New Democratic Party

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This page is about the Canadian political party. For other parties, see New Democratic Party (disambiguation).

Template:Infobox Canada Political Party

The New Democratic Party (French: Nouveau Parti démocratique) is a social democratic political party in Canada. 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 a member of the Socialist International organization of socialist parties.

The NDP is noted for its populist, 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, particularly the United Church of Canada. The federal leader of the NDP is Jack Layton.

The NDP has never formed the federal government, but has wielded considerable influence during federal minority governments, such as in the current 38th Parliament.

Provincial New Democratic Parties, technically sections of the federal party, have governed several provinces and a territory. They currently govern the provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, form the Official Opposition in British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Yukon, and have sitting members in every provincial legislature except those of Quebec and Prince Edward Island. In previous terms, they have formed governments 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.



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The NDP was created in 1961 as a merger of 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. In 1960, before the NDP was officially registered, one candidate, Walter Pitman, won a by-election under the New Party banner.

The influence of organized labour on 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 (1971-1975), the NDP supported the minority government formed by Pierre Trudeau's Liberals from 1972 to 1974, although the two parties 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.

Under the leadership of Ed Broadbent (1975-1989), 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 Trudeau's Liberal Party back to power.

In number of seats, the federal NDP reached its apogee with 43 Members of Parliament (MPs) in the election of 1988. The Conservatives, however, won a second majority. In 1989, Broadbent stepped down after 15 years as federal leader of the NDP, although he has recently returned from retirement, and won election to Parliament in the riding of Ottawa Centre in the 2004 election.

Over three election cycles, under the leadership of Audrey McLaughlin (1989-1995) — the first woman to be leader of a national political party in Parliament — in the first, and Alexa McDonough (1995-2003) over the next two, the party underwent a marked decline in popularity, a modest resurgence, and a slight further decline. Among other factors, the unpopularity of Bob Rae's provincial 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 general convention in Winnipeg in November 2001 made significant alterations to certain party structures, and reaffirmed its commitment to the left. In the May 2002 by-elections, Brian Masse won the riding of Windsor West in Windsor, Ontario, previously held for decades by a 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 city 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. Layton did not seek a seat in the House of Commons until the 2004 election.

In the 2004 election, 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 Québécois, 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 federal NDP to be shut out in Saskatchewan for the first time since its formation, despite obtaining 23% of the vote in the province.

The Liberals were reelected to the 38th Canadian 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 fact that the Liberal caucus has lost three members since the election, have further decreased this total. The NDP may play an important role in getting legislation passed, particularly instituting electoral reform with proportional representation (PR). 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.

On May 19, 2005, by Speaker Peter Milliken's tie-breaking vote, the House of Commons voted for second reading on major NDP amendments to the federal budget, preempting about $4.5 billion in corporate tax cuts and funding social, educational and environmental programs instead. Both supporters and opponents of the measures branded it Canada's first "NDP budget." The governing Liberals had agreed to support the changes in exchange for NDP support on confidence votes.

The most successful provincial 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.


Unlike other Canadian parties, the NDP is integrated with its provincial and territorial parties, such that a member of a provincial or territorial NDP is ipso facto a member of the federal NDP.

There are three exceptions. In Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, whose territorial legislatures have no parties, the federal NDP is promoted by its riding associations, since each territory is composed of only one federal riding.

In Quebec, the Quebec New Democratic Party and the federal NDP agreed in 1989 to sever their structural ties after the Quebec party adopted a sovereignist platform. Since then, the federal NDP is not integrated with a provincial party in that province; instead, it has a section, the Nouveau Parti démocratique-Section Québec (, whose activities in the province are limited to the federal level, whereas on the provincial level its members are individually free to support or adhere to any party.

Provincial and territorial parties

The provincial New Democratic Parties are sections of the federal New Democratic Party of Canada. According to the party constitution a member of a provincial or territorial NDP is automatically a member of the federal NDP - the federal NDP has no membership of its own except in Quebec where the party has no provincial counterpart. This distinguishes the NDP from the Liberal and Conservative parties which have more complex relationships with their provincial counterparts (and in some cases, no formal relationship) and seperate provincial and federal memberships.

