Requiem for the New Democratic Party.

After a lingering struggle, with the family in attendance, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) of Tommy Douglas and the New Democratic Party of the Broadbent and Lewis families has passed into oblivion. Funeral services will be a come as you are event at summer barbeques in each of the provinces.

The federal party is survived by its provincial parties. In British Columbia, the party is only in power with the assistance from the Green party. The passing of B.C.’s estranged sister NDP organization in Alberta earlier this year, left B.C. as the only stand-alone provincial NDP government. Little can be said for Her Majesty’s loyal NDP opposition in the Legislature of Ontario under the dismal command of Andrea Horwath, MPP.

During its lifetime, the party gave up the stridency of the Regina Manifesto from 1933, softening it with the 1956 Winnipeg Declaration of Principles. The Winnipeg declaration relabelled the party in a more democratic socialist stance. The stance was further softened by the Statement of Principles of the party adopted at its 1983 convention in Regina. Each step away from the Regina Manifesto further confused the voters as to what the NDP really did believe. Attempts such as the LEAP Manifesto fell to earth, ignored.

What the New Democratic and its predecessor party did achieve was a third-party alternative for disgruntled conservatives and liberals. It seems they are passing the torch to the Greens, who do know what they want when it comes to the environment.

The failure of the NDP was its problem of being a class-based political party. It had defined its membership as the classic ‘working man’ and his family. It also attracted many academics who saw the party as the fast track to social justice. Some of the reforms that the CCF fought for over the years became reality as other parties came to agree. Canada’s early ‘Baby Bonus,’ unemployment insurance, old age pensions and Medicare were all CCF initiatives.

It was a desperation move for more power in parliament when the CCF made the deal with the Canadian Labour Congress. The new democratic party that was created in 1961 was too little and to late in the faster pace of social development in Canada in the last half of the 20th Century. Despite a brief populist appeal by leader Jack Layton in 2011, the party failed to capture the confidence of Canadians.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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