Ontario New Democratic Party

Ontario New Democratic Party
Active Provincial Party
LeaderHoward Hampton
PresidentSandra Clifford
Headquarters33 Cecil St
Toronto, Ontario
M5T 1N1
Political ideologySocial Democracy /
Democratic Socialism
International alignmentSocialist International
ColoursOrange & Green

The Ontario New Democratic Party, formally known as New Democratic Party of Ontario, 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 Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), a democratic socialist political party. 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.

While United Farmer Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) joined 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. It decided 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 (MP), 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 Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP)1 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 Philpott 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 won its first seat in the Ontario legislature: Samuel Lawrence was elected in Hamilton East. The Ontario CCF failed to win any seats in the 1937 election.

1 In 1938, Members of the Ontario Legislative Assembly (MLAs) passed a motion to adopt the title "Members of Provincial Parliament" (MPP).

Breakthrough and decline

Enlarge picture
Ted Jolliffe, CCF Leader 1942-1953
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 ("Tories"), who formed a minority government.

The 1945 Election is known infamously as the "Gestapo Campaign", due to Jolliffe's May 24, 1945 radio speech that compared Drew's use of the Ontario Provincial Police's Special Investigations Branch to spy on opposition MPPs to the dreaded Nazi secret state police.[1] The information acquired by agent D-208 was used by the anti-CCF forces to place libelous advertisements in the province's newspapers and billboards. Jolliffe publicly alleged that Drew was ordering this spying. The public outcry was so great that Drew had to form the LeBel Royal Commission, to look into these allegations.[2] Although Jolliffe's CCF and the Ontario Liberals called on Drew to suspend the election until the commission made its report, Drew continued on with the election. The CCF dropped 9 percentage points, but their seat total was even more dramatically reduced compared to their level of popular support. The election reduced them by 26 seats, taking the CCF from 34 to 8 seats in the Legislature. Drew got a massive majority and Jolliffe lost his York South seat.

In the 1948 Election, the CCF were able to elect 21 members, including Jolliffe, to once again form the Official Opposition. However, the CCF's return to popularity was short-lived, due to the prosperity of the 1950s and the Cold War's anti-Communist hysteria. This rapid decline in their popularity reduced the party to two seats in the 1951 election and allowed the Liberal Party of Ontario to become the Official Opposition. No social democratic party would be the Official Opposition again until 1975, when Stephen Lewis's NDP displaced the Liberals as the second party in the Ontario Legislature.

End of the CCF/New Party and revival

Enlarge picture
Donald C. MacDonald,CCF/NDP Leader from 1953–1970. Seen here in February 2007
Donald C. MacDonald became leader in 1953, and spent the next fifteen years rebuilding the party. The CCF changed its name 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 the 1967 election, when its popular vote rose from 15% to 26%. The party increased its presence in the legislature from 8 to 20 seats.

Official Opposition, again

Stephen Lewis took over the party's leadership in 1970, and the NDP's popularity continued to grow. With the 1975 provincial election, 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.

The Rae years

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 the general election of 1990, the party won power for the first time by heavily defeating the Liberal government. Most of the party's own supporters hadn't expected to win. However, Peterson's popularity tailed off dramatically between 1987 and 1990. With the Tories in considerable upheaval, the NDP was able to take advantage of the situation. Although the NDP finished only three percentage points ahead of the Liberals, they managed to take many seats in the Greater Toronto Area away from the Liberals. As a result, the NDP won a strong majority government with 74 seats while the Liberals suffered the worst defeat in their history.

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 of 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 government workers were given days off 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. At one point, the NDP fell to a low of 6 percent support in polling. An ominous sign for the party came in the 1993 federal election, in which all of the NDP's Ontario MPs lost their seats. It was obvious by the 1995 election that Rae would not win another term. In this election, the NDP was heavily defeated by the Tories under Mike Harris. The NDP fell to 17 seats, third place in the Legislative Assembly.

After Rae

Enlarge picture
Ontario NDP leader Howard Hampton in February 2007.
Rae resigned a few months after the election and was succeeded by Howard Hampton, a longtime rival. Rae has since joined the Liberal Party of Canada and was an unsuccessful candidate for party leadership in December 2006.

Under Hampton, the party has largely repudiated Rae's policies and renewed its commitment to a moderate form of socialism. Shortly after the 1999 election, Hampton cited the Swedish model of social democracy as closely reflecting his own beliefs. However, the party has never really healed the breach with organized labour that resulted from the Social Contract. It has also never approached the popularity it enjoyed in the late 1980s.

NDP support fell even further in the 1999 election, leaving the party with just 9 seats. However, this was largely due to NDP voters voting Liberal in hopes of removing Harris and the Tories from power. As a result, Hampton was not blamed for this severe defeat and stayed on as leader.

