Nova Scotia New Democratic Party

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Nova Scotia New Democratic Party
Active provincial party
Leader Gary Burrill[1]
President Keith Lehwald[2]
Founded 1932 (NS CCF)
1961 (NS NDP)
Headquarters 5151 George Street
Suite 603
Halifax, Nova Scotia
B3J 1M5
Ideology Progressivism
Social democracy
Left-wing populism
Political position Centre-left to left-wing
National affiliation New Democratic Party
Colours Orange and Blue
Seats in House of Assembly
6 / 51
Official website

The Nova Scotia New Democratic Party is a progressive, social-democratic[3] provincial party in Nova Scotia, Canada. It is aligned with the federal New Democratic Party (NDP). It was founded as the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) in 1932, and became the New Democratic Party in 1961. It became the governing party of Nova Scotia following the 2009 Nova Scotia election, winning 31 seats in the Legislature, under the leadership of Premier Darrell Dexter. It is the first New Democratic Party in Atlantic Canada to form a government.[4] The party faced electoral defeat in the 2013 election, losing 24 seats, including Dexter's seat.[5] The current leader is Halifax Chebucto MLA Gary Burrill, who is credited with bringing the party back to its left-wing roots,[6] after the centrist policies enacted by Dexter.[7] The party currently holds 7 seats in the Legislature, and had its lowest showing in the popular vote since 1993 during the 2017 Nova Scotia general election.

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation 1933-1961

Since shortly after confederation, Nova Scotia has had a two-party system in which power alternated between the Nova Scotia Liberal Party and Progressive Conservatives. In the 1920 provincial election the left had a breakthrough when the United Farmers won six seats and the Independent Labour Party won five. The two forces joined to form an 11-member official opposition under Daniel G. Mackenzie, but the group was undermined by the Liberals (who tarnished the image of the opposition MLAs by offering them payments) and the United Farmers/Labour grouping was wiped out in 1925.

Though the CCF/NDP has a long history in Nova Scotia, it was unable to break the two-party system and win more than a handful of seats (if any) in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly until the 1990s.

The Co-operative Commonwealth Federation was formed in 1932 and ran its first candidates in the 1933 general election but failed to win any electoral representation. The party did not contest the 1937 general election.

In the 1939 Cape Breton Centre by-election Douglas MacDonald won the CCF's first seat in the legislature.

In 1941, the future Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) president Donald MacDonald was elected from the Cape Breton South constituency. He was joined by Douglas Neil Brodie, who was elected in Cape Breton East constituency, bringing the CCF up to a total of three MLAs. Donald MacDonald was the party's leader in the Assembly until 1945.[8] He lost a close campaign in the 1945 election, but the party still retained two seats on Cape Breton Island.[9] MacDonald then transitioned into working full-time with the Canadian Congress of Labour, a predecessor of the CLC.[8] A lot of the early organization of the CCF in Nova Scotia was done by Maritime Organizer Fred Young.[10] Young would go on to continue his work in Ontario and eventually sit as a member of the Ontario Legislature, however, his early work laid the groundwork for any future advancements the party would make during this period.[11] This was evident in 1945 when two CCF members elected from Cape Breton.[12]

Russell Cunningham was the only CCF leader to serve as Leader of the Opposition after the 1945 provincial election in which Premier Angus L. Macdonald's Liberal Party swept 28 of the 30 seats and the Tories were wiped out. CCFers Cunningham and fellow Cape Bretoner Michael James MacDonald were the only opposition MLAs elected. Cunningham and MacDonald were re-elected in 1949 but were reduced to third party status behind Robert Stanfield's Progressive Conservatives.

MacDonald led the CCF from 1953 to 1963 and was the party's sole MLA in that period even though he led the CCF to an 8.9% popular vote in 1960.

