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Encyclopedia > New Democratic Party of Ontario

The Ontario New Democratic Party (formerly known as the Ontario Cooperative Commonwealth Federation) is a social democratic political party in Ontario, Canada. It is a section of the federal New Democratic Party.

The NDP was founded in 1932 as the democratic socialist Cooperative Commonwealth Federation. The Ontario CCF saw itself as the successor to the 1919-1923 United Farmers of Ontario-Labour coalition that formed the government in Ontario under Ernest C. Drury.

Agnes Macphail was the Ontario CCF's first president and served as a CCF MPP from 1943 until 1951.

While United Farmer MPPs ended up joining the Ontario Liberal Party, the United Farmers of Ontario (UFO), as an organization, participated in the formation of the Ontario CCF, and was briefly affiliated with the party before deciding to withdraw in 1935 alleging Communist influence in the new party. Many active members of the UFO remained supporters, including Agnes Macphail, who served as president of the Ontario CCF until 1935 when, as a UFO Member of Parliament, she was forced to officially resign from the CCF when the UFO withdrew from the party. She was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as a CCF MPP in 1943. Other prominent CCFers were Graham Spry who was the Ontario CCF's chairman from 1934 to 1936 and Elmore Philpott, a former Liberal, who joined the CCF in 1933 and became president of the Ontario Association of CCF Clubs before resigning from the party and rejoining the Liberals in 1935.

The CCF contested its first Ontario provincial election in 1934. It received 7% of the vote, and elected its first member in the Ontario legislature, Samuel Lawrence, in Hamilton East. The Ontario CCF failed to win any seats in the 1937 election.

The party achieved a major breakthrough under its first leader, Ted Jolliffe, in the 1943 election, forming the Official Opposition with 32% of the vote and 34 seats. The CCF was just four seats short of George Drew's Progressive Conservatives, who formed a minority government.

The Tories remained in government for 42 years. The prosperity of the 1950s, combined with the anti-Communist hysteria of the Cold War, caused the CCF's fortunes to decline in the 1950s. The party lost its position as the Official Opposition in 1951 to the Liberals, and was reduced to just two seats.

Donald C. MacDonald became leader in 1953, and spent the next fifteen years rebuilding the party. The CCF changed its named to the New Democratic Party in 1961, when it formed a formal alliance with the labour movement.

The Ontario NDP gradually picked up seats through the 1960s. It achieved a breakthrough in 1967, when its popular vote rose from 15% to 26%. The party increased its presence in the legislature from 8 to 20 seats.

Stephen Lewis took over the party's leadership in 1970, and the NDP's popularity continued to grow. In 1975, the governing Conservatives were reduced to a minority government for the first time in thirty years. The NDP became the Official Opposition with 38 seats and 29% of the vote as the result of a brilliant election campaign that forced the Tories to promise to implement the NDP's rent control policies.

Hopes were high that the NDP was on the verge of taking power, but in the 1977 election, the Tories under Bill Davis again won a minority government. The NDP lost five seats, and slipped into third place behind the Liberals.

The NDP declined further in the 1981 election under Michael Cassidy, but the party's fortunes turned around under the leadership of Bob Rae.

Bob Rae was the first NDP (or CCF) Premier of Ontario.

The 1985 election resulted in a minority legislature: the Tories under Premier Frank Miller won 52 seats, the Liberals won 48, and the NDP 25. The New Democrats entered negotiations with both the Tories and the Liberals. The NDP signed a two-year accord with the Liberals, in which the Liberals would form government with the NDP's support in exchange for the implementation of a number of NDP policies.

Miller resigned, opening the way for Liberal leader David Peterson to form a government. This was not a coalition government as the NDP declined an offer to sit in Cabinet, preferring to remain in opposition.

When the accord expired in 1987, the Liberals called an election and were re-elected with a majority. The NDP returned as the second largest party with Bob Rae becoming Leader of the Opposition.

In 1990, the party was elected to government for the first time by defeating the Liberal government.

Bob Rae became Premier of Ontario during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. In government, the NDP disappointed supporters by abandoning much of its ambitious program, including the promise to institute a public auto insurance system. As the recession worsened, the NDP implemented what it called the Social Contract — which represented a shift to the right that echoed that on Tony Blair's Labour Party in the United Kingdom. This was a package of austerity measures that;

  • reopened the collective bargaining agreements of public sector unions;
  • implemented a wage freeze for public servants; and
  • imposed Rae Days, which were a schedule of days in which the government shut down operations and sent government workers home without pay.

The Social Contract resulted in a major breach in the NDP's alliance with the labour movement as several unions turned against the party. This split has not yet fully healed, and contributed to the party's defeat in 1995 at the hands of Mike Harris and the Progressive Conservatives. As a result of that election, the NDP again returned to third party status.

Howard Hampton succeeded Rae in 1996. In the 2003 election, despite an energetic campaign that saw an increase in its popular vote to 15%, the party won only seven seats in the Ontario legislature. Because the rules of the Ontario legislature require a party to have eight seats in order to be treated as an official party, the NDP lost official party status and the concommitant speaking and committee membership privileges and research funding. It regained party status when Andrea Horwath won a by-election in Hamilton East on May 13, 2004.

The Ontario NDP has retained its commitment to socialist principles under Hampton's leadership. Shortly after the 1999 election, Hampton cited the Swedish model of democratic socialism as closely reflecting his own beliefs.


Leaders of the Ontario CCF/NDP

++The Ontario CCF became the Ontario NDP in 1961

See also: Ontario CCF/NDP Leadership Conventions

Recent election results

Year of election Candidates elected # of seats available # of votes % of popular vote
1985 25 125 865,507 23.8%
1987 19 130 970,813 25.7%
1990 74 130 1,509,506 37.6%
1995 17 129 854,163 20.6%
1999 9 103 551,009 12.6%
2003 7 103 660,730 14.7%

See also

External links

  • Official web site (http://www.ontariondp.com/)

  Results from FactBites:
Howard Hampton, Leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party (193 words)
Howard Hampton, Leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party
Howard Hampton was elected Leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party at a provincial convention in Hamilton, Ontario on June 22, 1996.
He is the Member of Provincial Parliament for Rainy River and has been the Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs critic for the NDP Caucus since 1995.
  More results at FactBites »



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