Lewis, David

David Lewis, né Losh, socialist politician, labour lawyer, university professor (b in Svisloch, Russia 23 June 1909; d at Ottawa 23 May 1981). As a child he lived through the German invasion of Russia in WWI and the Russian Revolution. In 1921 his family moved to Montréal, where Lewis soon mastered English. Active in municipal socialist politics, he attended McGill (1927-31) and won a Rhodes scholarship to attend Oxford (1932-35), where he established extensive contacts with socialists in the British Labour Party. Upon returning to Canada, Lewis practised law in Ottawa, but in 1936 he commenced work as national secretary for the CO-OPERATIVE COMMONWEALTH FEDERATION. During these years he became a key CCF theorist and member of the LEAGUE FOR SOCIAL RECONSTRUCTION. In 1943 he co-authored, with F.R. SCOTT, Make This Your Canada. Efforts to gain election to Parliament in 1940, 1943 (by-election), 1945 and 1949 were unsuccessful. From 1943 to 1945 Lewis was the primary target of a vicious antisocialist campaign.

In 1950, with CCF prospects dwindling, Lewis practised labour law, though his involvement with the CCF continued. He held a variety of executive positions and helped draft the Winnipeg Declaration of 1956. Lewis consistently worked to rid the labour movement of communist infiltration and to forge a link between the Canadian socialist and labour movements. He was the key architect in the formation of the NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY in 1961. Through his efforts the primarily western farm-based CCF was transformed into the more urban, labour-oriented and successful NDP.

Lewis ran for Parliament in York South in 1962, 1963, 1965, 1968, 1972 and 1974, losing only in 1963 and 1974. He quickly became one of Parliament's most devastating debaters. Lewis continued to serve in a variety of NDP executive posts, culminating in his election as leader at a long and polarized 1971 NDP convention in which he defeated Jim Laxer, representing the WAFFLE, a left-wing NDP faction. Lewis, campaigning on the theme of "corporate welfare bums," achieved his greatest political prominence in 1972 when he held the balance of power in the Liberal MINORITY GOVERNMENT of 1972-74. That Parliament enacted a new Elections Expenses Act, pension indexing, PETRO-CANADA and the FOREIGN INVESTMENT REVIEW AGENCY.

After his defeat in the federal election of 1974, Lewis stepped down as NDP leader in 1975 and ended his career as a professor at Carleton University. The first volume of his memoirs, The Good Fight, was published posthumously (1981). Lewis was sometimes a controversial figure, but few doubted his intellect, energy and sacrifices on behalf of Canadian socialism. Lewis's legacy continues through his family; two of his sons (Michael and Stephen LEWIS) and one of his daughters (Janet Solberg) have been key NDP figures, while one of his grandsons, Avi Lewis, is a prominent political commentator on television.