The New Party

Following the creation of the federal and provincial New Democratic Party (NDP), MacDonald stepped down as leader and the locus of authority in the party moved to Halifax under the leadership of Professor James H. Aitchison. MacDonald lost his seat in the 1963 provincial election. The NDP would not win another until Jeremy Akerman became party leader and won the riding of Cape Breton East in the 1970 election. NDP representation in the House of Assembly grew slowly in throughout the 1970s, but never rose above four seats. The CCF had only been able to win seats on Cape Breton Island and the NDP did not win seats outside of Cape Breton until 1981. With the election of the 26-year-old Akerman as party leader in 1968, and his subsequent election to the legislature two years later, the party regained and developed its strong base in industrial Cape Breton, and won four seats in the election of 1978. However, the party failed to win any seats on the mainland, and this exacerbated tensions between the Akerman-dominated Cape Breton wing of the party and the university-based party establishment in Halifax.[13] Following increasingly bloody internal battles Akerman resigned and the NDP lost all four Cape Breton seats in the following election.[13]

Alexa McDonough

In 1980, Haligonian Alexa McDonough became leader of the Nova Scotia NDP,[14] the first female leader of a major recognized party in Canada. She was the only NDP candidate elected in 1981.[15] During her 14-year leadership, the NDP never had more than three Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs). Nonetheless, she raised the party's profile and become a well known advocate for the poor and disadvantaged. In a reversal of earlier times, while the NDP under McDonough won seats on the mainland for the first time, it lost all of its Cape Breton seats in the 1981 election[15] and never regained them during McDonough's leadership. She resigned as Nova Scotia NDP leader in 1994 and went on to be elected leader of the federal NDP in 1995.

Chisholm years: Breakthrough

Under Robert Chisholm's leadership, in 1998 the party vaulted from third place to ahead of the Progressive Conservatives (PCs), and won 19 seats in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly, the same number of seats as won by the Liberals. The Liberals formed a minority government with the support of 14 Progressive Conservatives (Tories), the latter who had also improved their standings. An NDP government seemed imminent.

However, the party was unable to improve on its standings in the 1999 election. But with 11 seats in the legislature with 29.9% of the vote, it edged out the Liberals and were able to retain "Official Opposition" status when the PCs formed a majority government under John Hamm. Chisholm's unexpected resignation immediately following the election led to a period of internal party strife, with new leader Helen MacDonald, a former Cape Breton MLA, resigning after barely a year.

Darrell Dexter

Previous logo of the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party

The 2003 election resulted in a PC minority government while the NDP maintained Official Opposition status under new leader Darrell Dexter. In the election, the NDP won 15 seats and 31% of the vote, coming slightly behind the Liberals in the popular vote but winning three more seats than the Liberals' 12. In the 2006 election, the NDP managed to capitalize on its position as the Official Opposition to squeeze the Liberal vote, and the party increased its number of seats from 15 to 20, an all-time high, and won 34.63% of the vote. Unlike in 2003, in 2006 the NDP came in a clear second in the popular vote, far ahead of the Liberals.

On June 9, 2009, Dexter led the NDP to victory, winning a majority government, and was sworn in as Premier of Nova Scotia on June 19, 2009. His party's victory, it marks the first time in Canadian provincial politics that an NDP government had been formed in a province east of Ontario, and only the second time the party had won government east of Manitoba. The Dexter government lasted a single term and was defeated in the October 8, 2013 provincial election, in which Dexter narrowly lost the seat he contested. Although it finished second in terms of popular vote with 26.84%, the party collapsed to only seven seats, making it the third party in the legislature. This was mainly because the NDP's support in Halifax, its power base for two decades, practically melted. The NDP had gone into the election holding 14 of the capital's 20 seats, but lost all but two. On November 16, 2013, Dexter announced his resignation as NDP leader, effective November 23, 2013.[16]

Maureen MacDonald has been interim leader since Dexter's resignation.

Two members of the party's caucus, Gordie Gosse and Frank Corbett resigned for personal reasons in April 2015, triggering two of three provincial by-elections which were held on July 14. The party lost both of those seats, but Marian Mancini won the third by-election in a seat which had been held by the Liberals.

Gary Burrill

Under Gary's Burril's leadership in the 2017 election, the NDP took 7 seats, the same number the party received on election night in 2013 but two more than it held going into the election.