Under the rules of the Legislative Assembly, a party would receive "official party status", and the resources and privileges accorded to officially-recognized parties, if it had 12 or more seats; thus, the NDP would lose caucus funding and the ability to ask questions in the House. However, the governing Conservatives changed the rules after the election to lower the threshold for party status from 12 seats to 8. The Tories argued that since Ontario's provincial ridings now had the same boundaries as the federal ones, the threshold should be lowered to accommodate the smaller legislature. Others argued that the Tories were only helping the NDP so they could continue to split the vote with the Liberals.

2003 election: losing official party status

In the 2003 election, the party emphasized their "Public Power Campaign", which had two key issues, primarily publicly-owned electricity generation and distribution, and publicly-run auto insurance.[3] As well, the Public Power Campaign also dealt with rolling-back the social program cuts from the Harris government's Common Sense Revolution. Many media outlets – including The Globe and Mail – thought that party leader Howard Hampton performed strongly in the televised leaders' debate.<ref name "leader">Mittelstaedt, Martin. "NDP loses its official status despite surge in popular vote", The Globe and Mail Newspaper, 2003-10-03, pp. A9. Retrieved on 2007-05-12. (English)  Despite Hampton's debate performance and a 2.4% increase in the popular vote, the party lost two seats, once again losing official party status and their previous speaking privileges and funding.<ref name "leader"/> One of issues that likely affected NDP support was "Strategtic Voting." "Strategic Voting" meant that traditional NDP supporters and even party members, wanting to get rid of the Ontario Conservatives, would vote Liberal instead of NDP.[4] This voting practice did do damage to the NDP's electoral fortunes because it was interpreted as a call for blanket support for Liberal candidates over NDP candidates, with no real thought to which candidate had a better chance to defeat a Conservative.[5] Even unions friendly to the NDP, such as the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), were promoting "Strategic Voting" to their membership and the public, which further added to the party's woes.[6] The newly elected Liberal government refused to change the rules as the Tories had done.[7]

By-elections: regaining official party status

The first by-election in the 38th Legislative Assembly of Ontario, was in the riding of Hamilton East, caused by the untimely death of the riding's MPP, Dominic Agostino, on March 24, 2004. This tragic event, in conjunction with a recent and unpopular tax increase by the Liberals, provided the NDP with an opportunity to regain party status. A by-election was called for Thursday, May 13, 2004, in which NDP candidate Andrea Horwath, a Hamilton city councillor, ran against the late Agostino's brother, Liberal candidate Ralph Agostino. In a fight for its political life, the NDP ran an all-out campaign to win the seat, aided by the city's large base of unionized steelworkers. On election night, the former Liberal stronghold brought the NDP back to eight seats in the Legislature, allowing them to regain official party status.

The NDP's representation in the Legislature was again reduced to seven seats when Marilyn Churley resigned her seat to run in the 2006 federal election. However, the Liberals reversed their position and declared that the NDP would retain party status even if they lost the upcoming Toronto—Danforth by-election. Some opposition sources believed the Liberals, mindful of their humiliating defeat to Horwath, had loosened their interpretation of the rules so that whomever ran for the NDP in Toronto-Danforth couldn't use the threat of lost status in a campaign. This issue became moot when, on March 30, 2006, NDP candidate Peter Tabuns won the by-election in the Toronto–Danforth riding by a 9% margin over the Liberals' Ben Chin, alleviating another party status crisis.

The NDP scored a surprise victory over the Liberals in the late summer of that year in the riding of Parkdale—High Park. Liberal Education Minister Gerard Kennedy resigned on April 5, 2006 to run for the Federal Liberal Party leadership. The government took an unusually long time to call the by-election, waiting until August 16th to drop the writ. It turned into one of the most vicious elections in recent Ontario memory, almost on par with Jolliffe's 1945 "Gestapo" campaign. This time though, the NDP were not making the accusations; NDP candidate Cheri DiNovo's credibility was put to the test by what most of the media considered to be unworthy and underhanded personal attacks launched by the Liberals. The tactic backfired; on Thursday September 14, 2006, DiNovo defeated Liberal candidate – and incumbent Toronto city councillor – Sylvia Watson by taking 41% of the popular vote to Watson's 33%.[8]

In the riding of York South—Weston, adjacent to Parkdale—High Park and once the seat of former leaders Bob Rae, Donald C. MacDonald and Ted Jolliffe, the NDP continued its string of recent by-election successes by taking away another Liberal strong-hold. On February 8,2007, Paul Ferreira narrowly defeated Liberal candidate Laura Albanese by 358 votes, or 2%. This victory increased the NDP caucus' seat total to ten, up by three since the October 2003 general election.[9]

2007 Ontario general election

In the 2007 general election, the party increased its share of the popular vote by two percent but did not make any gains in the Legislature, with the loss of Paul Ferreira in York South—Weston being offset by the victory of Paul Miller in Hamilton East—Stoney Creek.

