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Distributed for University of British Columbia Press

The Big Red Machine

How the Liberal Party Dominates Canadian Politics

In The Big Red Machine, astute Liberal observer Stephen Clarkson tells the story of the Liberal Party’s performance in the last nine elections, providing essential historical context for each and offering incisive, behind-the-scenes detail about how the party has planned, changed, and executed its successful electoral strategies. Arguing that the Liberal Party has opportunistically straddled the political centre since Sir John A. Macdonald – leaning left or moving right and as circumstances required – Clarkson also shows that the party’s grip on power is becoming increasingly uncertain, having lost its appeal not just in the West, but now in Québec. Its campaigns now reflect the splintering of the party system and the integration of Canada into the global economy.

352 pages

Table of Contents

Preface: The Joy of Winning


Introduction: Party Systems and Liberal Leaders

Pierre Trudeau: Victory, Fall, and Recovery

1974 The Liberal Party and Pierre Trudeau: The Jockey and the Horse

1979 The Government’s Defeat, the Party’s Decline, and the Leader’s (Temporary) Fall

1980 Hiding the Charisma: Low-Bridging the Saviour

John Turner: From Disappointment to Despair

1984 The Dauphin and the Doomed: John Turner’s Debacle

1988 Election or Referendum? Disoriented in Defeat

Jean Chrétien: Power without Purpose

1993 Yesterday’s Man and His Blue Grits: Backwards into Jean Chrétien’s Future

1997 Securing Their Future Together

2000 The Liberal Threepeat: The Multi-System Party in the Multi-Party System

Paul Martin: Saved By the Far Right

2004 Disaster and Recovery: Paul Martin As Political Lazarus


The Liberal Party As Hegemon: Straddling Canadian History





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