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Douglas Elected New Party Leader
Premier T. C. Douglas of Saskatchewan Returns To Federal Politics
At The Helm Of The New Democratic Party Following His Election
As Party Leader At The Founding Convention In Ottawa.

Western Producer
August 10, 1961. p.1 & 2

By Gordon Dewar

OTTAWA--A new Canadian political party was born here last week and Saskatchewan Premier Tommy Duglas will return soon to federal politics as its leader.

Of the birth of the New Democratic Party (which began the week simply as the New Party) it can safely be said that the mid-wives were more than satisfied.

They had good cause to be.

Elderly experts in politics say they have never seen a convention such as this. They point not only to the number of delegates, which at 1744 is the most ever registered for a political convention in Canada, but to the mood of the delegates.

Enthusiasm at a convention is nothing new, perhaps, but enthusiasm which keeps every delegate in his seat on the convention floor for all sessions for five days is something new.

The coliseum here, set up as it was with tables and chairs on the large central floor surrounded by the bands of seats common n any hockey arena, can hold a bet better than 4000 people. In the five days of the convention empty seats were a rarity.

Men such as Mr. Douglas, CCF Leader Hazen Argue (federally the CCF no longer exists and Mr. Argue is no longer a leader), CLC President Claude Jodoin, Douglas Fisher (CCF-Port Arthur) and Murdo Martin (CCF-Timmins) looked on the gathering as an omen of good times ahead for the New Democratic Party.

If such enthusiasm could be passed on to the voters, they said, the party might well win 35 to 50 seats in the next general election.

With anticipated Conservative losses and possible decimation of the Liberal party, this could place the NDP in a position of reasonable power in the House of Commons. Such is their hope.


The convention itself was far the noisiest, busiest, most enthusiastic and happy one seen here in some time. Certainly the three which precede it. (Liberals in January, Conservatives in March and Social Credit in early July) could not compare.

For a change there was far ore heard from delegates on the floor than from officials and official speakers.

Different chairmen repeatedly said the delegates were in control, that anything they wished would be done, and this was exactly the case.

Delegates received recommended articles of the constitution and resolutions of the platform from committees which had approved them. They did not like some of them and sent them back to committees with instructions for changes. The committees made the changes.

A prime example was the objection of Quebec delegates to the use of the word "national" in the constitution. Many speakers, including Mr. Argue, complained that the word had a connotation to French-speaking Canadians which seemed to exclude them from the party.

Their logic was not particularly good, but their displeasure was obvious, so the committee thought again and recommended that the word be altogether removed from the constitution, to be replaced wherever possible by the word "federal." The convention cheered its approval.


On the other hand, the convention stood solidly behind the committee on the question of organizations which should be encouraged to join the party.

A small but vocal group urged, on the third day, that unions not affiliated with the Canadian Labor Congress should not be excluded from party membership for that reason alone. It was admitted there is either Communist influence or leadership in some such unions, but speakers declared the rank and file would make good NDP members.

A series of catcalls and boos preceded a vote in which the committee was soundly supported and the non-CLC union supporters were thoroughly trampled.

There was wrangling over the party name, too. On the third day ballots were distributed with seven suggested names (29 other write-in names were eventually revealed by the ballots).

This vote come out the New Party on top with 614 votes, but this was not a clear majority of the 1452 ballots cast and when an official tried to pin this name on the party, the convention exploded.

The result was another ballot, on it only four names which had received the most votes and when these were counted New Democratic Party came out on top of New Party, 784 to 743. Thus, it's the NDP.


The platform preamble brought on a real row. There were voices from the far left claiming that any socialism inherent in the party was being watered down to the point of innocuousness, while more modern socialists clamored for wording abandoning all the "old" socialist cliches.

The latter group (having been largely responsible for the final draft of the preamble) won the day, but they still insist there is no watering down. The program calls for a "planned economy," which to them means a large measure of government control and selective nationalization.

There was a large split, too, on the question of Canada remaining in NATO-one which Premier Douglas pretty well healed when, in his speech following his election, he sided firmly with the committee which recommended continued membership but pressure to expand NATO activities into fields other than the military.

There was no question about membership in North American Air Defence Command-everybody wanted out.


The real highlight of the convention, of course, was the election of the new leader.

Premier Douglas and Mr. Argue approached the fight in far different ways. The former insisted to the end of the office was seeking him, while it was obvious to everybody that the latter was more than actively seeking the office.

In the end, the office found the man.

For days the experts, semiexperts and just plain betting men had been calling a Douglas victory by either a three-to-one or four-to-one margin.

Delegates, when polled, indicated this and the reaction of the convention to the appearances of the two men on nomination night strengthened the feeling. The voting on Thursday confirmed it all.

Premier Douglas romped in on a vote of 1391 to 380, which is better than 3.5-to-one and not a bad compromise for the experts.

With this assured support of the heart of a growing party, the premier proceeded to lay down his own platform ND it may be significant that it did not differ from the one prepared by committees of the New Party National Committee, made up largely of CCF and CLC members.


In the middle of his speech he declared the willingness of himself and his party (the cheers of the delegates substantiated this) to accept the challenge of Prime Minister John Diefenbaker to fight the next election on the issue of socialism versus free enterprise.

His version of socialism was a planned economy, which would put to work the unemployed, invest the savings of Canadians in capital projects to develop resources and create services (housing, schools, hospitals), balance trade through import and export quotas and redistribute the wealth of the country more equitably, particularly aiding old age pensioners, the blind, widows and the like.

His view of free enterprise was that it is neither free not enterprising, that it means every man for himself "as the elephant said as he danced among the chickens."

Premier Douglas told reporters later that he will resign as Saskatchewan premier by Nov. 1, when a provincial party convention is slated. It will elect a new provincial leader.

He is still debating which of four constituencies in his home province (which have invited him to their candidate) he will choose as the place to gain a seat in Parliament.

Whichever one it is, it will become the site of him home if he has his way. He has no desire to settle in Ottawa.

He also said he has no idea how many seats he may command after the next federal election, declaring he would no more try to forecast an election than the whims of a woman or the outcome of a horse race.

Premier Douglas is sure he will be here, however, and his staunchest supporters are sure he will have a solid contingent of NDP men with him.

This roaring convention has engendered amazing enthusiasm on all sides. It is safe to say the New Democratic Party will be a force to reckon with in the future.