|Chairman||J. S. Woodsworth|
M. J. Coldwell
F. R. Scott
|Secretary||M. J. Coldwell|
|Succeeded by||New Democratic Party|
|International affiliation||Socialist International|
|Colours||Green and Yellow|
The Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) (French: Fédération du Commonwealth Coopératif, from 1955 the Parti social démocratique du Canada) was a democratic socialist and social-democratic political party in Canada. The CCF was founded in 1932 in Calgary, Alberta, by a number of socialist, agrarian, co-operative, and labour groups, and the League for Social Reconstruction. In 1944, the CCF formed the first social-democratic government in North America when it was elected to form the provincial government in Saskatchewan.
The full, but little used, name of the party was Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (Farmer-Labour-Socialist).
In 1961, the CCF was succeeded by the New Democratic Party (NDP).
The CCF aimed to alleviate the suffering that workers and farmers, the ill and the old endure under capitalism, seen most starkly during the Great Depression, through the creation of a Co-operative Commonwealth, which would entail economic co-operation, public ownership of the economy, and political reform.
The object of the political party as reported at its founding meeting in Calgary in 1932 was "the federation [joining together] of organizations whose purpose is the establishment in Canada of a co-operative commonwealth, in which the basic principle of regulating production, distribution and exchange will be the supplying of human needs instead of the making of profit."
The goal of the CCF was defined as a "community freed from the domination of irresponsible financial and economic power in which all social means of production and distribution, including land, are socially owned and controlled either by voluntarily organized groups of producers and consumers or - in the case of major public services and utilities and such productive and distributive enterprises as can be conducted most efficiently when owned in common - by public corporations responsible to the people's elected representatives". Many of the party's first Members of Parliament (MPs) were members of the Ginger Group, composed of United Farmers of Alberta, left-wing Progressive, and Labour MPs. These MPs included United Farmers of Alberta MPs William Irvine and Ted Garland, Agnes Macphail (UFO), Humphrey Mitchell, Abraham Albert Heaps, Angus MacInnis, and Labour Party MP J. S. Woodsworth. Also involved in founding the new party were members of the League for Social Reconstruction (LSR), such as F. R. Scott and Frank Underhill.:31 It can be said that the CCF was founded on May 26, 1932, when the Ginger Group MPs and LSR members met in William Irvine's office, the unofficial caucus meeting room for the Ginger Group, and went about forming the basis of the new party. J. S. Woodsworth was unanimously appointed the temporary leader until they could hold a founding convention. The temporary name for the new party was the Commonwealth Party.:30
At its founding convention in 1932 in Calgary, the party settled on the name "Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (Farmer-Labour-Socialist)" and selected J. S. Woodsworth as party leader. Woodsworth had been an Independent Labour Party MP since 1921 and a member of the Ginger Group of MPs. The party's 1933 convention, held in Regina, Saskatchewan, adopted the Regina Manifesto as the party's program. The manifesto outlined a number of goals, including public ownership of key industries, universal public pensions, universal health care, children's allowances, unemployment insurance, and workers' compensation.:304-313
Its conclusion read, "No CCF Government will rest content until it has eradicated capitalism and put into operation the full programme of socialized planning which will lead to the establishment in Canada of the Co-operative Commonwealth." The party affiliated to the Socialist International.
In line with Alberta's important role in founding the CCF, it is said that the first CCF candidate elected was Chester Ronning in the Alberta provincial constituency of Camrose, in October 1932. The UFA, under whose banner he contested the election, formalized its already-strong connection to the CCF in its next provincial convention, in January 1933.
In its first federal election, seven CCF MPs were elected to the House of Commons in 1935. Eight were elected in the following election in 1940, including their first member east of Manitoba, Clarence Gillis, in Cape Breton, a coal-mining area of Nova Scotia (specifically the federal riding of Cape Breton South.
The party was divided with the outbreak of World War II: Woodsworth was a pacifist, while many party members supported the Canadian war effort. Woodsworth had a physically debilitating stroke in May 1940 and could no longer perform his duties as leader. In October, Woodsworth wrote a letter to the 1940 CCF convention, in essence asking to retire from the leadership. Instead, the delegates created the new position of Honorary President, abolished the President's position and re-elected M. J. Coldwell as the National Chairman. Coldwell was then appointed acting House Leader on 6 November. Woodsworth died on 21 March 1942, and Coldwell officially became the new leader at the July convention in Toronto and threw the party behind the war effort. As a memorial to Woodsworth, Coldwell suggested that the CCF create a research foundation, and Woodsworth House was established in Toronto for that purpose.
