In this CBC clip Jack Layton delivers his victory speech following the NDP's historic election night victory on 2 May 2011.
While the West has provided the highest level of voting support, individual memberships and MPs for the party, the largest number of NDP votes usually comes from the more populous Central Canada (largely Ontario). The NDP, like the CCF, was unable to elect an MP from Québec in a general election until 2011, although it had acquired the occasional seat by an MP defecting to the NDP (1986) or in a by-election (1987).
A number of provincial sections of the CCF-NDP have had greater electoral success and have formed governments in BC (Dave BARRETT: 1972-75; Mike HARCOURT: 1991-96; Glen CLARK: 1996-99; Dan Miller: 1999-2000; Ujjal DOSANJH: 2000-01), Saskatchewan (Tommy DOUGLAS: 1944-61; Woodrow LLOYD: 1961-64; Allan BLAKENEY: 1971-82; Roy ROMANOW: 1991-2001; Lorne CALVERT: 2001-07), Manitoba (Ed SCHREYER: 1969-77; Howard PAWLEY: 1981-88; Gary DOER: 1999-2009), Ontario (Bob RAE: 1990-95), and the Yukon Territory (Tony PENIKETT: 1985-92; Piers McDonald: 1996-2000). It has also served as the official opposition in Alberta and Nova Scotia.
In domestic affairs, the NDP is committed to a moderate form of socialism and a mixed economy. It favours government planning and public ownership (eg, CROWN CORPORATIONS, co-operatives), where necessary, to provide jobs and services. The CCF-NDP has always been a vigorous exponent of such SOCIAL SECURITY measures as universal medical care, old-age pensions, workers' compensation and unemployment insurance as a means to reduce class inequalities. It has called for national dental-care and child-care programs, favoured higher taxes on corporations and the rich and generally favoured greater government expenditures to expand social services.
As the official political voice of labour, the NDP has encouraged trade-union organization. While the CCF advocated strong, federal government, the NDP has been more receptive to provincial rights.
In foreign policy, the NDP, like the CCF, has manifested strong pacifist tendencies. While this pacifism lessened somewhat in the 1950s and early 1960s, the party currently opposes Canada's involvement in NATO and NORAD and calls for Canada to become a nuclear-free zone. Recently, the NDP has been uneasy about increased military integration with the United States, believing that this will jeopardize Canadian sovereignty. It has warned of the dangers of the weaponization of space and American lobbying to have Canada join the North American anti-ballistic system. The NDP has been highly critical of America's unilateralism and propensity for military interventions in world politics, and instead favours more peaceful international efforts through the UNITED NATIONS.
Throughout its history, the NDP has been critical about the high rate of foreign, particularly American, ownership of Canadian industry. Under NDP pressure, the Trudeau Liberal minority government in the 1970s introduced the FOREIGN INVESTMENT REVIEW AGENCY (FIRA). When the Mulroney Conservatives in the late 1980s and early 1990s campaigned for economic integration with the US under the FREE TRADE Accord (FTA) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the NDP opposed both agreements.
While the party has always proposed an evolutionary and moderate form of socialism, a persistent minority has endeavoured to push the party further left. The WAFFLE, the most famous faction, operated in the late 1960s and early 1970s, while a more recent incarnation of a "left-caucus" was the New Politics Initiative (NPI), which dissolved in 2004.
Under Ed Broadbent the NDP led national public polls for much of 1987, but still did not break out of third-party status in the election of 1988. The next leader, Audrey McLaughlin, sought to make the party more inclusive and less confrontational. McLaughlin's leadership failed to inspire the voters and the party's support dropped in the 1993 election to its lowest ever. The problems, however, were more long-standing than one particular campaign or leader. Even during the Broadbent days, the federal NDP had been increasingly seen as one of the "old" parties. By 1993 the NDP was challenged by the right populist REFORM PARTY (later transformed into the CANADIAN ALLIANCE) in the West, the separatist BLOC QUÉBÉCOIS in Québec and even the "left-sounding" LIBERALS in Ontario. In the 1990s the federal NDP was to some degree handicapped by its association with the growing unpopularity of several NDP provincial governments. This was most notable with Rae's controversial "social contract" legislation in Ontario, but also in BC with the divisions between environmentalists and loggers and the backlash from several financial scandals.
Following the 1993 electoral setback, the federal NDP sought to rebuild organizationally and sponsored policy conferences in an attempt to re-energize itself and its platform. One innovation employed in 1995 was to elect its next leader by means of a two-step process - first involving a direct ballot of party members and affiliated unions and then followed by a national convention. The new leader, Alexa McDonough, led the NDP into the 1997 campaign with the enormous challenge of regaining official parliamentary status for the party. The goal was achieved, but the NDP still remained a distant fourth place in the House of Commons. The 2000 election saw the party slip in both votes and seats, narrowly retaining official party status in Parliament. After several disappointing elections, party members once more debated the future of social democracy, the party's organizational structure and its relationship to the labour movement. To facilitate the renewal process, McDonough stepped down as leader. In a 2003 nation-wide direct ballot, individual and affiliated union members voted former Toronto city councillor Jack Layton the new federal NDP leader.
