canada. This time, the country was moving back towards the Conservatives and William Black won the by-election. It was a return to the political theatre for Black, as he had been a provincial Conservative for three years at the end of the 19th century.
After being re-elected in 1926, though Meighen was defeated, and 1930, when R.B. Bennett brought the Tories back to power, Quinn was named to the Senate, where he would sit until 1961. Black was not so lucky, dying in office before the 1935 election.
Liberal dominance under King and St-Laurent, 1935-1957
By 1940, the country was back at war. Finn tried running as an Independent Liberal but was unsuccessful as William Macdonald, a lawyer and veteran, took his place. The Liberals dropped below the majority threshold, however, as the Conservatives rebounded and Finn took a fair share of the vote. A lone CCF candidate, meanwhile, took 1.8%.
Macdonald did not survive the peace for very long, passing away in 1946. The by-election to replace him in 1947 was won by Liberal John Dickey, a lawyer who had served as a major in World War II and was Associate Prosecutor for the Canadian War Crimes Liaison Detachment in the Far East. Notably, the CCF candidate placed second, ahead of the (now) Progressive Conservatives, with 29.7%.
Dickey and Balcom won the 1953 election against a rejuvenated Progressive Conservative Party, as the CCF vote plummeted to just 3.9%.
Conservative return and the Stanfield era, 1957-1988
The sweeping victory Diefenbaker won in 1958 was repeated in Halifax, as McCleave and Morris capturing 59.9% of the vote, the party's best result in the riding since 1925. But their big victory was reduced dramatically in 1962, as the McCleave-Morris ticket took just 46.9% of the vote to the Liberals' 45.4%. The NDP, in its first election, took 6.7% of the vote.
There was a brief Liberal interregnum in Halifax in 1963. McCleave went down to defeat while Morris chose not to run again, continuing his political career later on as mayor from 1974 to 1980 and as a Nova Scotia PC MLA and cabinet minister from 1980 to 1988.
Their replacements were Liberals John Lloyd, an accountant and twice mayor of Halifax, and Gerald Regan, another lawyer and father to future MP Geoff Regan.
In 1968, the electoral boundaries were changed and Halifax joined the rest of the country as a single-member district, being reduced from Halifax County to just the city itself. Forrestall chose to run in nearby Dartmouth-Halifax East, which he would represent into the 1980s. He would later sit in the Senate from 1990 to 2006.
Robert Stanfield took up the PC banner in Halifax. Stanfield had been named leader of the Progressive Conservatives in 1967, after running the Nova Scotia PCs for almost 20 years and serving as premier from 1956 to 1967. Stanfield would continue his service as Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons until 1976.
Things improved in 1972, as Stanfield reduced Trudeau to a minority government. His vote share dropped slightly in Halifax, though, as the NDP went from 4.1% to 12.3% of the vote, taking from both the PCs and Liberals.
He could not prevent a majority win for Trudeau in 1974, however, and his vote share dropped again in Halifax to 49.3%. The Liberals boosted their score to 40.7% in the riding as the NDP fell back.
Failing to topple Trudeau in three consecutive elections, Stanfield resigned as leader in 1976 but continued on as the MP for Halifax until the 1979 election. Stanfield would be done with active politics, but for his service at both the federal and provincial levels the international airport in Halifax was named after him in 2007.
Joe Clark won more seats than the Trudeau Liberals in 1979, but George Cooper, a lawyer and future Order of Canada recipient, nearly failed to hold on to the riding of Halifax with 40.5% of the vote to 40.4% for the Liberal candidate. Of note is the candidacy of Alexa McDonough for the NDP. She took 18.5% in her first federal election attempt.
Cooper was defeated in 1980, as Regan made a return to federal politics. He would be named Minister of Labour and subsequently Secretary of State, Minister for International Trade, and Minister of Energy, Mines, and Resources over the next four years.
But the PCs returned to power in 1984 under Brian Mulroney, and Halifax swung back to the PCs as well. Regan was defeated, and his political career was over. He would later be accused of committing a large number of sexual offences over his long political career, including while he was premier. He was acquitted of some, but other charges were later dropped due to the age of the accusations and Regan himself. A cloud still hangs over him.
Stewart McInnes instead won the riding in 1984, and would be named Minister of Supply and Services in 1985 and later Minister of Public Works.
Women to the fore, 1988-present
Though Mulroney was re-elected in 1988, McInnes narrowly lost his riding to the Liberals' Mary Clancy. Not only would this be the last time a conservative represented the riding, but also the last time its MP would be a man.
By 1997, the NDP had recovered from its drubbing in 1993 and had named McDonough as its leader in 1995. McDonough was a seasoned political veteran by now, having been leader of the Nova Scotia New Democrats from 1980 to 1994. That made her the first woman to lead a major provincial or federal party in Canada. She easily defeated Clancy, with the best performance to date for an NDP or CCF candidate. She took 49% of the vote, as Clancy fell to third with 21.6%, behind the PC candidate.
McDonough would be re-elected three more times between 2000 and 2006, stepping down as leader in 2003 but continuing on as an MP for two more elections. Her vote share would fluctuate over this period between 40% and 47%, but only in the 2004 election did the Liberals come close to toppling her. The newly merged Conservative Party would not take more than 21% of the vote in its four elections in Halifax.
McDonough did not run for re-election in 2008. Megan Leslie, a community legal worker, took her place. She won 42.7% of the vote, down from McDonough's performance in 2006 but better than the 2000 and 2004 results, with the Liberals in the midst of their decline. The Green Party captured 8.7% of the vote, their best performance.
After a successful first term during which Leslie was named Best Rookie MP by Maclean's, Leslie won re-election in 2011 with 51.6%, the best the NDP has ever done in the riding. The Liberals dropped to 25.6%, their lowest since 1997, while the Conservatives dropped a few points as well. In 2012, Leslie was named one of the NDP's deputy leaders.
Where does Halifax go from here? For a time, it looked like the Liberal surge in Atlantic Canada could be powerful enough to swamp Leslie and the NDP in Halifax. But the Liberals have since dropped in the region, and the NDP has improved, which makes Halifax a riding that the NDP is likely to retain.
Halifax has not had an MP sitting on the governing benches since 1997, the longest period in its history. With the NDP leading in the polls at the time of writing, and the Conservatives unlikely to secure a majority government in even the best of circumstances, could that streak come to a close?