Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


The New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP) was founded in 1961 from an earlier party, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), and the largest trade union federation, the Canadian Labour Congress. The first leader of the NDP, from 1961 to 1971, was T. C. "Tommy" Douglas, who had led the CCF in Saskatchewan to its first victories. The current (2001) national leader is Alexa McDonough, a member of Parliament from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and a former leader of the party in that province.

The ndp has yet to form a federal government, but it has run governments in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, British Columbia, Yukon, and (only once to date) Ontario. Nationally, it has been enormously influential as the "conscience of the country" and by forcing reforms in minority-government situations. Thus, it was instrumental in obtaining the first old-age pension legislation, unemployment insurance, family allowances, and electoral reform (disclosure on funding sources and limits on spending). Its pioneering of public health care–"medicare"–in Saskatchewan in 1944 led to the establishment of a national scheme in the 1960s under a Liberal government. T. C. Douglas is now recognized as the "father of medicare" in Canada.

The NDP caucus, reduced to thirteen members in the federal election of 2000, barely retained official party status in the House of Commons (twelve members is the minimum). This loss of support is likely the result of the growth of the far-right Canadian Alliance Party, fear of which moved ndp voters to the center-left Liberal Party as the party most able to keep the far right out of office. The drop in support has prompted a call for review of the NDP's policies, name, structure, and relations with activist citizens' organizations.

Lynn McDonald University of Guelph

McDonald, Lynn. The Party That Changed Canada: The New Democratic Party Then and Now. Toronto: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1986.

Morton, Desmond. Social Democracy in Canada: NDP. Toronto: Samuel Stevens, Hakkert, 1977.

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