In the 1945 election, 28 CCF MPs were elected, and the party won 15.6% of the vote.
The party had its greatest success in provincial politics. In 1943, the Ontario CCF became the official opposition in that province.
In 1944 the Saskatchewan CCF formed the first democratic socialist government in North America, with Tommy Douglas as premier. Douglas introduced universal Medicare to Saskatchewan, a policy that was soon adopted by other provinces and implemented nationally by the Liberal Party of Canada during the administration of Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson. Tommy Douglas's CCF governed Saskatchewan from 1944 to 1961.
Federally, during the Cold War, the CCF was accused of having Communist leanings. The party moved to address these accusations in 1956 by replacing the Regina Manifesto with a more moderate document, the Winnipeg Declaration. Nevertheless, the party did poorly in the 1958 federal election, winning only eight seats.
After much discussion, the CCF and the Canadian Labour Congress decided to join forces to create a new political party that could make social democracy more popular with Canadian voters. This party, initially known as the New Party, became the New Democratic Party (NDP) in 1961.
|1935||James Woodsworth||410,125||9.3||7||4th||Liberal Majority|
|1945||Major James Coldwell||815,720||15.6||20||3rd||Liberal Majority|
The CCF estimated its membership as being slightly more than 20,000 in 1938, less than 30,000 in 1942, and over 90,000 in 1944.:Appendix B, Table III, p. 320 Membership figures declined following World War II to only 20,238 in 1950 and would never again reach 30,000:Appendix B, Table III, p. 320
By the late 1940s the CCF had official or unofficial weekly newspapers in Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan; twice-monthly papers in Ontario and Manitoba; and a bimonthly in the Maritimes. A French-language paper in Quebec was also attempted at various times. The party also produced many educational books, pamphlets, and magazines, though these efforts declined in the 1950s.
|Picture||Name||Term start||Term end||Riding as leader||Notes|
|J. S. Woodsworth||1 August 1932||21 March 1942||Winnipeg North Centre, Winnipeg Centre, MB||"Temporary leader" from the party's founding meeting on August 1, 1932 until the founding convention in July 1933 when he was elected president (leader) of the CCF. Due to illness, Woodsworth ceased to be parliamentary leader in October 1940. He remained honorary president (leader) of the CCF until his death.|
|M. J. Coldwell||29 July 1942||10 August 1960||Rosetown--Biggar, SK||Became parliamentary leader of the CCF in October 1940. Was unanimously elected party president (leader) at the CCF's national convention in Toronto in July 1942.|
|Hazen Argue||11 August 1960||2 August 1961||Assiniboia, Wood Mountain, SK||Chosen parliamentary leader by the CCF caucus after Coldwell lost his seat in the 1958 general election. Officially elected party leader, without opposition, at the CCF national convention in 1960.|
The national chairman was the equivalent of party president in most Canadian political parties and was sometimes referred to as such, in that it was largely an organizational role. In the case of the CCF, the national chairman oversaw the party's national council and chaired its meetings. Following an initial period in which Woodsworth held both roles, it was usually distinct from and secondary to the position of party leader. National president originally was also a title the leader held, as both Woodsworth and Coldwell held the title when they held seats in the House of Commons. In 1958, after Coldwell lost his seat, the position of national chairman was merged formally into the president's title and was held by David Lewis.:235
The national secretary was a staff position (initially part-time, and then full-time beginning 1938) which was responsible for the day-to-day organizing of the party. The national secretary was the only full-time employee at the party's national headquarters until 1943, when a research director, Eugene Forsey, and an assistant to the leader were hired.
The CCF song would be later popularized by the movie Prairie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story.
In 2018, Member of Parliament Erin Weir designated himself as a member of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation following his expulsion from the NDP caucus, and sat as a CCF member in parliament. The CCF was not a registered party, and Weir made it clear he was not reactivating the party or movement, but was essentially using the CCF designation simply as a flag of convenience. Thus, though the party affiliation "Co-operative Commonwealth Federation" appears in official parliamentary records and news reports of the era in relation to Weir during 2018 and 2019, the CCF designation was merely nominal, existing only in a parliamentary, not electoral, sense. Weir did not stand for parliament in the 2019 Canadian election.
Anatomy of a party