Communist Party of Canada
|Central Leader||Elizabeth Rowley|
Young Communist League|
(ideologically aligned, but organizationally autonomous)
International Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties
The Communist Party of Canada (French: Parti communiste du Canada, CPC/PCC) is a communist political party in Canada founded in 1921 under conditions of illegality. Although it is now a political party without any elected political representation, the party's candidates have been elected to the Parliament of Canada, the Ontario legislature, the Manitoba legislature, and various municipal governments across the country. The party has also contributed significantly to trade union organizing and labour history in Canada, peace and anti-war activism, and many other social movements.
The Communist Party of Canada is the second oldest active party after the Liberal Party of Canada (or the third if the Liberal-Conservative Party is considered the ancestor of the modern Conservative Party). In 1993 the party was de-registered and had its assets seized, forcing it to begin a successful thirteen-year political and legal battle to maintain registration of small political parties in Canada. The campaign culminated with the final decision of Figueroa v. Canada, changing the legal definition of a political party in Canada. Despite its continued presence as a registered political party, the CPC places the vast majority of its emphasis on extra-parliamentary activity what it terms "the labour and people's movements", as reflected in its programme "Canada's Future is Socialism".
- 1 History
- 2 37th and 38th Central Conventions
- 3 Allied organizations
- 4 General Secretaries of the CPC
- 5 Chairmen of the CPC
- 6 Central Executive Committee
- 7 Election results
- 8 Provincial sections
- 9 2011 election platform
- 10 2015 election platform
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 External links
The Canadian Communist Party began as an illegal organization in a rural barn near the town of Guelph, Ontario, on May 28 and 29, 1921. Many of its founding members had worked as labour organizers and as anti-war activists and had belonged to groups such as the Socialist Party of Canada, One Big Union, the Socialist Labor Party, the Industrial Workers of the World, and other socialist, Marxist, or Labour parties or clubs and organizations. The first members felt inspired by the Russian Revolution, and radicalised by the negative aftermath of World War I and the fight to improve living standards and labour rights, including the experience of the Winnipeg General Strike. The Comintern accepted the party affiliation as its Canadian section in December 1921, and thus it adopted a similar organizational structure and policy to Communist parties around the world.
The party alternated between legality and illegality during the 1920s and 1930s. Because of the War Measures Act in effect at its time of creation, the party operated as the "Workers' Party of Canada" in February, 1922 as its public face, and in March began publication of a newspaper, The Worker. When Parliament allowed the War Measures Act to lapse in 1924, the underground organization was dissolved and the party's name was changed to the Communist Party of Canada.
The party's first actions included establishing a youth organization, the Young Communist League of Canada, and solidarity efforts with the Soviet Union. By 1923 the party had raised over $64,000 for the Russian Red Cross, a very large sum of money at that time. It also initiated a Canadian component of the Trade Union Educational League (TUEL) which quickly became an organic part of the labour movement with active groups in 16 of 60 labour councils and in mining and logging camps. By 1925 party membership stood at around 4,500 people, composed mainly of miners and lumber workers, and of railway, farm, and garment workers. Most of these people came from immigrant communities like Finns and Ukrainians.
The party, working with the TUEL, played a role in many bitter strikes and difficult organizing drives, and in support of militant industrial unionism. From 1922 to 1929, the provincial wings of the WPC/CPC also affiliated with the Canadian Labour Party, another expression of the CPC's "united front" strategy. The CLP operated as a federated labour party. The CPC came to lead the CLP organization in several regions of the country, including Quebec, and did not run candidates during elections. In 1925 William Kolisnyk became the first communist elected to public office in North America, under the banner of the CLP in Winnipeg. The CLP itself, however, never became an effective national organization. The Communists withdrew from the CLP in 1928-1929 following a shift in Comintern policy, as the organization folded.
Debates, arguments and expulsions
From 1927 to 1929, the party went through a series of policy debates and internal ideological struggles in which the advocates of the ideas of Leon Trotsky and of proponents of the theory of what the party called "North American Exceptionism" were expelled. Expellees included Maurice Spector, the editor of the party's paper The Worker and party chairman, and Jack MacDonald (who had supported Spector's expulsion) who resigned as the party's general secretary for factionalism, and was expelled. The Secretary of the Women's Bureau and later, general editor of the Woman Worker (1926-1929) Florence Custance was only saved from expulsion from the Party due to her untimely death in 1929. Her feminism and advocacy of birth control, for example, were well-known to the mainstream press, but her radical contemporaries questioned her political sympathies and gave her few chances to shine.