Provincial and territorial parties, current seats, and leaders
Party Seats/Total Leader
Alberta New Democratic Party 4/83 Brian Mason, MLA
New Democratic Party of British Columbia 33/79 Carole James, MLA
New Democratic Party of Manitoba 35/57 Hon. Gary Doer, MLA, Premier of Manitoba
New Brunswick New Democratic Party 1/55 Elizabeth Weir, MLA*
New Democratic Party of
Newfoundland and Labrador
2/48 Jack Harris, MHA
Nova Scotia New Democratic Party 15/52 Darrell Dexter, MLA
Ontario New Democratic Party 8/103 Howard Hampton, MPP
Island New Democrats (P.E.I.) 0/27 Gary Robichaud
Saskatchewan New Democratic Party 30/58 Hon. Lorne Calvert, MLA, Premier of Saskatchewan
Yukon New Democratic Party 5/18 Todd Hardy, MLA

* Weir, who was elected leader in 1988, will be replaced upon the election of her successor on September 25, 2005

From 1963 to 1994 there was a New Democratic Party of Quebec.

Chart of the best showings for provincial parties, and the election that provided the results
Province/Territory Seats - Status Election years and party leaders at the time
Alberta 16 - Official Opposition 1986, Ray Martin; 1989, Ray Martin
British Columbia 51 - Government 1991, Michael Harcourt
Manitoba 35 - Government 2003, Gary Doer
New Brunswick 2 New Brunswick 1984 by-election, George Little
and Labrador
2 1987 by election Peter Fenwick ; 1999, 2003, Jack Harris
Nova Scotia 19 - Official Opposition 1998, Robert Chisholm
Ontario 74 - Government 1990, Bob Rae
Prince Edward Island 1 1996, Herb Dickieson
Quebec 1 1944, (CCF)
Saskatchewan 55 - Government 1991, Roy Romanow
Yukon 11 - Government 1996

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.

One senator, Lillian Dyck, chooses to associate herself with the NDP. However the party does not allow her to be part of the parliamentary caucus, as the NDP favours the abolition of the Senate. She therefore sits in the Senate as an Independent New Democrat.

Federal leaders

Federal election results 1962–2004

Election # of candidates # of seats won # of total votes % of popular vote
1962 217 19 1,044,754 13.57%
1963 232 17 1,044,701 13.24%
1965 255 21 1,381,658 17.91%
1968 263 22 1,378,263 16.96%
1972 252 31 1,725,719 17.83%
1974 262 16 1,467,748 15.44%
1979 282 26 2,048,988 17.88%
1980 280 32 2,150,368 19.67%
1984 282 30 2,359,915 18.81%
1988 295 43 2,685,263 20.38%
1993 294 9 933,688 6.88%
1997 301 21 1,434,509 11.05%
2000 298 13 1,093,748 8.51%
2004 308 19 2,116,536 15.7%

See also: articles on MPs, former MPs

(Note - for those elected prior to 1960, see CCF

1960 by-election(s) >

  • Walter Pitman - former Ontario NDP MPP for Peterborough, former NDP MP for Peterborough, & former Ontario NDP leadership candidate

(Note - Elected under the "New Party" banner between the CCF and NDP)

1967 by-election(s) >

  • Bud Germa - former NDP MP 1967-1968 for Sudbury, former Ontario NDP MPP 1971-1981 for Sudbury

1984 general election >

  • Michael Cassidy - former Ontario NDP leader 1979-1982, former Ontario NDP MPP 1971-1984 Ottawa Centre, former NDP MP 1984-1988 Ottawa Centre
  • Ian Deans - former Ontario NDP MPP 1967-1979 for Wentworth & NDP MP for Hamilton Mountain 1984-1986

1988 general election >

1990 by-election(s) >

  • Michael Breaugh - former Ontario NDP MPP for Oshawa 1975-1990, & former NDP MP for Oshawa 1990-1993

1993 general election >

1997 general election >

2000 general election >

2004 general election >

  • David Christopherson - NDP MP for Hamilton Centre 2004+, former NDP MPP for Hamilton Centre 1990-1999 & Hamilton West 1999-2003

See also: articles on prominent NDP members & organizers

See also

External links


Federal Political Parties of Canada
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Bloc Québécois
Not represented in the House of Commons
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PC Party
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Election - List of election results - List of political parties in the Americas - Political parties

Canadian federal elections | Canadian election results | Summaries
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de:Neue Demokratische Partei Kanadas

fr:Nouveau Parti démocratique du Canada pl:Nowa Demokratyczna Partia Kanady sv:New Democratic Party of Canada


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