Early polling in September 2006 showed the party with 27% support, its highest recorded level since 1992.[10] By early 2007 support had fallen to 17% support, further behind the two front-running parties but still slightly ahead of the Party's 15% result in the 2003 election.[11] [12] September 2007 polling had the NDP at 14%,[13] while the September 29th Ipsos poll had them at 17%,[14], meaning that NDP's support has been constant for a year within the margin of error. Though the same Ipsos poll suggested that the NDP would elect 12 members to the Legislature, the party would elect under this number.[14]

Leaders of the Ontario CCF/NDP

2 The Ontario CCF became the Ontario NDP in 1961.

3 Bud Wildman was interim leader of the NDP in the Ontario legislature from Rae's resignation as an MPP to Howard Hampton's election as party leader.

See also: Ontario CCF/NDP Leadership Conventions

Election results

Year of election Candidates elected # of seats available # of votes % of popular vote
20037103660,73014.7% |2007 |10 |107 | |16.8%

References and notes

1. ^ Caplan, p.168
2. ^ Caplan, p.170
3. ^ Campbell, Murray. "Sensing rout of PCs, NDP turning sights on Ontario Liberals", The Globe and Mail Newspaper, 2003-09-30, pp. A7. Retrieved on 2007-05-12. (English) 
4. ^ "Hampton pleads for minority government", The Globe and Mail Newspaper, 2003-09-30. Retrieved on 2007-05-12. (English) 
5. ^ Urquhart, Ian. "Polls show NDP in a tough spot", News, Toronto Star Newspaper, 2003-09-17. Retrieved on 2007-05-12. (English) 
6. ^ "CAW head to target Ontario Tories", The Globe and Mail Newspaper, 2003-08-19. Retrieved on 2007-05-12. (English) 
7. ^ Urquhart, Ian. "Stifling voice of NDP is hardly democratic", News, Toronto Star Newspaper, 2003-10-29. Retrieved on 2007-05-12. (English) 
8. ^ "NDP thumps Liberals in vicious Ontario by-election", National section, The Globe and Mail Newspaper, 2006-09-15. Retrieved on 2007-05-12. (English) 
9. ^ Benzie, Robert. "NDP formula = a perfect 10: Party welcomes 10th MPP after running on appeal to raise minimum wage", The Toronto Star, 2007-02-20. Retrieved on 2007-02-21. (English) 
10. ^ Environics Research Group Limited (2006-09-09). Provincial Party Support Results June 2006: Ontario. Press release. Retrieved on 2007-05-12.
11. ^ SES Research (2007-02-04). Ontario Liberals Lead by Eight Points. Press release. Retrieved on 2007-05-12.
12. ^ Ipso Canada (2007-02-24). Ontario Politics With Just Over 7 Months To “E” Day Liberals(38%) Lead Tories (33%), NDP (17%) And Green (9%). Press release. Retrieved on 2007-05-12.
13. ^ The Canadian Press (2007-09-19). Liberals hang on to lead over Tories, poll shows. Press release. Retrieved on 2007-09-23.
14. ^ Ipsos-Reid/CanWest/National Post (September 29, 2007). Post Debate Tory Tumble Gives McGuinty Liberals Ten Point Lead. Press release. Retrieved on 2007-09-29. These are the findings of an Ipsos Reid poll conducted exclusively for CanWest News Service and Global Television from Sep 25 to September 27, 2007. For the survey, a representative randomly selected sample of 800 adults living in Ontario was interviewed by telephone. With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate to within ± 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been had the entire adult population living in Ontario been polled. The margin of error will be larger within regions and for other sub-groupings of the survey population. These data were weighted to ensure that the sample's regional and age/sex composition reflects that of the actual Ontarian population according to Census data.
  • Caplan, Gerald (1973). The Dilemma of Canadian Socialism: The CCF in Ontario. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart. ISBN 0771018967.1973&rft.pub=McClelland%20and%20Stewart&rft.place=Toronto&rft.isbn=0771018967"> 
  • Lewis, David (1981). The Good Fight: Political Memoirs, 1909-1958. Toronto: Macmillan of Canada. ISBN 0771595980.1981&rft.pub=Macmillan%20of%20Canada&rft.place=Toronto&rft.isbn=0771595980"> 
  • MacDonald, Donald C. (1998). The Happy Warrior: Political Memoirs, 2nd Ed.. Toronto: Dundurn Press, pp.292-296. ISBN 1-55002-307-1.1998&rft.pub=Dundurn%20Press&rft.place=Toronto&rft.pages=pp.292-296&rft.isbn=1-55002-307-1"> 
  • Smith, Cameron (1989). Unfinished Journey: The Lewis Family. Toronto: Summerhill Press. ISBN 0-929091-04-3.Toronto&rft.isbn=0-929091-04-3"> 

See also

External links

Ontario Political Parties
Represented in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
Liberal PC NDP
Other parties recognized by Elections Ontario:
Green Family Freedom Communist Libertarian C. of Regions

Provincial Elections

New Democratic Party regional wings
In government:Saskatchewan - Manitoba
'''Forming the official opposition:British Columbia - Nova Scotia
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