Saskatchewan New Democratic Party

Saskatchewan New Democratic Party
Saskatchewan New Democratic Party
Leader John Nilson (acting)
President Jane Wollenberg
Founded 1932 as the Farmer-Labour Group, became the Saskatchewan CCF in 1934, renamed Saskatchewan NDP in 1967
Headquarters 1122 Saskatchewan Dr.
Regina, Saskatchewan
S4P 0C4
Ideology Social democracy
Political position Centre-left
International affiliation Socialist International
Official colours Orange, green
Seats in Legislature
9 / 58
Template:Official party
Politics of Saskatchewan
Political parties

The Saskatchewan New Democratic Party (NDP) is a social-democratic political party in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. It currently forms the official opposition, but has been a dominant force in Saskatchewan politics since the 1940s. The party is the successor to the Saskatchewan Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, and affiliated to the federal New Democratic Party.


Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (Saskatchewan Section)


"Towards the Dawn!" - 1930s promotional image for Saskatchewan's Cooperative Commonwealth Federation

The origins of the party began as early as 1902. In that year a group of farmers created the Territorial Grain Growers' Association. The objective of this group was to lobby for farmer's rights with the grain trade and the railways. The name was changed to the Saskatchewan Grain Growers Association (SGGA) when Saskatchewan became a province in 1905.[1]

In 1921 a left-wing splinter group left the SGGA to form the Farmer's Union. However, the two groups reconciled in 1926 and reformed as the United Farmers of Canada (Saskatchewan Section) (UFC). The first leader of the UFC was George Williams.[2]

The Progressive Party of Saskatchewan, a farmers movement, elected six MLAs in the 1921 provincial election as well as in the 1925 election and five in 1929 but were never able to field candidates in more than half a dozen of the province's 63 ridings. After the 1929 provincial election returned a Liberal minority government, the Progressives joined with the Conservatives to defeat the Liberals and form a coalition government dominated by the Tories. The Progressives disappeared over the course of the next four years and were largely absorbed by the Tories.

The rightward drift of the Progressives prompted the UFC-SS to decide, in 1930, to run its own candidates in the following election. In 1931, the UFC participated in the March on Regina to protest against government indifference to the farmer's plight during the depression. During that event the UFC met with the Independent Labour Party, led by M.J. Coldwell, to discuss their options. From that meeting they agreed to form the Farmer-Labour Group (FLG) with Coldwell as the leader.[3] The new party acquired its first member in the Saskatchewan legislature when Jacob Benson, elected as a Progressive in 1929, joined to become a Farmer-Labour MLA.[4]

The FLG participated in the 1934 provincial election and won five seats and became the official opposition to the Liberals. Coldwell failed to win a seat but remained as leader.

Founding of the CCF

Following the election, the Farmer-Labour Group officially became the Saskatchewan section of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), although it had been known unofficially as the CCF's Saskatchewan wing before that.[3]

In 1935, Coldwell ran for federal office in the federal election and was elected. Williams took over as party leader.[3] Williams' radicalism caused moderates in the party to believe that the CCF could not form government with him as leader. Tommy Douglas, a charismatic federal CCF MP was persuaded to challenge Williams for the leadership and succeeded in defeating him for the party presidency in 1941 and for the party leadership in 1942.[5][6]

In government

In the 1944 election, the Saskatchewan CCF, led by Tommy Douglas, swept to power. They took 47 out of 52 seats.[7] Since that election, the CCF/NDP has won 12 out of 17 elections and held power for 47 of 63 years (as of 2007).

Arguably, the party's greatest accomplishment was the introduction of North America's first comprehensive system of public medical insurance or Medicare. The fight to introduce Medicare in the province was intense, due to the opposition of the province's doctors who were backed by the American Medical Association. The AMA feared that public health care would spread to other parts of the continent if introduced in one part. In July 1962 the doctors staged the 23-day Saskatchewan Doctors' Strike. But despite a concerted attempt to defeat the controversial Medical Care Insurance Act, the strike eventually collapsed and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan agreed to the alterations and terms of the "Saskatoon Agreement". The program was introduced and became so popular it was soon adopted across Canada.

After doing much of the preliminary work on Medicare, Douglas resigned as party leader and Premier of Saskatchewan in 1961 to become the founding leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP). The NDP had been formed by a coalition of the CCF and the Canadian Labour Congress. The Saskatchewan CCF followed suit, and adopted its current name in 1967 after a transitional period when the party was awkwardly named the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, Saskatchewan Section of the New Democratic Party of Canada.

The turmoil of the Medicare fight took its toll, however, and the NDP-CCF government of Douglas's successor Woodrow S. Lloyd was defeated by Ross Thatcher's Saskatchewan Liberal Party in the 1964 election. The party dropped the "CCF" name after the 1967 election.