Current elected members

Name Riding Year elected
Gary Burrill Halifax Chebucto 2017
Claudia Chender Dartmouth South 2017
Susan Leblanc Dartmouth North 2017
Tammy Martin Cape Breton Centre 2017
Lisa Roberts Halifax Needham 2016
Lenore Zann Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River 2009

Party leaders

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation

New Democratic Party

Provincial secretaries

  • Lloyd Shaw (-1949)
  • Dr. L. P. Rutherford (1949–1950)
  • Florence E. Welton (1950–1961)
  • John McKinnon (1961–1963)
  • Nancy Doull (1963–1965)
  • Rae Gilman (1965–1969)
  • Peggy Prowse (1969–1971)
  • Gordon Flowers (1971–1974)
  • Karen Vance (1974–1977)
  • Bev Ivan (1978)
  • Serena Renner (1979–1981)
  • Mary Morrison (1982)
  • Brian MacNaulty (1983)
  • Rod Dickinson (1984–1986)
  • Gayle Cromwell (1986–1987)
  • Dennis Theman (1987–1990)
  • Sandra Houston (1990–1992)
  • Ross Fisher (1992–1996)
  • Ron Cavalucci (1996–1997)
  • Bruce Cox (1997–1999)
  • Joe Fraser (1999–2001)
  • Matthew Hebb (2001 – June 2005)
  • Karen Haslam (October 2005 – March 2006)
  • Ed Wark (2006–2010)
  • Joanne Lamey (acting, 2010)
  • Mike MacSween (2010–2012)
  • Jill Marzetti (2012–2013[17])
  • Mike Poworoznyk (2013–2017)
  • Jamie Masse (2018–present)[2]

Election results 1933-2017

Election Leader Votes % Seats +/– Position Government
1933 None 2,336 0.7
0 / 30
Steady 0 Steady None No Seats
1937 0 0
0 / 30
Steady 0 Steady None No Seats
1941 Donald MacDonald 18,583 7.0
3 / 30
Increase 3 Increase 3rd Opposition
1945 39,637 13.6
2 / 30
Decrease 1 Increase 2nd Opposition
1949 Russell Cunningham 32,869 9.6
2 / 37
Steady 0 Decrease 3rd Opposition
1953 23,700 6.8
2 / 37
Steady 0 Steady 3rd Opposition
1956 Michael James MacDonald 9,932 3.0
1 / 43
Decrease 1 Steady 3rd Opposition
1960 31,036 8.9
1 / 43
Steady 0 Steady 3rd Opposition
1963 James H. Aitchison 14,076 4.1
0 / 43
Decrease 1 Decrease None No Seats
1967 17,873 5.2
0 / 46
Steady 0 Steady None No Seats
1970 Jeremy Akerman 25,259 6.6
2 / 46
Increase 2 Increase 3rd Opposition
1974 55,902 13.0
3 / 46
Increase 1 Steady 3rd Opposition
1978 63,979 14.4
4 / 52
Increase 1 Steady 3rd Opposition
1981 Alexa McDonough 76,289 18.1
1 / 52
Decrease 3 Steady 3rd Opposition
1984 65,876 15.9
3 / 52
Increase 2 Steady 3rd Opposition
1988 74,038 15.7
2 / 52
Decrease 1 Steady 3rd Opposition
1993 86,743 17.7
3 / 52
Increase 1 Increase 3rd Opposition
1998 Robert Chisholm 155,361 34.4
19 / 52
Increase 16 Increase 2nd Opposition
1999 129,474 29.7
11 / 52
Decrease 5 Steady 2nd Opposition
2003 Darrell Dexter 126,479 30.9
15 / 52
Increase 4 Steady 2nd Opposition
2006 140,128 34.6
20 / 52
Increase 5 Steady 2nd Opposition
2009 186,556 45.2
31 / 52
Increase 11 Increase 1st Majority
2013 112,389 26.9
7 / 51
Decrease 24 Decrease 3rd Opposition
2017 Gary Burrill 85,389 21.4
7 / 51
Steady 0 Steady 3rd Opposition
  • Election results between 1933 and 1963 represent the party during its time as the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. Since 1963, the party has been called the New Democratic Party.


