In 1933 the party met in Regina, where it chose J.S. WOODSWORTH as its first president. Woodsworth, an MP since 1921, was the acknowledged leader of the party both inside and outside Parliament. The party also adopted the Regina Manifesto, which set out its goals, including that of creating a mixed economy through the NATIONALIZATION of key industries and that of establishing a WELFARE STATE with universal pensions, health and welfare insurance, children's allowances, unemployment insurance, workers' compensation and similar programs.
The CCF quickly established itself in Canadian political life, electing members to Parliament and to several provincial legislatures. In 1935, 7 CCF MPs were returned and the party captured 8.9% of the popular vote. In 1940, 8 MPs were returned on 8.5% of the popular vote. At the beginning of WWII the CCF was split between supporters of Woodsworth's uncompromising pacifism and supporters of Canada's entry into the conflict.
M.J. COLDWELL, who succeeded Woodsworth as leader during this period, favoured Canada's participation, and under his moderate guidance the party began to flourish electorally. It won the critical York South by-election in February 1942, in the process preventing the Conservative leader, former Prime Minister Arthur MEIGHEN, from entering the Commons; topped a September 1943 national Gallup poll; came second in that year's Ontario elections; and, under the leadership of T.C. DOUGLAS, took office in Saskatchewan in 1944. In the 1945 federal election the CCF returned 28 MPs, garnering 15.6% of the popular vote.
Although the CCF was well established, it gradually declined in popular appeal after the war. A socialist party, it was accused of being associated with communism, and during COLD WAR tension this image was damaging. An attempt in 1956 to soften the party's image by replacing the Regina Manifesto with a new, moderate document, the Winnipeg Declaration, could not reverse the trend, and in 1958 the party suffered a disastrous defeat: only 8 MPs were elected with a mere 9.5% of the popular vote. Both Coldwell and Deputy Leader Stanley KNOWLES were personally defeated.
Following this debacle an arrangement was negotiated by David LEWIS between the CCF and the CANADIAN LABOUR CONGRESS. The CLC, urged by Lewis to save democratic socialism in Canada, agreed to enter a formal alliance with the CCF to create a new party. In 1961 the CCF entered a new phase, and emerged from a founding convention as the NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY. Although the CCF had never held power nationally, the adoption of many of its ideas by ruling parties contributed greatly to the development of the Canadian welfare state.
Author J.T. MORLEY
Links to Other Sites
New Democratic Party of Canada
The official website of the New Democratic Party of Canada.
View a brief video about James Shaver Woodsworth and his negotiations with Prime Minister Mackenzie King over the creation of the first elements of Canada's social-security system. A Heritage Minute from the Historica-Dominion Institute. See also related learning resources.
Canadian Labour History
This website documents the history of the labour movement and labour reform in Canada. From the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
Saskatchewan’s 1944 CCF Election
Follow the development of the CCF party in this online collection of archival documents and photographs. Focuses on the Progressives, the Farmer-Labor Party, the Regina Convention and more. From the Saskatchewan Archival Information Network.