Big Tent Politics

The Liberal Party’s Long Mastery of Canada’s Public Life

Table of contents

1 An Unnatural Party

2 The Natural Governing Party

3 Four Eras, Four Liberal Parties

4 A Different Kind of Party

5 The Life of the Party

6 The Chief Broker

7 Brokerage, the Liberal Party, and Canadian Politics

Appendix: Liberal Party Leaders, 1887 to the Present


Further Reading on the Liberal Party of Canada


A masterful account of the Liberal Party’s long domination of Canadian politics.


The Liberal Party of Canada is one of the most successful parties in the democratic world. It dominated Canadian politics for a century, practising an inclusive style of “big tent” politics that allowed it to fend off opponents on both the left and right. How did it do this? This book traces the record of the party over the twentieth century, revealing the cyclical character of its success and charting its capacity to respond to change. Ken Carty provides a carefully considered analysis of how one party came to lead the nation’s public life. In a country riven by difference, the Liberals’ enduring political success was an extraordinary feat.


Carty … is a leading authority on Canada’s political parties. He traces the history of the party, paying attention to its cycles against important changes in Canada’s demography (e. g., when increased immigration changed regional and national dynamics) and when parties entered the system.

- G.A. McBeath