- This page is about the Canadian political party. For other parties, see New Democratic Party (disambiguation).
The New Democratic Party (NDP) (French: Nouveau Parti démocratique (NPD)) is a political party in Canada with social democratic and democratic socialist tendencies. It contests elections at the federal and provincial levels. In the Canadian House of Commons, it represents the left wing of the Canadian political spectrum while the Liberal and Conservative parties represent the centre and right wings, respectively.
The NDP is noted for its progressive, agrarian and socialist roots, its close affiliation with organized labour, and, while the party is secular and pluralistic, its longstanding relationship with the Christian left and the Social Gospel movement. The federal leader of the NDP is Jack Layton, a former Toronto City Councillor.
The Party has never governed Canada, but has wielded considerable influence during times of federal minority governments (which is the current government in Canada, under the Liberal Party of Canada), and has governed several provinces and a territory. It currently governs the provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, forms the Official Opposition in Nova Scotia and Yukon, and is the largest opposition party in the legislature of British Columbia. The party has sitting members in every provincial legislature except those of Québec and Prince Edward Island. In previous terms, it has formed government in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia, and in Yukon territory.
New Democrats are also active municipally, and have been elected mayors, councillors and school and service board members -- Toronto mayor David Miller is a leading example. Like most municipal office-holders in Canada, they are usually elected as independents or with autonomous municipal parties.
The NDP was created in 1961 by the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). Tommy Douglas, the long-time CCF Premier of Saskatchewan, was elected the party's first leader. The importance of labour to the party is still reflected in the party's leadership elections as labour votes are scaled to 25% of the total number of ballots cast. Until 1983, the basic statement of principles of the party was embodied in the Winnipeg Declaration, which had been passed by the CCF in 1956.
Under the leadership of David Lewis, the NDP supported the minority government formed by Pierre Trudeau's Liberals from 1972 to 1974, although they never entered into a coalition. Together they succeeded in passing many left-wing initiatives into law, including pension indexing and the creation of a nationalized oil and gas company, Petro-Canada.
The NDP played a critical role during Joe Clark's minority government of 1979-1980, moving the no-confidence motion on John Crosbie's budget that brought down the Progressive Conservative government, and forced the election that brought Pierre Trudeau back to power.
In number of seats, the NDP reached its apogee with 43 MPs under Ed Broadbent in the election of 1988. The Conservatives, however, won a second majority. Broadbent stepped down after 15 years as federal leader of the NDP in 1989, although he has recently returned from retirement, and won election to Parliament in the riding of Ottawa-Centre in the 2004 election. His return has been welcomed by the leadership and membership of the party.
Over three election cycles, under the leadership of Audrey McLaughlin – the first woman to be leader of a national political party in Parliament – in the first, and Alexa McDonough over the next two, the party underwent a decline, a modest resurgence, and a slight decline again. Among other factors, the unpopularity of Bob Rae's NDP government in Ontario hurt the federal party's fortunes. In the 1993 election, in which it won only 9 seats, it lost official party status in the House of Commons. Twelve MPs are required by the rules of the House of Commons for official party status. This status was regained in the 1997 election, in which 21 New Democrats were elected.
The party embarked in a renewal process starting in 2000. A very active general convention in Winnipeg in November 2001 made significant alterations to certain party structures, and reaffirmed its commitment to the left. The process bore fruit in the May 2002 by-elections when Brian Masse won a Windsor West in Windsor, Ontario, previously held for decades by Liberal former Deputy Prime Minister Herb Gray.
Alexa McDonough announced her resignation as party leader for family reasons in June 2002, and was succeeded by Jack Layton. Layton, a former Toronto councillor, was elected at the party's leadership election in Toronto on January 25, 2003, defeating his nearest rival, longtime MP Bill Blaikie, on the first ballot with 53.5% of the vote. In addition, a younger French Canadian candidate, Pierre Ducasse, gave such a stirring speech at the convention that it is hoped that he could be critical in gaining votes in Quebec where the party is typically weak. Layton did not gain a seat in the House of Commons until the elections of June 2004.