MacDonald, also sympathetic to Trotskyist ideas, joined Spector in founding the International Left Opposition (Trotskyist) Canada, which formed part of Trotsky's so-called Fourth International Left Opposition. The party also expelled supporters of Nikolai Bukharin and of Jay Lovestone's Right Opposition, such as William Moriarty. The communists disagreed over strategy, tactics, the socialist identity of the Soviet Union, and over Canada's status as an imperialist power. While some communists like J. B. Salsberg expressed sympathy with these positions, after debates that dominated party conventions for a couple of years by the early 1930s, the vast majority of members had decided to continue with the party.
The stock market crash in late 1929 signalled the beginning of a long and protracted economic crisis in Canada and internationally. The crisis quickly led to widespread unemployment, poverty, destitution, and suffering among working families and farmers. The general election of 1930, brought to power the R.B. Bennett Conservative government who attacked the labour movement and established "relief camps" for young unemployed men.
The CPC was the only party to make a systemic critique of the depression as an alleged crisis of capitalism. It was also the first political party in Canada to call for the introduction of unemployment insurance, a national health insurance scheme, making education universally accessible, social and employment assistance to youth, labour legislation including health and safety regulations, regulation of the working day and holidays, a minimum wage for women and youth, and state-run crop insurance and price control for farmers.
In 1931, eight of the CPC's leaders were arrested and imprisoned under Section 98 of Canada's Criminal Code, which outlawed advocacy of force or violence to bring about political change. The party continued to exist, but was under the constant threat of legal harassment, and was for all intents and purposes an underground organization. In 1934 a massive campaign pushed back the police's practice which supporters characterized as repression, and the communists were released. On the release of Tim Buck, the party held a mass rally attended by an overflow crowd of over 17,000 supporters and sympathizers in Maple Leaf Gardens.
Although the party was banned, it organized large mass organizations such as the Workers' Unity League (WUL), and the Canadian Labour Defence League that played an important role in historic strikes like that of miners in Estevan. From 1933 to 1936, the WUL led 90 per cent of the strikes in Canada. Already, conditions had taught social democrats, reformists, and the communists important lessons of cooperation. In 1934, in accordance with the re-examined position of the Comintern, the CPC adopted a strategy and tactics based on a united front against fascism.
In the prairies, the Communists organized the Farmers Unity League which mobilized against evictions and rallied hundreds of farmers into protest Hunger Marches, despite police brutality. Party members were also active in the Congress of Industrial Organizations' attempt to unionize the auto and other industrial sectors including Steelworkers, the Canadian Seaman's Union, the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Union, the International Woodworkers of America, and the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America.
Among the poor and unemployed, Communists organized groups like the left-wing Workers Sports Association, one of the few ways that working-class youth had access to recreational programmes. The Relief Camp Workers' Union and the National Unemployed Workers Association played significant roles in organizing the unskilled and the unemployed in protest marches and demonstrations and campaigns such as the "On-to-Ottawa Trek" and the 1938 Vancouver Post Office sit-down strike.
Internationally, the party initiated the mobilization of the over 1,500 person Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion to fight in the Spanish Civil War as part of the International Brigade. Among the leading Canadian Communists involved in that effort was Dr. Norman Bethune, who is known for his invention of a mobile blood-transfusion unit, early advocacy of Medicare in Canada, and work with the Communist Party of China during the Second Sino-Japanese War.
Solidarity efforts for the Spanish Civil War and many labour and social struggles during the Depression resulted in much cooperation between members of the CPC and the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF). After 1935 the CPC advocated electoral alliances and unity with the CCF on key issues. The proposal was debated in the CCF, with the 1936 BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan conventions generally supporting cooperation while the Ontario convention opposed. While the motion was defeated at that Parties third federal convention, the Communists continued to call for a united front.
The call was particularly urgent in Quebec, where in 1937 the Duplessis government passed "an act to protect Québec against communist propaganda" giving the police the power to padlock any premises used by "communists" (which was undefined in the legislation).
World War II
Although the Communist Party had worked hard to warn Canadians about what it considered to be a growing fascist danger, after some debate the Party saw the opening of World War II not as an anti-fascist war but a battle between capitalist nations. Most likely this conclusion was supported by the policies of the big powers. Many voices in the British establishment, for example, called loudly for support of Adolf Hitler against the USSR. Meanwhile, having failed in reaching agreement with Britain and other world powers, the USSR signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact with Nazi Germany, to bide time before an inevitable war between the two.
