Mel Watkins

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Mel Watkins (born May 15, 1932) is a Canadian political economist and activist. He is professor emeritus of economics and political science at the University of Toronto. He was a founder and co-leader with James Laxer of the Waffle, a left-wing political formation within the New Democratic Party that advocated an "independent socialist Canada" and Canadian nationalism.[1][2][3][4]

Life and career[edit]

His political activity followed his work heading up the federal government's Task Force on Foreign Ownership and the Structure of Canadian Investment, which investigated the impact of growing American control of the Canadian economy. Striking this task force of economists had been urged upon the Pearson government by former Liberal finance minister Walter L. Gordon. The "Watkins Report", as it was widely known, was issued in 1968 and recommended strict regulation of foreign investment in Canada, particularly foreign ownership of Canadian businesses and resources. Its findings led to the establishment of the Canada Development Corporation to help facilitate greater Canadian ownership as well as the Foreign Investment Review Agency to regulate foreign ownership.[1][2][3][4]

Watkins' concern for Canadian economic sovereignty led him to join others in 1969 to found the Waffle, which issued a Manifesto for an Independent Socialist Canada calling for increased public ownership of the economy as a means of securing Canadian independence from the United States, as well as establishing social and economic equity. The group was essentially expelled from the NDP in 1972 and while Watkins supported the group's attempt to form a new left-wing political party, the Movement for an Independent Socialist Canada, his interest and involvement waned, particularly when he left to spend time in the far north to investigate the living conditions of the indigenous Dene people.[1][2][3][4]

After the collapse of the Waffle in 1974, Watkins spent most of his time teaching and writing. He eventually rejoined the NDP, and ran as its candidate in Beaches—East York in the 1997 and 2000 federal elections. He placed second on both occasions behind Liberal Maria Minna.[1][2][3][4]

Watkins supported the New Politics Initiative, which was formed in 2001 to attempt to convince the NDP to join with social movements to found a new left wing party. He has retired from academia and moved to Constance Bay in eastern Ontario, where he continues to write a column for This Magazine and pieces for other publications. He is a Board-member of and regular contributor to the online newsmagazine Straight Goods.[1][2][3][4]


  • Madness & Ruin: Politics and the Economy in the Neoconservative Age (1992). ISBN 0-921284-64-0
  • Canada Under Free Trade (1993). ISBN 1-55028-377-4
  • Dene Nation: The Colony Within (1977). ISBN 0-8020-6315-2

Electoral record[edit]

Canadian federal election, 2000: Beaches—East York
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Liberal Maria Minna 24,019 52.7 +4.8 $61,974
New Democratic Mel Watkins 8,936 20.9 −2.6 $54,232
Progressive Conservative Wayne Clutterbuck 5,767 13.5 +1.2 $13,989
Alliance Abu Alam 3,838 9.0 −5.3 $9,047
Marijuana Bruce Watson 683 1.6 none listed
Green James Mendel 599 1.4 $102
Canadian Action Randall Whitcomb 128 0.3 none listed
Natural Law Donalda Fredeen 88 0.2 none listed
Communist Ann Nicholson 82 0.2 $202
Marxist–Leninist Steve Rutchinski 53 0.1 $8
Total valid votes 42,687 99.6
Total rejected ballots 179 0.4
Turnout 42,866 56.9
Electors on the lists 75,284 100.0
Note: Canadian Alliance vote is compared to the Reform vote in 1997 election.
Sources: Official Results, Elections Canada and Financial Returns, Elections Canada.


  1. ^ a b c d e Hugh Grant and David Wolfe (October 15, 2013). "The Staple Theory at 50: Mel Watkins as teacher, scholar and activist". Rabble.
  2. ^ a b c d e Jim Stanford (March 2014). "The Staple Theory at 50; Reflections on the Lasting Significance of Mel Watkins' "A Staple Theory of Economic Growth"" (PDF). Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Once Upon a Waffle". Canadian Dimension. November 12, 2009.
  4. ^ a b c d e Joanna Szymanski (May 2005). "Mel Watkins - a Backgrounder". Renfrew Nipissing Pembroke NDP.

External links[edit]