Canada History

Canada History   timelines 
AskAHistorian    blog 




Prehistory | 2 Worlds Meet | New France | England Arrives | Clash of Empires | Revolution | British America | Reform/Revolt | Responsible Government | Confederation | Nation Building | Laurier | The Great War | Roaring 20's | Great Depression | WWII | The Peace | Cold War | Trudeau | PC's in Power | Modern Canada

1929 Crash | Economic slump | Bennett in Power | The Ottawa Conference | Praire Drought | Relief | The Regina Riot | Alberta & Bible Bill | Statue of Westminister | Woodsworth & CCF | The Union Nationale | Relief Camps | Bennett's Conversion | King's Return | European Unrest | Royal Visit

When the stock markets crashed in 1929 and the economy began to disintegrate at a frightening pace, most Canadians would only choose to register a protest vote by switching to the other major party. The Liberals and Conservatives were the two main choices and they had dominated the Federal political scene for the most part, with the exception of the rise of the Progressives, since Confederation. 

Those on the left of the political spectrum had really only two choices. They could support Tim Buck and the Communist Party which seemed extreme for most Canadians or they could support people like Woodsworth who had no real party, no platform or published doctrines. As society seemed like it was falling apart J.S. Woodsworth finally decide that a national effort would have to be made to unite the left and on July 22, 1933, a national convention was held for the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation in Regina.

The political policies that were drawn up and passed during that convention became known as the Regina manifesto. This document was an amazing feat of practical politics because it brought together labour unions, farmers, workers guilds, supports of nationalization of industries, doctors, lawyers, and all descriptions of those that did not consider themselves Liberals or Conservatives.  When the manifest was voted on at the end of he convention there was only one dissenting vote.

To many in the country the new C.C.F. smacked of communism and talk of taking over transportation, electrical, communications, insurance, medical services and many others was feared by many as the first step in dismantling capitalism. Tim Buck, the leader of the communist party was anxious that his communist party and the C.C.F. form a united front to fight the 1935 election. The approval of a leftist politic party by the communist was the kiss of death in the 1930's in Canada, the U.S. and several European countries. Woodsworth realized this and said

"A real united front involves an agreement on fundamentals and a belief on the part of each co-operating group in the sincerity of the other group. In tactics at least there is no agreement whatever between the Communist party and the C.C.F.... The overthrow of the C.C.F. rather than that of capitalism would seem to be the main object of the Communist party of Canada."

One of the first tests of the C.C.F. was in the British Columbia provincial election in 1933 where it became the opposition party and than in repeated the feat in Saskatchewan where it also became the opposition. Headway in Ontario was limited and in the 1935 Federal election it only managed to win 7 seats in Parliament which was not many but it was a start. Under Woodsworth the party was to remain a movement of it's principles which refused to win seats at the cost of it's beliefs.

As the Second World War drew to a close Mackenzie King's Liberal government had determined that the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation platform of social programs such as old age security, unemployment insurance and, under Tommy Douglas, Medicare, were all popular and attractive public policy options. King who considered himself a reformer during his political career, began to bring in these programs as Liberal initiatives. The CCF was left with little to offer the voters as policy that would differentiate themselves from the Liberals.

By the late 50's CCF support had fallen and the accusation that they were supporters of the communists and the Soviet Union, regardless of how unrealistic that was, were being made by many conservative groups. The 1956 CCF convention passed what was known as the Winnipeg Declaration which proclaimed a more centrist philosophy of working with business, accepting restricted government intervention and appealing to the middle class as well as other sectors. This shift helped them hold their support in 1957 as the electorate waffled but by 1958 when a decisive turn to the Conservatives occurred, many supports shifted to the Diefenbaker landslide and the CCF was almost wiped out. Diefenbaker had swept the west and absorbed most of the support for change from the incumbent Liberals. The1958 election was a turning point which saw the CCF win only 8 seats. Support in Quebec and many other parts of the country refused to grow as a traditional bias against the CCF remained entrenched in the electorate.

The CCF decided to retrench and return to its roots as well as expand its base to by appealing to labour. The Canadian Labour Congress was approached about forming a new national party which would bring in the support of labour and the remaining pieces of the CCF.

In 1961 the New Democratic Party or NDP was founded and Tommy Douglas, the dynamic premier of Saskatchewan was chosen as it's first leader. Douglas who pioneered Medicare in Saskatchewan was an eloquent and effect speaker and managed to bring the CCF back from near extinction. By the 1962 election the NDP more then doubled their 1958 seats and by 1972 had grown to 31 seats and a share of the power during the Liberal minority government.