The Communist Party's opposition to World War II led to it being banned under the Defence of Canada Regulations of the War Measures Act in 1940 shortly after Canada entered into the war. In many cases Communist leaders were interned in camps, long before fascists. As growing numbers of Communist Party leaders were interned, some members went underground or exile in the United States. Conditions in the camps were harsh. A civil rights campaign was launched by the wives of many of the interned men for family visits and their release.
With Germany's 1941 invasion of the USSR and the collapse of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact the party argued that the nature of the war had changed to a genuine anti-fascist struggle. The CPC reversed its opposition to the war and argued the danger to the working class on the international level superseded its interests nationally.
During the Conscription Crisis of 1944, the banned CPC set up "Tim Buck Plebiscite Committees" across the country to campaign for a "yes" vote in the national referendum on conscription. Following the vote, the committees were renamed the Dominion Communist-Labor Total War Committee and urged full support for the war effort, a no-strike pledge for the duration of the war and increased industrial production. The National Council for Democratic Rights was also established with A.E. Smith as chair in order to rally for the legalization of the Communist Party and the release of Communists and anti-fascists from internment.
The party's first elected Member of Parliament (MP) was Dorise Nielsen. Nielsen was elected in North Battleford, Saskatchewan in 1940 under the popular front Progressive Unity label, with the support of many individual CCFers. Nielsen kept her membership in the party a secret until 1943.
Labor-Progressive Party and the Cold War
The Communist Party remained banned, but with the entry of the Soviet Union into the war and the eventual release of the Canadian party's interned leaders, Canadian Communists founded the Labor-Progressive Party (LPP) in 1943 as a legal front and thereafter ran candidates under that name until 1959. At its height in the mid-1940s, the party had fourteen sitting elected officials at the federal, provincial and municipal level. Several prominent elected party members were:
- Dorise Nielsen, a Saskatchewan MP elected as a Unity candidate in 1940, declared her affiliation with the LPP when it was formed in August 1943 and ran unsuccessfully for re-election as an LPP candidate.
- Fred Rose was elected to represent a Montreal riding in the House of Commons of Canada as an LPP MP, and was removed from office after being convicted of spying for the Soviet Union.
- Mary Kardash and William Ross were LPP and then Communist school trustees in Winnipeg
- Jacob Penner and Joseph Zuken were popular aldermen in Winnipeg. Zuken was an LPP school trustee before succeeding Penner on city council by which time the LPP had changed its name back to the Communist Party.
- Bill Kardash and James Litterick were Manitoba LPP Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs).
- A.A. MacLeod and J.B. Salsberg were LPP members of the Ontario legislature.
- Stanley Bréhaut Ryerson, Sam Carr, Charles Simms and Norman Freed were LPP Toronto aldermen while Stewart Smith was elected to the city's Board of Control, Edna Ryerson, Elizabeth Morton and John Boyd were elected to the School Board in 1944.
- Harry Rankin sat on Vancouver's city council on behalf of the Committee of Progressive Electors which he helped found in the late 1960s. Though not officially a Communist Party member he was a fellow traveller.
- The small rural municipality of Clayton, Saskatchewan elected a Communist mayor to one of its tiny towns
- Blairmore, Alberta elected a Communist majority town council and school board in 1933 and renamed the main street "Tim Buck Avenue" and the main park "Karl Marx Park"
In 1946, Igor Gouzenko, a cipher clerk at the Soviet Embassy, defected to Canada alleging several Canadian communists were operating a spy ring which provided the Soviet Union with top secret information. The Kellock-Taschereau Commission was called by Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King to investigate the matter. This led to the convictions of Fred Rose and other communists.
Nikita Khrushchev's 1956 Secret Speech exposing the crimes of Joseph Stalin and the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary shook the faith of many Communists around the world. As well, the party was riven by a crisis following the return of prominent party member J.B. Salsberg from a trip to the Soviet Union where he found rampant party-sponsored antisemitism. Salsberg reported his findings but they were rejected by the party, which suspended him from its leading bodies. The crisis resulted in the departure of the United Jewish Peoples' Order, Salsberg, Robert Laxer and most of the party's Jewish members in 1956.
