New Democratic Party

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The New Democratic Party (NDP) is a Canadian social democratic and democratic socialist political party. The NDP supports gender equality and equal rights for gays, lesbians, and minorities, but it wasn't much more than a bridesmaid for much of its history, with occasional bouts of kingmaker status when they got lucky.

Under the leadership of Jack Layton, the NDP enjoyed its best results ever in the 2011 general election, becoming the official opposition for the first time. The NDP did less well in 2015.[1]


The NDP was founded in 1961 by Tommy Douglas, the Premier of Saskatchewan out of a partnership between the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation and the Canadian Labour Congress. The party's platform is a mix of populism, agrarianism and social democracy. Since its inception, it has formed governments in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, and Alberta. It also has a habit of holding the balance of power in federal minority governments, and various key aspects of Canada's social safety net (viz. universal healthcare) can be traced back to its influence.

For decades, it was the perennial third (or fourth) party in Canada's House of Commons, until 2011, when the NDP displaced the Liberal Party of Canada as the official opposition to the Conservative Party of Canada. Jack Layton, after leading the NDP for nearly a decade, died from cancer only a few months after he became Leader of the Opposition. He was replaced as party and opposition leader by Thomas Mulcair. In an attempt to move the NDP into a more centrist stance for the 2015 election, Mulcair is trying to omit references of socialism from the party platform, to the ire of party traditionalists.[2]

Since Jack Layton's death, however, and Justin Trudeau's election as Leader of the Liberals, things haven't been so well for the NDP. They lost power in Nova Scotia, blew a chance at power in British Columbia, remained the third party in Ontario, and retained a struggling government in Manitoba. Federally, they near consistently rank third after the Liberals and Conservatives in the polls, but then again, the same was true during 2011 before the leaders' debates.

In May 2015, the NDP won a majority in Alberta's provincial election, raising hopes for a similarly strong result in the federal election taking place later in the year.[3] The win was significant for two main reasons: the Progressive Conservative Party had controlled the province for four decades, and Alberta is the home base for the Conservative Party of Canada and this jerk. In June 2018, the NDP pulled in to a disappointing 2nd place result in Ontario, after having the potential to win.

The party enjoys good relations with Canada's Christian left and other liberal religious groups.

In 2017, the party elected Jagmeet Singh,Wikipedia a Sikh man who had previously been number two in the Ontario party, to replace Thomas Mulcair as party leader, becoming Canada's first non-white leader of a major federal party.[4]

In 2022, Singh's NDP signed a confidence and supply agreement with Trudeau's Liberals. In exchange for keeping the Liberals in power, Trudeau agreed to pass several of Singh's pet policies, including universal pharmacare and dental care for lower-income Canadians. This agreement lasts until 2025, when the next election is scheduled, and it makes the Conservatives completely powerless through those three years, as their "Nay" votes will not overcome the combined votes of the Liberals and NDP.[5][6][7] So, basically, Canada doesn't have to worry about being fucked up by right-wing loonies for a few years at least.


In 1989, the Quebec branch of the party voted to disaffiliate from the federal NDP as a result of policy differences such as the provincial party's opposition to the Meech Lake Accord, its support for Quebec's language policy, differences with the federal party over the Canada – United States Free Trade Agreement and its more favourable position towards Quebec nationalism. This last is a bit ironic, considering that 22 years later the federal NDP virtually swept Quebec, due in large part to the support of "soft nationalists" within the province.

Internal Tendencies[edit]

Democratic Socialists comprise a growing minority within the parliamentary NDP caucus. They exist in large numbers in the party's rank and file, haling from activist groups and progressive trade unions. This tendency was considered a dying breed, but saw a huge comeback after the Occupy movement and the rise of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn; it was instrumental in the ouster of former federal leader Tom Mulcair. This tendency includes two-time leadership candidate Niki Ashton, deputy leader Alexandre Boulerice, and new (post-2019) MPs Matthew Green and Leah Gazan. Historically, it also included former (1972–75) British Columbia premier Dave Barrett, called "Canada's Allende".

