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New Democratic Party of British Columbia
Unlike other parties in Canada, where provincial and federal politics are strictly separated and members of one are not necessarily members of the other, the NDP members are members of both the federal party and the provincial party.
The party was formed in 1933 as the British Columbia section of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation by a coalition of the Socialist Party of Canada (BC), the League for Social Reconstruction, and affiliated organizations. In August 1933, the latter two organizations merged to become the Associated CCF Clubs. A further merger with the SPC (BC) took place in 1935. In 1960, the name was changed nationally to the New Party, then in 1961 to New Democratic Party.
This two party system was challenged with the rise of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) in western Canada in the 1940s, and its successor the New Democratic Party (NDP). The CCF first took power in Saskatchewan under Premier Tommy Douglas, and made major inroads in British Columbia. In order to block the rise of the socialist CCF, the Liberal and Conservative parties formed a coalition government after the 1941 provincial election when neither party had enough seats to form a majority government on its own. Tensions arose in the coalition due to the dominance of Liberals, and the coalition finally collapsed in 1951 when the Conservatives refounded themselves as an independent party.
In order to prevent the British Columbia CCF from winning in a three party competition, the government introduced the Single Transferable Vote with the expectation that Conservative voters would list the Liberals as their second choice and vice versa. Unexpectedly, the BC Social Credit League, under its new leader W.A.C. Bennett, was able to exploit this system, and emerged as the largest party when the ballots were counted in the 1952 election. Voters were tired of both the Liberals and the Tories and were looking for alternatives. With the CCF having only one seat less than Social Credit, and both the Liberals and Tories having only a handful of seats, it was Social Credit that emerged as the new party of choice for business and voters who wanted to keep the CCF out of power. In the 1953 election, Bennett won a majority government, and both the Liberal and the Conservative parties were reduced to fringe parties.
The Socred's electoral coalition was able to keep the CCF and the NDP out of power until the 1970s, when the tired, stagnating Bennett government was defeated.
The NDP first won election in 1972 under Dave Barrett, who served as Premier for three years. The NDP passed a great deal of modernizing legislation in a very short period of time - virtually a revolution in BC provincial goverance. Among lasting changes were the Insurance Corporation of BC, the Agricultural Land Reserve, and such additions such as Hansard and Question Period to the legislature. The NDP drove the small BC Liberal caucus to abandon their leader David Anderson for the Social Credit Party, as did one of the two Tories elected in 1972. The NDP introduced capital taxes, slashed funding to universities, but suffered the most for bringing clarity to the accounting Social Credit had used, and showed that BC was significantly in debt.
In 1975 when Social Credit, under W.A.C's son Bill Bennett, won a snap election called by Barrett. The Barrett government had initiated a number of reforms in the areas of labour relations, the public service and social programs, most of which endured through to the restraint budget of 1983.
The NDP peaked in popular support in the 1979 election with 46% of the vote. In each election since then, the NDP has lost vote. It took the complete meltdown of the Social Credit Party for the NDP next to take power in 1991 election under Mike Harcourt. The NDP governed the province for the next ten years with a succession of leaders at the helm.
Today, the main opponents of the BC NDP are the Liberal Party, Democratic Reform British Columbia (DRBC) and the Green Party of British Columbia. The BC Green Party challenges the NDP especially for the votes of ecologists and environmentally concerned citizens, but lies mainly to the right of the NDP.
Despite serving as the government throughout the 1990s, the NDP was plagued by a series of leadership scandals that forced the resignations of premiers Harcourt in 1996 and Glen Clark in 1999. One of the many blunders the NDP government embarked on was the construction of the PacifiCats, which would later become part of the FastCat Fiasco. In the May, 2001 election, the New Democrats only won two seats of the 79 in the Legislative Assembly despite have polled 21% of the electorate, and were therefore reduced below official party status. Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell refused to grant this status to the NDP itself. Taken together, the support for these parties is significant, giving rise to calls for electoral reform in the province of BC.
The NDP also faced a number of internal party divisions in the 1990s. Following Clark's resignation as Premier, the party became polarized between moderate center-left figures such as Ujjal Dosanjh and Joy McPhail, and more traditional democratic socialists such as Dan Miller and Corky Evans. These differences have become less important since the party lost power in 2001.
- Robert Connell (1933–1937)
- Harold Winch (1941–1953)
- Robert Strachan (1953 – April 12, 1969)
- Thomas Berger (April 12, 1969 – late 1969)
- Dave Barrett (late 1969 – May 20, 1984)
- Bob Skelly (May 20, 1984 – April 12, 1987)
- Michael Harcourt (April 12, 1987 – February 18, 1996)
- Glen Clark (February 18, 1996 – 1999)
- Dan Miller (1999 – February 20, 2000) acting
- Ujjal Dosanjh (February 20, 2000 – June 16 2001)
- Joy McPhail (June 16 2001 – November 23, 2003) interim
- Carole James (since November 23, 2003)
For further information, see British Columbia New Democratic Party Leadership Conventions.
|Election||Party Leader||# of candidates||Seats||Popular Vote||Final round|
|Previous||After||% Change||#||%||Change||(1952-53 only)|
|Cooperative Commonwealth Federation|
|New Democratic Party|
Note: * the 2005 Election will be held on May 17.
- British Columbia New Democratic Party Leadership Conventions
- List of British Columbia premiers
- List of British Columbia general elections
- List of Canadian political parties
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