Many, perhaps most, members of the Canadian party left, including a number of prominent party members. In the mid-1960s the United States Department of State estimated the party membership to be approximately 3500. The Soviet Union's 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia caused more people to leave the Canadian Communist Party. Many women were likewise deterred from engaging with Canadian Communism as the Party was somewhat resistant to their politics. The Party may have countered that the discussions of sex, gender, and women's politics held the potential to veer away from the overarching goal of class revolution, for example, many radical women recalled the hypocrisy of Party men who refused to discuss sex despite carrying on numerous extramarital affairs.
The party was also active in indigenous people's struggles. For example, James P. Brady and Malcom Norris were founders of the Metis Associations of Saskatchewan and Alberta in the 1940s and 1950s.
Collapse of the Soviet bloc and party split
In common with most communist parties, it went through a crisis after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and subsequently split. Under then general secretary George Hewison (1988–91), the leadership of the CPC and a segment of its general membership began to abandon Marxism–Leninism as the basis of the Party's revolutionary perspective, and ultimately moved to liquidate the Party itself, seeking to replace it with a left, social democratic entity.
The protracted ideological and political crisis created much confusion and disorientation within the ranks of the Party, and paralysed both its independent and united front work for over two years. The Hewison-led majority in the Central Committee (CC) of the party voted to abandon Marxism–Leninism. An orthodox minority in the CC, led by Miguel Figueroa, Elizabeth Rowley and former leader William Kashtan, resisted this effort. At the 28th Convention in the fall of 1990, the Hewison group managed to maintain its control of the Central Committee of the CPC, but by the spring of 1991, the membership began to turn more and more against the reformist policies and orientation of the Hewison leadership.
Key provincial conventions were held in 1991 in the two main provincial bases of the CPC - British Columbia and Ontario. At the BC convention, delegates threw out Fred Wilson, one of the main leaders of the Hewison group. A few months later in June 1991, Ontario delegates rejected a concerted campaign by Hewison and his supporters, and overwhelmingly reelected provincial leader Elizabeth Rowley and other supporters of the Marxist–Leninist current to the Ontario Committee and Executive.
The Hewison group moved on August 27, 1991 to expel eleven of the key leaders of the opposition, including Rowley, Emil Bjarnason, and former central organizer John Bizzell. The Hewison-controlled Central Executive also dismissed the Ontario provincial committee.
The vast majority of local clubs and committees of the CPC opposed the expulsions, and called instead for an extraordinary convention of the party to resolve the deepening crisis in a democratic manner. There were loud protests at the CC's October 1991 meeting, but an extraordinary convention was not convened. With few remaining options, Rowley and the other expelled members threatened to take the Hewison group to court. After several months of negotiations between the Hewison group and the opposition "All-Canada Negotiating Committee", an out-of-court settlement resulted in the Hewison leadership agreeing to leave the CPC and relinquish any claim to the party's name, while taking most of the party's assets to the Cecil-Ross Society, a publishing and educational foundation previously associated with the party.
Following the departure of the Hewison-led group, a convention was held in December 1992 at which delegates agreed to continue the Communist Party (thus the meeting was titled the 30th CPC Convention). Delegates rejected the reformist policies instituted by the Hewison group and instead reaffirmed the CPC as a Marxist–Leninist organization. Since most of the old party's assets were now the property of the Hewison-led Cecil Ross Society, the CPC convention decided to launch a new newspaper, the People's Voice, to replace the old Canadian Tribune. The convention elected a new central committee with Figueroa as Party Leader. The convention also amended the party constitution to grant more membership control and lessen the arbitrary powers of the CC, while maintaining democratic centralism as its organizational principle.
Meanwhile, the former Communists retained the Cecil-Ross Society as a political foundation to continue their political efforts. They also sold off the party's headquarters at 24 Cecil Street, having earlier liquidated various party-related business such as Eveready Printers (the party printshop) and Progress Publishers. The name of the Cecil-Ross Society comes from the intersection of Cecil Street and Ross Street in Toronto where the headquarters of the party was located. The Cecil-Ross Society took with it the rights to the Canadian Tribune, which had been the party's weekly newspaper for decades, as well as roughly half of the party's assets. The Cecil-Ross Society ended publication of the Canadian Tribune and attempted to launch a new broad-left magazine, New Times which failed after a few issues and then Ginger which was only published twice.
The Figueroa Case
The renovated party, although with a much smaller membership and resources (such as the former headquarters at 24 Cecil Street in Toronto and party printing press) now faced further challenges and threats to its existence. New electoral laws mandated that any political party which failed to field 50 candidates in a general federal election would be automatically de-registered and its assets seized. The CPC was not in a position to run 50 candidates in the 1993 federal election (it fielded only eight candidates during that election), and therefore its assets were seized and the party was de-listed. The CPC had sought an interim injunction to prevent its imminent de-registration, but this legal action failed.
