John Diefenbaker at Rideau Hall, June 1957

Prior to Diefenbaker’s minority government, the Liberals had been in power for twenty-two years. When another federal election was called for March 1958, St-Laurent was certain that his party would easily regain Parliament. However, the Liberal government underestimated the considerable public support that Diefenbaker had secured in his short eight months of power.

Promoting national development as his campaign theme, Diefenbaker promised significant federal investments in infrastructure to develop resources in Northern Canada. He also continued his “One Canada” programme, a project assuring Canadians in every region a share in the country’s prosperity. Diefenbaker appealed to the average Canadian, and his pledges captured the imagination of the nation. Disillusioned by the Liberals, and mesmerised by Diefenbaker’s vision, sincerity and oratory, thousands of people flocked to his rallies.

Diefenbaker with The Right Honourable Governor
Georges Vanier, 1957

On 31 March 1958, Diefenbaker led the Progressive Conservatives to a landslide win over the Liberals. They held 208 of 265 seats in the House of Commons (53.7% of the popular vote) including 50 of 75 seats in Québec. Diefenbaker’s victory remains the largest in Canadian history, based on a percentage of the total seats in the House of Commons. Following the election, Diefenbaker wasted no time in moving toward fulfilling his vision of creating a Canada that promoted fundamental rights and freedoms.

“One Canada, one Canada, where Canadians will have preserved to them the control of their own economic and political destiny. Sir John A. Macdonald gave his life to this party. He opened the West. He saw Canada from east to west. I see a new Canada - a Canada of the North!"

(John Diefenbaker, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 12 February 1958)