The Four Political Parties of Canada


In a country as vast and as culturally diverse as Canada, many different
political opinions can be found stretched across the country. From the affluent
neighbourhoods of West Vancouver to the small fishing towns located on the east
coast of Newfoundland, political opinions and affiliations range from the left
wing to the right wing. To represent these varying political views, Canada has
four official national political parties to choose from: the Liberals (who are
currently in power), the Progressive Conservatives, the New Democrats, and the
Reform Party. What is particularly interesting is that none of the latter three
parties compose Her Majesty's Official Opposition in the House of Commons. The
Bloc Quebecois, a Quebec separatist party who only ran candidates in the
province of Quebec in the last federal election in 1993, won 54 seats in that
province, and claimed the title of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition over the
Reform Party, who garnered only 52 seats. Because the Bloc ran candidates only
in Quebec, it would be difficult to think of them being a national political
party, even though they hold a significant number of seats in the national
legislature. This paper will examine the significant early history of Canada's
four main national political parties, and then will analyse their current state,
referring to recent major political victories/disasters, and the comparison of
major economic policy standpoints, which will ultimately lead to a prediction of
which party will win the next federal election in Canada.
Starting on the far left, there is the New Democratic Party of Canada.
Today's modern New Democratic Party was originally called the Co-operative
Commonwealth Federation (CCF), and was founded in 1932. Originally led by a man
by the name of James Shaver Woodsworth, the CCF was formed by several radical
farming groups who found out that they had more similarities with each other
than just their destitution. The 1920's had been a dark period for radicals and
unions within Canada; poverty and significantly lower wages for workers were
prevalent, and apathy regarding these issues was rampant. When the depression
wove its destructive web across Canada in the 1930s, proponents of capitalism
were staggered, but their left-wing opponents were too busy coming to the aid of
the victims of the depression, and could not deal with the capitalists
effectively. When the CCF was officially formed in Calgary, they adopted the
principle policy of being "a co-operative commonwealth, in which the basic
principle regulating production, distribution and exchange will be the supplying
of human needs instead of the making of profits." (Morton, p.12, 1986)
Meanwhile, in Eastern Canada, a group of scholars formed the League for Social
Reconstruction (LSR), and gave the Canadian left a version of socialism that was
related in some respects to the current social and economic situation in Canada.
In 1933, the CCF had its first major convention in Regina, Saskatchewan, and the
original policy platform first proposed by the CCF was replaced by a manifesto
prepared by an LSR committee and originally drafted by a Toronto scholar, Frank
Underhill. The Regina Manifesto, as it is known as today, put emphasis on
"economic planning, nationalisation of financial institutions, public utilities
and natural resources, security of tenure for farmers, a national labour code,
socialised health services and greatly increased economic powers for the central
government." (Morton, p.12, 1986) As a supplement to the feverish mood created
by the convention, the Regina convention concluded by saying "no CCF Government
will rest content until it has eradicated capitalism and put into operation the
full programme of socialised planning which will lead to the establishment in
Canada of the Co-operative Commonwealth." (Morton, p.12, 1986). The CCF tried
to garner more popular support later down the road, and after calling itself the
New Party in 1960, it changed its name officially to the New Democratic Party
(NDP) in 1962. Over the years, the NDP has become a large force in Canadian
politics, becoming an alternative to the Conservatives and Liberals. (Morton,
pgs.12-27, 1986)
Even to the casual Canadian political observer, the NDP is generally
regarded as the party at the bottom of the political barrel at the federal level.
In the last Canadian federal election in 1993 under the leadership of Audrey
McLoughlin, the NDP went from holding 43 seats in the House of Commons to only 9.
McLoughlin resigned, paving the way for the election of the former leader of
the Nova Scotia NDP to the federal post, Alexa McDonough in 1994. On the
provincial level, however, the NDP has experienced some success of late.
Ontario, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan have had (or currently
have) an NDP provincial mandate. (Guy, p.384, 1995)
On the policy front, the NDP seem to