Social Democrats make up the bulk of the party. This tendency can be described as center-left on most issues, supporting Keynesian economics. Federal leader Jagmeet Singh, MPs including Charlie Angus and Don Davies, former (2017–22) British Columbia premier John Horgan, and the members of the Blaikie political family (father Bill was an MP in northeastern Winnipeg from 1979 to 2008; his son Daniel represented the same district from 2015 until 2024; and his daughter Rebecca was the party's president from 2011 to 2016) are prominent figures in today's NDP who fit into this category.

Mulcairites are a thankfully dying tendency within the party. This tendency can be described at best as indistinguishable to the centrist Liberals, and at worst socially liberal/economically conservative freaks. Prominent members of this category include former (2015–19) Alberta premier Rachel Notley, former (2012–17) federal leader and homeopathy spokesperson Tom Mulcair, and Nathan Cullen. Bob Rae, before he switched to the Liberals, was one of the forefathers of this tendency, as he implemented austerity policies on the civil service when he was Premier of Ontario; he left the NDP because it was too left-wing for him by the time of Jack Layton's leadership.


As a party of the left, the NDP is often criticized by more extreme conservatives as being dangerous, terrorist-loving, Bible-burning, free enterprise-destroying anarcho-commie-fascists. More coherent criticisms of the party, from both the right and centre, maintain that its policies are fiscally untenable. In practice, NDP governments in the provinces have a mixed record on the economy, with the branches in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia thought to be quite prudent, the branch in British Columbia thought to be "okay," and the branch in Ontario thought to be abysmal. With the party's 2011 breakthrough in Quebec, it became subject to another critique, this one issuing mainly from liberals who would otherwise be sympathetic to the party's platform: namely, that the NDP is "soft" on Canadian Federalism, and willing to make far too many concessions to Quebec nationalists in a bid to win their votes. Additionally, they are often criticized by Communists, Marxist-Leninists, and others on the extreme left for being too bourgeois.

Incognito wingnut Jordan Peterson also hates the party, using the classic Orwell argument, which he's used thousands of times by now.[8]

Legitimate criticism[edit]

More sane critics will point out that the NDP has some unfortunate woo leanings endemic of left-leaning parties, particularly concerning biotechnology[9] and nuclear energy.[10] Other critics tend to point to the federal party's new direction of a somewhat more inclusive party by rebranding themselves as a "social democrat" party rather than a socialist party as what Tommy Douglas' envisioned.

On the plus side, the party seems less ideologically staunch compared to certain other mainstream parties. They oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership, draconian police state laws (such as Bills C-24, C-30, C-44, C-51, and C-639) pushed by Stephen Harper, the Keystone XL pipeline, and military action in Iraq and Syria, although most of these came during the 2015 election year. They are broadly left-wing on climate change, taxes, and healthcare, but many would argue they aren't left-wing enough to truly separate themselves from the leftist tendencies of the Liberal Party of Canada, who are themselves inching more to the left under Justin Trudeau; Mulcair seems far more centrist by comparison. Although, this isn't to say that Trudeau is anything more than centre-left, as the party was in the centre, and perhaps even centre-right, for many years as it embraced neoliberalism under Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin. Many feared this not-so-left-wing stance of the NDP will split the vote and lead to another majority government for Stephen Harper, which it didn't since Justin won the election; however it had broadly led to the country's left-wing vote being split.

Others worry over Mulcair's shift of the party to the right, with his campaign pledge to run a balanced budget, refusal to raise taxes on the richest Canadians, his tacit approval for oil pipelines that aren't Keystone, his removal of socialism from the party charter, his praise of Margaret Thatcher.[11] Many party veterans are aggravated at Mulcair's push for a more centrist outlook, and even hope that he loses the 2015 election so they can replace him with a more left-wing successor. They did exactly that after he managed to lose more than half their seats in the election.


In a 2005 Ontario youth model parliament, the NDP caucus proposed a motion to ban the use of Comic Sans.[12]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]