  • To 1984: Politics of Nova Scotia: Vol. Two 1896-1988 by J. Murray Beck. Four Post Publications: Tantallon, Nova Scotia, 1988.
  • After 1984: Elections Nova Scotia

Youth wing

The youth wing of the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party is the Nova Scotia Young New Democrats (NSYND). Founded in the early 1960s, it was not incorporated with a full constitution - aligned with that of the party proper - until 1969.

The youth wing was partially responsible for the election of Jeremy Akerman, as leader, at the 1968 Leadership Convention.

In 1994 the NSYND was renamed "The Nova Scotia NDP Youth Wing". At this time the youth wing was quite moderate, encouraging the main party to focus on government and embrace mainstream values such as fiscal responsibility, "one member one vote" and banning corporate and union donations. They also successfully lobbied the party to include more youth members in the party structure. Members and alumni of the youth wing were instrumental in forming NDProgress in 2000.

In a controversial move in 2001 the youth wing was renamed the “New Party Youth Movement” (NPYM). The name change was made to advocate a renewal of the NDP similar the one in 1961 when the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) became the NDP. The “New Party” name was taken from the “New Party” groups formed before the creation of the NDP. The NPYM made a positive impact at the 2001 NSNDP convention pushing the party to adopt a “one member one vote” style of electing its leader, successfully distributed home-made buttons to satire an organized attempt to shame members of the NDP caucus who did not support former leader Helen MacDonald and gaining over 2/3 support from convention delegates for their name change.

The youth wing was reconstituted in 2004 under its current name, the Nova Scotia Young New Democrats (NSYND) and has remained ideologically in step with that of the party proper.

References and notes

  1. ^ "Nova Scotia's New Democrats elect Gary Burrill as new leader".
  2. ^ a b Flinn, Brian (February 6, 2018). "Nova Scotia NDP names new provincial secretary". AllNovaScotia. Halifax, Nova Scotia. Retrieved April 20, 2018. (Subscription required.)
  3. ^ "Nova Scotia NDP platform unapologetically embraces deficit spending". CBC News. Retrieved 2017-12-03.
  4. ^ "N.S. voters elect 1st NDP government". CBC News. June 9, 2009. Retrieved 2016-03-04.
  5. ^ Patten, Melanie (2013-10-08). "Nova Scotia Liberals win majority government; Dexter loses seat". CTVNews. Retrieved 2017-12-03.
  6. ^ "Nova Scotia New Democrats elect Gary Burrill as new leader |". Retrieved 2017-12-03.
  7. ^ "BOOK REVIEW: Former MLA Howard Epstein dishes the NDP in new book, Rise Again | The Register/Advertiser". Retrieved 2017-12-03.
  8. ^ a b c "Donald MacDonald". Government of Canada. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2007-02-11.
  9. ^ "Elections Returns, 1945". Elections Nova Scotia. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-02-16. Retrieved 2007-02-11.
  10. ^ Barnes, Allan (1993-12-16). "Fred Young, 86 longtime MPP Represented Yorkview riding from '63 to '80". The Toronto Star. Toronto. p. A24. Retrieved 2011-10-30.
  11. ^ MacDonald, Donald C., "The Happy Warrior: Political Memoirs," Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1988: 38-48.
  12. ^ Elections Returns, 1945: Both Cape Breton ridings were won with massive majorities: Russell Cunningham with a 2613 majority and 58.9% of the vote, in Cape Breton East; and Michael McDonald with a 1,134 majority in Cape Breton Centre with 55.7% of the vote.
  13. ^ a b Canadian Press, "Void facing N.S. New Democrats...", Globe and Mail, May 19, 1980
  14. ^ "Woman elected to lead NDP in Nova Scotia," Globe and Mail, November 17, 1980
  15. ^ a b Harris, Michael, "Official party status lost N.S. NDP leader faces lonely road," Globe and Mail, October 20, 1981
  16. ^ "Darrell Dexter steps down as Nova Scotia's NDP leader". CBC News. November 16, 2013. Retrieved November 16, 2013.
  17. ^ "Provincial Secretary - Nova Scotia NDP - BC NDP". Retrieved 18 October 2016.

See also

External links

  • Nova Scotia NDP
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