A prolonged thirteen-year political and legal battle, Figueroa v. Canada ensued, which won the support of widespread popular opinion, reflected in a number of members of parliament openly supporting the challenge and other small political parties joining the case, most notably the Green Party. Never before had a single court challenge resulted in legislative action on three separate occasions to amend a standing law. Bill C-2 (2000) amended the Canada Elections Act to (among other things) remove the unconstitutional seizure of party assets for failure to field 50 candidates in a general election and provided for the full refund of candidates’ deposits. The party had its deregistration overturned and its seized assets restored. Bill C-9 (2001) reduced the threshold from 50 to 12 candidates for the party identifier to appear on the ballot. Bill C-3 (2003) scrapped the 50-candidate rule altogether for party registration. This victory was celebrated by many of the other small parties – regardless of political differences – on the principle that it was a victory for the people's right to democratic choice.
During this time the CPC began to publish a fortnightly newspaper called People's Voice. Its Quebec section, le Parti communiste du Québec, was reorganized. The CPC also began periodically publishing a theoretical/discussion journal Spark!. In 2001 the party released its full programme.
The CPC re-launched its long-standing contribution to the labour movement and support of trade union organizing and campaigns, in the civic reform movement, and in a number of social justice, anti-war and international solidarity groups and coalitions. In 2007 Young Communist League of Canada was refounded. Local YCL groups have sprung up in several centres across the country, and the League has since held two central conventions.
Quebec communists and the national question
The Communist Party of Canada began organizing in Quebec upon its founding. Many important leaders of the CPC including Annie Buller, William Kashtan, Fred Rose, Madeleine Parent, and Léa Roback hailed from Montreal, and Norman Bethune joined the party in Montreal. The Quebec district fought hard battles against the Duplessis regime, which made the party illegal using the Padlock law, and to organize the unorganized. The election of Fred Rose in Cartier was a major boost to the Quebec communists and reflected the support of the CPC among working-class people in the city.
For some time the party had been struggling to develop its policy on the national question in Canada, which had changed considerably since the party's formation. As early as the 1930s the CPC recognized Quebec was a nation and by the late 1940s the party began to advocate for Quebec's right to self-determination. In the 1950s and 60s the party clarified this position, becoming the first party to advocate for a democratic solution to the national question and a new "made-in-Canada" constitution that would guarantee sovereignty for Quebec, up to and including separation. While supporting the right to separate, the communists opposed the succession of Quebec from Canada, proposing a new equal and voluntary partnership between what was then commonly called French and English Canada.
In the late 1950s the party finally overturned the padlock law giving new energy and hope to the party despite difficult times with the Khrushchev revelations and the continued pressure of the Cold War. Moving to better put into practice what it saw as a deeper political understanding of the national question, the CPC in Quebec re-organized as the Communist Party of Quebec in November 1965, reflecting what it now termed the multi-national reality of Canada as "a state with more than one nation within its borders". The PCQ emerged as a "distinct entity" of the CPC, with shared membership and, at the same time, full control over its policies and administration including its own constitution.
With the Quiet Revolution, Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism and later the October Crisis the party's position on the national question became the subject of broad debate across the country, and influenced the agreement of the Canadian Labour Congress to work with the Quebec Federation of Labour on an equal and voluntary basis. The communists called for workers sympathetic with independence movements to unite on a common, immediate class-based programme of common struggle with English-speaking Canadian workers. The PCQ helped re-launch Montreal's mass May Day demonstrations and advanced many unique policies including the idea of a federated party of labour, which proved its prescience with the formation of Québec solidaire. The federated party of labour proposal was endorsed by the late 1960s by most trade union centrals, but the project was eclipsed by the emergence of the Parti Quebecois.
By the 1980s the CPC and PCQ were calling for "a new, democratic constitutional arrangement based on the equal and voluntary union of Aboriginal peoples, Québec, and English-speaking Canada" replacing the Senate with a house of nations. In this context the PCQ and CPC critically supported the first referendum question on sovereignty association, while later the CPC advocated voting No on the second referendum in 1995.