Layton's victory signalled that the NDP membership wanted a more visible leader better equipped to tackle urban issues and foster links between the party and new social movements. Leading up to the 2004 campaign, the energetic Layton attracted media attention and the party rose in the polls. In the 2004 election the NDP recorded its best vote count in over a decade (almost doubling its votes to 15.7%), but the number of seats won increased only to 19, significantly less than the party had anticipated. Nevertheless, in the minority Parliament of 2004/2005, the NDP was able to play a key role. The NDP's amendment to the Liberal government's budget generated more spending for infrastructure and social programs. The NDP also successfully lobbied the Martin government to resist involvement in the US missile defence system and to pass the same-sex marriage legislation. In the 2006 election, the NDP, under Layton, continued to make gains in votes (17.5%) and seats (29). Given the diffusion of power in yet another minority Parliament, the NDP's role continued to be substantial.
One of the greatest organizational difficulties for the NDP has been the 2004 election finances legislation, which virtually eliminates trade union financial contributions to the party that labour co-founded. Another challenge emerged during the 2006 election when Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) president Buzz Hargrove called for union members to vote strategically. He urged unionists and others, where necessary, not to vote NDP, but instead to vote Liberal, in order to stop a CONSERVATIVE PARTY victory. The debate continues over the place of Canada's labour party and the role of trade union members in political action and party politics.
The party continued to make strides in the areas of peacekeeping overseas, environmental issues and amendments to the Clean Air Act, and in the issue of residential schools, which resulted in an apology from the federal government in June 2008. The federal election that year returned the NDP to Ottawa with a stronger team to take on the larger Liberal opposition party and to exert pressure against the Conservative Party. The NDP pushed the Conservatives on issues that included health care wait times, global warming, jobs and affordability. In May 2010, the House of Commons passed the NDP's Climate Change Accountability Act, which would have made Canada the first to adopt scientific targets to cut climate-changing emissions by 80% before 2050; the bill was voted down in the Senate the following November, but was reintroduced by the NDP in 2011.
Following the 2008 election, the Conservative government opened Parliament with an announcement of temporarily suspending federal employees' right to strike and denying monetary subsidies for political parties. The leaders of the other three parties responded by announcing that they could not support such measures. Jack Layton, along with Liberal leader Stéphane DION and Bloc Québécois leader Gilles DUCEPPE, negotiated terms to form a coalition to replace the Conservatives in the House. In early December 2008 they signed an accord for an agreement on a coalition government. They were expecting Governor General Michaëlle JEAN to replace the Conservatives with the coalition government, rather than dissolve Parliament and call another election. Except for Québec, the nation opposed the coalition. HARPER applied to the governor general to prorogue Parliament until January, when he would introduce the new budget; on 4 December Jean granted his request.
Stéphane Dion was replaced as leader of the Liberal party by Michael IGNATIEFF before the issue of a coalition was resolved. Layton, opposing the Conservative budget, urged the LIBERAL party to unseat the Conservatives before the coalition expired but on 28 January 2009 Ignatieff agreed to support the Conservative budget, thereby ending any possibility of a coalition.
In March 2011, the Conservative government was defeated in a non-confidence vote by all three opposition parties on the grounds of contempt of Parliament. Parliament was dissolved and a federal election called. Layton and his NDP team wasted no time getting on the campaign trail; the day after the election was announced they were on the stump, first in Ottawa and later in the day in Edmonton. Layton performed well in the leaders' debates and in Québec, then led the NDP to a landmark victory in the election on 2 May to gain a record number of seats in the House of Commons and become the official opposition. Significantly, the party also made a breakthrough in Québec, having entered the race with only one seat in that province and winning 59 of the province's 75 seats, reducing the Bloc to only four seats.
Jack Layton had announced in February 2010 that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Yet he led the NDP through the 2011 election campaign with the same apparent vigour and enthusiasm he had displayed throughout his career. However, in July 2011 he announced that he would be taking a temporary leave from his duties to fight a second cancer, and announced that Nycole TURMEL would be interim leader. Layton succumbed to the disease only a month later. Thomas Mulcair was elected the party’s new leader in March 2012.
Author ALAN WHITEHORN
S. Knowles, The New Party (1961); D. Lewis, The Good Fight (1981); D. Morton, The New Democrats 1961-1986 (1986); L. McDonald, The Party that Changed Canada (1987); T. McLeod and I. McLeod, Tommy Douglas: The Road to Jerusalem (1987); D. Gruending, Promises to Keep (1990); A. Whitehorn, Canadian Socialism (1992); I. McLeod, Under Siege (1994); J. Laxer, In Search of a New Left (1996); B. Rae, From Protest to Power (1996); M. Harcourt, Mike Harcourt (1996); K. Archer & A. Whitehorn, Political Activists (1997); E. Broadbent, ed, Democratic Equality (2001); Z.D. Berlin and H. Aster, eds, What's Left? (2001); J. Layton, Speaking Out: Ideas That Work for Canadians (2004).
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Canadian Labour History
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Saskatchewan’s 1944 CCF Election
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Political Parties and Leaders
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A CTV News obituary for Jack Layton, long-time leader of the federal New Democratic Party. Check this site for additional features about Mr. Layton's life and political career.
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A chronology of the political career of Jack Layton, the former Toronto city councillor who later assumed the leadership of the New Democratic Party. From the CBC website.
Jack Layton biopic
A CBC News video about the CBC biopic "Jack," which tells the story of the late leader of the New Democratic Party.