New Democratic Party


NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY (NDP) of BC, a provincial wing of the federal political party of the same name, was formed in Oct 1961 at a VANCOUVER convention where the CO-OPERATIVE COMMONWEALTH FEDERATION (CCF) joined forces with organized labour (see LABOUR MOVEMENT) and adopted a new name. Robert STRACHAN, who had led the CCF since 1956, remained party leader and leader of the opposition with a fairly constant level of electoral support through the 1960s. The NDP espouses moderate social democratic policies, promoting a mixed ECONOMY and gradual reform through parliamentary democracy. It hopes not to eradicate capitalism but rather to ameliorate its excesses and redistribute wealth to its victims. Nonetheless, the SOCIAL CREDIT PARTY under W.A.C. BENNETT was able to maintain a firm grip on power from 1952 to 1972 by convincing voters that New Democrats were rabid "bolshevikii" who threatened the stability of the province. Strachan resigned in 1969 and was succeeded as NDP leader by Tom BERGER, who fared no better in that year's provincial election and gave way in 1970 to Dave BARRETT. Barrett's folksy approachability appealed to voters tired of 2 decades of Socred rule and in 1972 he led the NDP to its first BC election victory, winning a majority of the seats in the legislature with almost 40% of the popular vote. His government was able to accomplish a great deal in its 3 years in power: 367 pieces of legislation were passed, many in the areas of housing, health (see HEALTH POLICY) and welfare policy. The NDP introduced a public auto insurance plan (see INSURANCE CORP OF BC), the AGRICULTURAL LAND RESERVE and a LABOUR RELATIONS BOARD. Critics accused the new PREMIER of trying to do too much too quickly with too little attention to cost, and overall the government did appear to be disorganized and accident-prone. More important, it alienated powerful business interests by imposing a tax on the MINING industry, and it lost labour support when it introduced back-to-work legislation. In 1975 the NDP lost an election to the revitalized Social Credit Party. Barrett remained leader through 2 more elections, which the NDP also lost, and he was replaced by Bob SKELLY in 1984. After another defeat the party chose Mike HARCOURT, former mayor of Vancouver, as its leader in 1987; in 1991 he led the party back to power in a surprising election that saw Social Credit reduced to a rump, replaced in opposition by a resurgent LIBERAL PARTY. Harcourt provided low-key, moderate leadership—too moderate for many in his party—and his government championed fiscal restraint, a settlement of aboriginal issues (see ABORIGINAL RIGHTS) and the resolution of divisive land use issues. Despite the reasonable popularity of his government, Harcourt was forced to resign as leader in an attempt to defuse a growing scandal over the misuse of charity bingo revenues (see also GAMING; NANAIMO COMMONWEALTH HOLDING SOCIETY). Glen CLARK took over as party leader and premier in 1996 and regained enough support for the NDP to squeak back into power in an election later that year. It was the first time in BC that the NDP had won back-to-back elections. But in 1999 an increasingly unpopular Clark was implicated in a separate scandal, and when it was revealed that he was under police investigation he resigned. (Following a long trial he was found innocent of all charges.) Dan MILLER served briefly as interim party leader and premier; then the NDP chose Ujjal DOSANJH, former attorney general, as leader early in 2000. It was the first time that an Indo-Canadian (see SOUTH ASIANS) had served as leader of a government in Canada. Dosanjh took over as premier with the NDP well behind the Liberals in the opinion polls and he was unable to make up for the unpopularity of his predecessor. In the 2001 election the NDP were soundly defeated, winning only two seats. Dosanjh resigned and Joy MacPhail, one of the remaining NDP MLAs, took over as interim party leader. Under a new leader, Carol James, the party was revitalized and, while losing, managed to make a solid showing in the 2005 and 2009 elections. But a group of dissidents within the party grew unhappy with James's leadership and forced her resignation. She was replaced in 2011 by Adrian Dix. Going into the 2013 election the NDP enjoyed a strong lead in the polls, but much to everyone's surprise lost the election to a resurgent Liberal Party. Shortly afterwards Dix announced that he was resigning the party leadership. Under new leader John Horgan, the party won two less seats than the Liberals in the 2017 election but formed a minority government with the support of three elected members of the Green Party. Riding a wave of popularity for his government's handling of the CO-VID pandemic crisis, Horgan called a surprise election in the fall of 2020 and won a substantial majority at the polls, making him the first NDP premier to win re-election. See also ELECTION RESULTS.