During the crisis in CPC during the 1990s, the PCQ became disorganized, closed its offices, and its remaining members drifted apart from the CPC, with many in the leadership adopting positions sympathetic to nationalism. It was not until 1997 that a range of communists and communist groups came together to re-organize the PCQ. A few years later the party helped bring together different tendencies in the left to form the Union of Progressive Forces (UFP) which became Québec solidaire.
The UFP agreed to place the question of Quebec independence as secondary to social or class issues. This was hotly debated as the party transformed into Québec solidaire. The debate moved over into the PCQ as well. These positions were questioned by the Quebec leader of the party, André Parizeau, who formulated a series of amendments in support of immediate independence in 2004 which were rejected by both the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Quebec party (by a vote of 4-2) and by the Central Executive Committee of the Canadian party (by a vote of 7-1).
In January 2005, Parizeau wrote a letter to PCQ members declaring that the party was in crisis and, describing the four NEC members who opposed his amendments as a pro-federalist "Gang of Four", he summarily dismissed them. Although his Quebec nationalist point of view held a slim majority at the PCQ's convention of April 2005, the delegate selection process was highly disputed. Parizeau was subsequently expelled by the Central Committee of the CPC for factionalism and actions harmful to the Party. Around the same time, his group announced their withdrawal from the CPC. The CPC then began to re-organize the PCQ-PCC in Quebec, but the Quebec provincial government authorities continued to recognize Parizeau as holding the electoral registration of the Parti communiste du Québec.
The Central Committee of the party affirmed the authority of the previous Quebec National Executive Committee in June 18–19, 2005. The non-registered CPC-aligned PCQ held a new convention which restarted a communist French-language periodical, Clarté, and later opened an office and small reading room, launched an active website, and re-affiliated with Quebec Solidaire as an organized group. They work closely with the youth and student organization, the "Ligue de la jeunesse communiste du Quebec". The CPC's account of this situation is available online, as is the letter from Parizeau's PCQ group.
The CPC-aligned PCQ campaigned for a general social (political) strike against the previous Charest Liberal government and the subsequent pro-austerity provincial governments. In 2015 the Parizeau group officially left Quebec Solidaire to support the Parti Quebecois and the campaign of Pierre Karl Péladeau.
37th and 38th Central Conventions
The CPC held its 37th Central Convention in February 2013 in Toronto. According to a Toronto Star article the assembly drew 65 delegates most of whom were from Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec with a few from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. Party leader Miguel Figueroa called for the Communists to field 25 candidates in the upcoming federal election.
The CPC held its 38th Central Convention in May 2016, again in Toronto. The meeting drew about 70-80 delegates from Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and New Brunswick, in order of delegation size. The party held a special tribute to Miguel Figueroa, who had retired before the convention, and elected Elizabeth Rowley as party leader.
Historically, the Communist Party and Labor-Progressive Party have had allied organizations which were affiliated with the party until the late-1920s, and subsequently understood to be largely following the Party's direction. These groups often originated from left wing labour and socialist movements that existed prior to the creation of the Communist Party and operated political and cultural activities amongst various immigrant groups, published magazines and operated their own cultural centres and meeting halls. From the 1920s through the 1950s the largest immigrant groups represented in the party were Finns, Ukrainians and Jews who were organized in the Finnish Organization of Canada (founded in 1911 as the Finnish Socialist Organization of Canada), the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians (known as the Ukrainian Labor Farmer Temple Association until 1946) and the United Jewish Peoples' Order (known as the Labour League until 1945) respectively.
Also active in the 1930s and 1940s were the Hungarian Workers Clubs, the Polish People's Association (formerly the Polish Workers' and Farmers' Association), the Serbian People's Movement and Croatian Cultural Association (formerly the Jugoslav Workers' Clubs) and the Carpatho-Russian Society. The Russian Farmer-Worker Clubs were formed in the early 1930s but closed by the government under the Defence of Canada Regulations at the outbreak of World War II. When the Soviet Union became Canada's ally in 1942, they re-appeared as the Federation of Russian Canadians. The Canadian Slav Committee was formed in 1948 in an attempt to put party-aligned cultural associations for Ukrainians, Russians, Poles, Slovaks, Bulgarians, Macedonians, Yugoslavs and Carpatho-Rusyns under one umbrella.
The UJPO broke with the party in 1956 during the period of the "Khrushchev revelations" and allegations of antisemitism in the Soviet Union.
