Party of Conscience

Party of Conscience

The CCF, the NDP, and Social Democracy in Canada

Edited by Roberta Lexier, Stephanie Bangarth and Jonathan Weier


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Surveying the field of political history in Canada, one might assume that the politics of the nation have been shaped solely by the Liberal and Conservative parties. Relatively little attention has been paid to the contributions of the CCF and NDP in Canadian politics. This collection remedies this imbalance with a critical examination of the place of social democracy in Canadian history and politics.

Bringing together the work of politicians, think tank members, party activists, union members, scholars, students, and social movement actors in important discussions about social democracy delving into an array of topics including municipal, provincial, and national issues, labour relations, feminism, contemporary social movements, war and society, security issues, and the media, Party of Conscience reminds Canadians of the important contributions the CCF and NDP have made to a progressive, compassionate idea of Canada.


Party of Conscience is a sophisticated re-examination of the past and present of Canada’s party of the left, which is both timely and long overdue. Drawing from a wide array of academics, activists, and party stalwarts the essays here give all concerned much to think about as progressive democrats everywhere seek new ways to replace the social, political, and economic injustices of twenty-first-century capitalism with a more just socially democratic order.

– Kevin Brushett, Department of History, Royal Military College of Canada

Party of Conscience is an important addition to the current conversation about the left and electoral politics. The book feels like a conversation around a kitchen table; both a dialogue and a reflection on where we have been and where to go from here.

– Sheri Benson, MP for Saskatoon West, NDP

In a world filled with inequality and injustice, Party of Conscience offers a lively and thought-provoking collection of essays about the past history, present challenges, and future prospects of social democracy in Canada.

– Alan Whitehorn, author of Canadian Socialism: Essays on the CCF-NDP

Social democracy is woven into the Canadian political culture. Building on the foundations laid by the CCF, the NDP has gone on to govern six provinces and a territory, and to play an influential role in Parliament. This book reminds us of social democracy’s Canadian roots and the contributions of social democrats to fashioning Canada.

– Nelson Wiseman, professor of political science, University of Toronto

Unlike the Liberals and Conservatives, the NDP has never been a party focused solely on political victory. It remains rooted in a never-ending grassroots debate defined by the polarities of political pragmatism and political purity. This book unpacks these internal debates to show how the NDP continues to be a relevant force for political ideas and rebirth.

– Charlie Angus, MP for Timmins-James Bay, NDP

It’s great to see a book that covers so much history of the CCF/NDP from multiple perspectives—academic and personal, with varied and diverse viewpoints reflected to share a rich and complex story.

– Libby Davies, former MP, Deputy Leader NDP, OC

Party of Conscience is a thought-provoking intellectual history of the CCF/NDP from its origins to present day, which provides a captivating overview of the debates that have animated its history. It is a must-read for citizens looking for a critical perspective on the CCF/NDP and for anyone who wants to understand where Canada’s left has been and where it might go in the future.

– David McGrane, professor of political studies, St. Thomas More College, University of Saskatchewan and author of Remaining Loyal: Social Democracy in Quebec and Saskatchewan

Party of Conscience provides an insightful analysis of the important role played by the CCF/NDP in Canadian politics. Drawing on Canada’s leading experts in the field, the book fills what was too long a gap in our understanding of Canada’s social democratic parties.

– David Docherty, President, Mount Royal University and author of Mr. Smith Goes to Ottawa: Life in the House of Commons

As democracy is under siege in many places and the gap between the rich and the poor steadily grows, this is a good time to be reminded of why the CCF and NDP were formed in the first place, and why we still need a strong left voice!

– Marilyn Churley, former MPP and Deputy Leader of the Ontario NDP

The history and practice of socialism and social democracy in Canada has long needed this kind of wide-ranging, multi-dimensional analysis. This collection of essays brings together fascinating insights into the roots of the CCF/NDP, its ideological distinctiveness, and the political diversity and complexity that have run through the party. Party of Conscience sheds light on how to move forward into a world of greater social justice.

– Craig Heron, Department of History, York University and author of Lunch-Bucket Lives: Remaking the Workers’ City


Ian McKay
Roberta Lexier, Stephanie Bangarth, and Jonathan Weier
Chapter 1: “Not reform, but the replacing of capitalism:” The Co-operative Commonwealth Federation in the 1930s
James Naylor
Chapter 2: Religion and the Rise of the CCF/NDP
John Brewin
Chapter 3: The Labour-Academic “Brain Trust” of the Early CCF, 1930-1950
Jennifer Hassum
Chapter 4: The Rhetoric of Region: Clarence Gillis, the CCF, and the Protection of Atlantic Canada
Corey Slumkoski
Chapter 5: The Left at Home and Abroad: Broadening the Dominant Narrative of Canadian History
Stephanie Bangarth
Chapter 6: Fabianism and the Progressive Left in British Columbia: The “New Party” in Historical Perspective
Robert McDonald
Chapter 7: Waffling in Winnipeg and London: Canada’s New Left and the NDP, 1965-75
David Blocker
Chapter 8: New Leftists, “Party-liners,” and Municipal Politics in Toronto
Peter Graham
Chapter 9: Tommy Douglas, David Lewis, Ed Broadbent, and Democratic Socialism in the New Democratic Party, 1968-1984
Christo Aivalis
Chapter 10: Challenge from Within: The NDP and Social Movements
Roberta Lexier
Chapter 11: From Contender to the Margins and Back: The NDP and Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Bill Blaikie
Chapter 12: From Traditional Social Democracy to Third Way: An Assessment of Federal NDP Platforms, 1988-2011
Matt Fodor
Chapter 13: The NDP In Quebec Before and After the Orange Wave
Karl Bélanger
Chapter 14: The CCF/NDP and Populisms of the Left and the Right
Murray Cooke
Chapter 15: Medicare and Social Democracy in Canada
Erika Dyck & Greg Marchildon
Chapter 16: Change the Game: The Social Democracy Project
Jonathan Sas
Chapter 17: Evaluating the 2017 NDP Leadership Campaign
Jillian Ratti
Chapter 18: Social Democracy and the Left in Canada: Past, Present, and Future Contributors