In the election of June 28, 2004, the NDP won the third largest number of votes, behind the Conservative Party of Canada and the Liberal Party of Canada. The party gained five seats in the election, for a total of 19. The NDP won fewer seats than the Bloc Quebecois, though, whose smaller portion of the overall popular vote was concentrated in Quebec ridings. The party was also bitterly disappointed to see its two Saskatchewan incumbents defeated by the Conservatives, both in close races. Those losses caused the NDP be shut out in Saskatchewan for the first time since its formation, despite obtaining 23% of the provincial vote.
The Liberals were reelected to the 38th Parliament, though this time as a minority government. The number of seats needed to form a majority government in the 2004 election was 154, exactly one more than the total resulting Liberal and NDP count. The election of a Speaker and the expulsion of Carolyn Parrish from the Liberal caucus, have further decreased this total. The NDP may play an important role in getting legislation passed, particularly instituting electoral reform with proportional representation. PR enjoys at least tacit support from all the opposition parties, which would apparently see elections to the House of Commons modelled on the system used in Germany. Also, there is historical precedent to the Liberals and NDP cooperating such as in the early 1960s and 1970s that laid the national framework for universal healthcare, expansion of employment insurance and the indexing of pensions.
The most successful section of the party has been the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party, which first came to power in 1944 as the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation under Tommy Douglas and has won most of the province's elections since then. In Canada, Tommy Douglas is often cited as the Father of Medicare since as Saskatchewan Premier he introduced the first publicly-funded, universal healthcare system there.
- For information about the 2004 election including a list of nominated candidates see: Canadian federal election, 2004
Unlike other federal parties, the NDP is integrated with its provincial and territorial party, such that a member of the federal party is a member of the provincial or territorial party where he or she resides.
There are three exceptions. In Quebec, the provincial NDP was expelled from the party in the early 1990s when it elected Paul Rose, a former Front de libération du Québec member, as leader and voted to call for Quebec independence. After its expulsion, the former Quebec NDP renamed itself the Parti de la démocratie socialiste or PDS.
Today, the NDP has an activist wing in Quebec (the Nouveau parti démocratique - Section Québec (http://www.npd.qc.ca/)), which promotes the party's agenda in the province and works on federal elections there. On the provincial level in Quebec, many supporters of the federal NDP participate in the Union des forces progressistes (UFP) and some are active in the Parti libéral du Québec and the Parti Québécois (PQ).
In Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, whose legislatures have no parties, the federal NDP is promoted by its riding associations, since each territory is composed of only one federal riding.
Provincial and territorial parties
The provincial and territorial sections of the NDP, and their leaders, are:
- Alberta New Democratic Party, Brian Mason, MLA
- British Columbia New Democratic Party, Carole James
- New Democratic Party of Manitoba, Hon. Gary Doer, MLA, Premier of Manitoba
- New Brunswick New Democrats, Elizabeth Weir, MLA (interim)*
- New Democratic Party of Newfoundland and Labrador, Jack Harris, MHA
- Nova Scotia New Democratic Party, Darrell Dexter, MLA
- Ontario New Democratic Party, Howard Hampton, MPP
- Island New Democrats (PEI), Gary Robichaud
- Saskatchewan New Democratic Party, Hon. Lorne Calvert, MLA, Premier of Saskatchewan
- Yukon New Democratic Party, Todd Hardy, MLA
* Weir, who was elected leader in 1988, announced on October 8, 2004 that she was resigning as leader but would stay in the role until a replacement was chosen in spring 2005
Current members of Parliament
As of June 29, 2004, the NDP holds 19 seats in the House of Commons. For a list of NDP MPs and their critic portfolios see New Democratic Party Shadow Cabinet.
- Tommy Douglas (August 3, 1961 - April 23, 1971)
- David Lewis (April 24, 1971 - July 6, 1975)
- Ed Broadbent (July 7, 1975 - December 4, 1989)
- Audrey McLaughlin (December 5, 1989 - October 13, 1995)
- Alexa McDonough (October 14, 1995 - January 24, 2003)
- Jack Layton (January 25, 2003 - present)
Election results 1962-2004
|Election ||# of candidates nominated ||# of seats won ||# of total votes ||% of popular vote |
|1962 || |
|1963 || |
|1965 || |
|1968 || |
|1972 || |
|1974 || |
|1979 || |
|1980 || |
|1984 || |
|1988 || |
|1993 || |
|1997 || |
|2000 || |
|2004 || |
- Official website (http://www.ndp.ca)
- Alex Ng's NDP links page (http://home.ican.net/~alexng/ndp.html)