Later allied organizations include the Greek Canadian Democratic Organization formed by leftists emigres who had fled the Greek military junta of 1967–1974 and the Portuguese Canadian Democratic Association which was formed by left-wing emigres who had left Portugal in the 1960s and early 1970s when it was still ruled by a right wing dictatorship. The Portuguese association was outspoken in its support of the 1974 Carnation Revolution.
General Secretaries of the CPC
- Tom Burpee May - December 1921
- William Moriarty 1921–1923
- Jack MacDonald 1923–1929
- Tim Buck 1929–1962
- Leslie Morris 1962–1964
- William Kashtan 1965–1988
- George Hewison 1988–1992
- Miguel Figueroa 1992–2015
- Liz Rowley 2016 — present
Chairmen of the CPC
Central Executive Committee
The Communist Party of Canada's 38th convention held in May 2016 elected the following members to its leading body, the Central Executive Committee: Elizabeth Rowley (Party leader), Dave McKee (leader of the Communist Party of Ontario), Pierre Fontaine (leader of the Parti communiste du Québec), Drew Garvie (leader of the Young Communist League of Canada), Johan Boyden (Central Organizer), Jane Bouey (BC Executive member and Chair of the Central Women's Commission), and Kimball Cariou (editor of People's Voice).
There is also a larger body, the Central Committee, which is elected at convention and meets in intervening years. The Central Committee nominates the members of the Central Executive Committee and the composition of the CEC is ratified by convention.
|Election||# of candidates nominated||# of seats won||# of total votes||% of popular vote|
2: The Communist Party was banned in 1941. From 1943 until 1959 they ran candidates under the name Labor-Progressive Party.
3: In 1972, a new Elections Act came into effect which required a party to run at least 50 candidates in order to be considered an official party. The Communist Party failed to reach that threshold and so its 32 candidates were officially considered to be independents.
4: The party failed to register at least 50 candidates in time for the 1993 election. As a result, the party was deregistered and its candidates ran as independents. Party status was not regained until prior to the 2000 general election. It is unknown how many party members ran in the 1993 and 1997 elections as independents.
The Communist Party of Canada has provincial wings which contest general elections at the provincial level. In most provinces the provincial wing's name is in the format "Communist Party of Canada ([Province])". These include:
- Alberta: Communist Party – Alberta
- British Columbia: Communist Party of British Columbia
- Manitoba: Communist Party of Canada (Manitoba)
- Ontario: Communist Party of Canada (Ontario)
- Quebec: Communist Party of Quebec
- Saskatchewan: Communist Party of Canada (Saskatchewan)
2011 election platform
As outlined in its campaign for the 2011 federal election, the party advocates "fundamental change to end corporate control, and open the door to socialism and working class power" including the following goals and policies:
- Labour and trade union rights including full employment, higher minimum wage, 32-hour work week with no loss in pay and services.
- The creation of a "Bill of Rights for Labour" protecting the right to organize, strike, and bargain collectively.
- Progressive taxation including eliminating taxes on incomes below C$36,000 and restoring the capital gains tax
- Electoral reform, abolishing the Senate of Canada, enacting mixed member proportional representation, lowering the voting age to 16, implementing the right of recall for Members of Parliament.
- Expand public ownership and reverse privatization such as ending public–private partnership programs.
- Nationalize energy and natural resources and shift emphasis from fossil and nuclear sources to renewable energy.
- An independent Canadian foreign policy based on peace and disarmament, ending involvement in Afghanistan and Libya and withdrawing from NATO and NORAD.
- Preserve and expand public health care
- Affordable, accessible, quality, public child care
- Emergency Environmental reforms and immediate action to reverse climate change
- Withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement.
- Expanding public housing and banning evictions and foreclosures due to unemployment.
- Repeal state security legislation like the no-fly list; put the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canadian Security Intelligence Service under democratic, civilian, and community control, abolish racial profiling
- A new constitution for Canada recognizing sovereignty and self-determination for Aboriginal Peoples and Quebec, up to and including the right to separation
- Legislate pay equity and support equity in hiring practices
- Reduce then eliminate tuition fees for post-secondary education;
- Democratic immigration reform; no one is illegal.
- Support food sovereignty, family and organic farming.
The Communist Party also presents a more detailed programmatic document, "Canada's Future is Socialism" (2001), which outlines the party's perspective on Canada today and the road to a socialist and ultimately communist society.
2015 election platform
The party ran 28 candidates in the 2015 federal election under the slogan, "Dump Harper! For fundamental change, Vote Communist". Party leader Miguel Figueroa ran in the Ontario riding of Davenport.
