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Unionist Party (Canada)

Poster for Borden's Union government.

The Unionist Party was formed in 1917 by Members of Parliament (MPs) in Canada who supported the "Union government" formed by Sir Robert Borden during the First World War.

In May 1917, Conservative Prime Minister Borden proposed the formation of a national unity government or coalition government to Liberal leader Sir Wilfrid Laurier in order to enact conscription, and to govern for the remainder of the war. Laurier rejected this proposal because of the opposition of his Quebec MPs, and fears that Quebec nationalist leader Henri Bourassa would be able to exploit the situation.

As an alternative to a coalition with Laurier, on October 12, 1917, Borden formed the Union government with a Cabinet of twelve Conservatives, nine Liberals and Independents and one "Labour" member. To represent "labour" and the working class, Borden appointed to the Cabinet Conservative Senator Gideon Decker Robertson who had been appointed to the Senate in January and had links with the conservative wing of the labour movement through his profession as a telegrapher. Robertson, however, was a Tory and not a member of any Labour or socialist party.

Borden then called an election for December 1917 on the issue of conscription (see also Conscription Crisis of 1917), running as head of the "Unionist Party" composed of Borden's Conservatives, independent MPs, and members of the Liberals who left Laurier's caucus to support conscription.

Supporters of the Borden government ran for parliament as "Unionists", while some of the Liberals running as government supporters preferred to call themselves "[[Liberal-Unionist

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