Recent History

Dwain Lingenfelter, announcing his candidacy for the NDP leadership

The NDP rebuilt itself and went through a painful confrontation between a left-wing movement dubbed "The Waffle" (a name derived from Toronto leftist economist Gordon Laxer's quip that if he was perceived to be "waffling" on a policy question, then he'd "rather waffle to the left than waffle to the right") and the more centrist-oriented party establishment. The party returned to power in the 1971 election, under Allan Blakeney, embarking on a programme of nationalizing the province's natural resources. This saw the creation of parastatal or Crown corporations that drilled for oil (Saskatchewan Oil & Gas Corporation or SaskOil), mined potash (the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan) and sought hard-rock minerals (the Saskatchewan Mining Development Corp.).[8] Blakeney's government was defeated in the 1982 election by the Progressive Conservative Party of Saskatchewan, led by Grant Devine.

The party returned to office in 1991, under the leadership of Roy Romanow. The Romanow government was more fiscally conservative than previous CCF/NDP governments, and instituted a program of hospital closures, program cuts, and privatization to eliminate the budget deficit and reduce debt inherited from previous governments. Romanow later quipped that he was a supporter of Tony Blair's Third Way concept before it even existed, and there were many who doubted the party's continued commitment to social democracy. The NDP's Third Way alienated some of its left-wing members, who left the party and merged with the Green Party supporters to form the New Green Alliance.

In the 1999 provincial election, Romanow's NDP received slightly less popular support as a share of the vote than the conservative opposition Saskatchewan Party led by Elwin Hermanson, a former Reform MP. Romanow and his government formed a coalition government with the three elected Liberal MLAs; one, Jack Hillson, subsequently left cabinet to sit as an independent Liberal in opposition. Jim Melenchuk and Ron Osika remained in the coalition and ran under the NDP banner in the 2003 provincial election, where both were defeated.

Following the 2003 general election, the NDP, now led by Lorne Calvert, was able to form a government on its own with a majority in the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan of two seats (30-28).[9] The party's tenure in office ended with the 2007 general election, when the Saskatchewan Party under leader Brad Wall won 38 of the 58 seats.[10] Reduced to official opposition leader, Calvert said he had no immediate plans to step down as NDP leader, but would likely not lead the party into the next election.[11]

In 2008, Lorne Calvert announced his intention to leave the leadership of the Sask NDP and a leadership race commenced with declared candidates including Moose Jaw MLA Deb Higgins, former Deputy Premier and farmer, Dwain Lingenfelter, doctor and community activist Ryan Meili and former party President and Regina lawyer, Yens Pedersen. Lingenfelter was elected party leader June 6, 2009.

Despite starting in the 1930s as a party of rural discontent, it had by the 1990s lost almost all of its rural seats and found its greatest strength in Saskatchewan's cities.[citation needed]

The 2011 election proved a heavy blow for the party; both Lingenfelter and deputy leader Deb Higgins lost their seats as the Saskatchewan Party consolidated its majority. Lingenfelter resigned as leader, and John Nilson was named acting leader.[12]

Party leaders

  • M.J. Coldwell (July 27, 1932–July 17, 1936)
  • George Williams (July 17, 1936–February 12, 1941)
  • John Brockelbank (February 12, 1941–July 17, 1942) (leader in the legislature)
  • Thomas C. Douglas (July 17, 1942–November 3, 1961)
  • Woodrow Lloyd (November 3, 1961–July 4, 1970)
  • Allan Blakeney (July 4, 1970–November 7, 1987)
  • Roy Romanow (November 7, 1987–January 27, 2001)
  • Lorne Calvert (January 27, 2001–June 6, 2009)
  • Dwain Lingenfelter (June 6, 2009–November 19, 2011)
  • John Nilson (acting) (November 19, 2011- )

Coldwell, Williams, Brockelbank and Lingenfelter are the only leaders not to have been Premier during their time in provincial office.

See also


  1. ^ Taylor, Georgina. 1991. Saskatchewan. Page 117 in Heaps, Leo, editor. Our Canada. James Lorimer & Company. Toronto.
  2. ^ Taylor, Georgina. 1991. Saskatchewan. Page 118 in Heaps, Leo, editor. Our Canada. James Lorimer & Company. Toronto.
  3. ^ a b c Taylor, Georgina. 1991. Saskatchewan. Page 119 in Heaps, Leo, editor. Our Canada. James Lorimer & Company. Toronto.
  4. ^[dead link] Northern resettlement in 1933][dead link]
  5. ^ Quiring, Brett, "Douglas, Thomas Clement (1904–86)", Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan, accessed February 12, 2008
  6. ^ Taylor, Georgina. 1991. Saskatchewan. Page 121 in Heaps, Leo, editor. Our Canada. James Lorimer & Company. Toronto.
  7. ^ Elections Saskatchewan. Provincial Vote Summaries
  8. ^ Jim Harding. Social Policy and Social Justice: The NDP Government in Saskatchewan During the Blakeney Years. 1995. p. 341.
  9. ^ Smith, Graeme. 'Stay tuned,' Saskatchewan Premier says. The Globe and Mail. November 7, 2003. p. A5.
  10. ^ "Saskatchewan Party wins majority government". CBC News. November 7, 2007. 
  11. ^ Hall, Angela (November 8, 2007). "Victory and defeat". The Leader-Post. 
  12. ^ "John Nilson, veteran MLA, chosen interim Sask. NDP leader". 19 November 2011. 

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