- Full employment by major investment in well-paying, full-time jobs in manufacturing and secondary industries and by upgrading Canadian federal and city infrastructure including affordable housing, and improve social programs and environmental protection by the government. Build one million units of affordable social housing in four years.
- Enforce a 32-hour work week, raise minimum wage to $20/hour federally, legally ban two-tier wages, enforce pay equity for women, set Employment Insurance benefits to 90%, and increase CPP benefits. Enact early voluntary retirement at the age of 60.
- Introduce a guaranteed annual income for all.
- Expand funding to provinces earmarked for health, education, social housing and welfare.
- Establish a publicly financed and administered system of universal, quality, affordable childcare with Canada-wide standards.
- End U.S. and foreign control over key industries. Withdraw from all free trade deals.
- Double corporate tax rate with a 100% tax on capital gains and prosecute tax evaders.
- Eliminate taxes on incomes under $35,000/yr. Inheritance tax would apply to all estates valued over $1 million.
- Abolish national and provincial sales taxes.
- Terminate the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program and the “Live-in Caregiver” Program. Provide a clear path to citizenship for these workers in Canada.
- Restore the Canadian Wheat Board under the control of Prairie farmers and reduce freight rates.
- Curb the power of agro-industrial monopolies with price controls and support organic farming.
- Nationalize energy and natural resource extraction, production and distribution industries, reduce energy exports, stop all pipelines and fracking, oil and gas exploration, and end the development of the Alberta tar sands within five years. Share energy nationally through an east-west power grid.
- Reverse privatization of public services by nationalizing all contracted-out public programs and utilities, support Canada Post, and end public-private partnerships. Water exports would be banned.
- Nationalize the banks and insurance companies, steel, auto, transit and pharmaceutical industries, along with Air Canada, PetroCanada, CN Rail, and restore support to the CBC and Canada Post.
- Promote value-added manufacturing, with emphasis on machine tools, shipbuilding, agricultural, household appliance industries and renewable energy and conservation industries.
- Prevent private factory closures and transfer of jobs out-of-country with tariff, currency exchange and other trade controls, and enforceable plant closure laws. Layoffs would require two years notice, better severance pay and retraining, and bankruptcy laws would guarantee payment of wages and pensions.
- Uphold the Canada Health Act by closing private, for-profit clinics and labs.
- Expand the public Medicare system to include universal pharmacare, dental and eye care, and long-term care, home and continuing care.
- Expand urban mass transit such as high-speed rail, and make it free to the public.
- Fine and imprison polluters and corporations that use destructive corporate practices, such as clear-cutting, in-ocean fish farming, and deep-sea draggers.
Peace and disarmament
- Withdraw from the wars in Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine and refuse to participate in further wars, respecting national sovereignty. Quit NATO, NORAD and reduce the military budget by 75%.
- End the nuclear arms race on Earth, in space and militarization of the Arctic. Stop military hardware exports and the war industry.
- Support total withdrawal of Israel from all occupied territories, support the right of return for Palestinian refugees, and the formation of an independent, viable Palestinian state.
- Cancel Third World debts.
- End “Security State” Laws, disband CSIS and the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), and reinforce civilian oversight of the military and police.
- Switch to proportional representation and allow for recall of Members of Parliament.
- Recognize the national rights of Aboriginal Peoples, Quebecois and Acadians to self-determination and write a new constitution to make it law.
- Negotiate fair deals for Aboriginal land claims and implement the recommendations of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission.
- Rapidly improve living conditions, employment, education, health and housing of Aboriginal peoples. Launch an inquiry into the deaths of missing Aboriginal women.
- Ensure women have full pay and employment equity by law.
- Ensure access to abortion nationwide as well as establish a national, affordable childcare program that pays its workers well.
- Expand affirmative action and equity programs for marginalized peoples.
- Enshrine in the constitution the right of all workers to organize, strike and bargain collectively, and to take collective political action. Ban strike-breaking and scabbing.
- Legislate four weeks vacation for all workers.
- Guarantee benefits for part-time, home-based and contract workers.
- Give municipalities taxing powers as well as 50% of gas and road taxes to cities.
- Re-establish low-interest loans to cities and towns.
- Communist Party candidates, 2000 Canadian federal election
- Communist Party candidates, 2004 Canadian federal election
- Communist Party candidates, 2006 Canadian federal election
- Communist Party candidates, 2008 Canadian federal election
- Communist Party candidates, 2011 Canadian federal election
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