Seymour Farmer

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Seymour Farmer
2nd Manitoba Minister of Labour
In office
November 4, 1940 – December 19, 1942
PremierJohn Bracken
Preceded byWilliam Clubb
Succeeded byErrick Willis
1st Leader of the Manitoba Co-operative Commonwealth Federation
In office
Preceded bynew party
Succeeded byEdwin Hansford
3rd Leader of the Manitoba Independent Labour Party
In office
Preceded byJohn Queen
Succeeded byparty dissolved
Winnipeg City Councillor
In office
30th Mayor of Winnipeg
In office
Preceded byFrank Oliver Fowler
Succeeded byRalph Webb
Member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba
In office
July 18, 1922 – November 10, 1949
Personal details
Seymour James Farmer

(1878-06-20)June 20, 1878
Cardiff, Wales
DiedJanuary 16, 1951(1951-01-16) (aged 72)
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Political partyManitoba Independent Labour Party
Co-operative Commonwealth Federation

Seymour James Farmer (June 20, 1878 – January 16, 1951) was a politician in Manitoba, Canada.[1] He served as the 30th mayor of Winnipeg from 1923 to 1924,[2] and was later the leader of the Manitoba Co-operative Commonwealth Federation from 1935 to 1947.[3] In the latter capacity, he became the first Georgist[4] politician in Canada to receive a cabinet post.

Farmer was born in Cardiff, Wales, the son of Seymour Farmer and Bessie Alexander Sander, and was educated there. He moved to Canada in 1900[2] and worked as a railway clerk. In 1910, he was Fred Dixon's campaign manager in the latter's unsuccessful bid for election to the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba.[citation needed] He became an accountant for the International Grain Company in 1913, and retained this position until 1927.[3] Farmer married Lydia Gwendoline Ashton.[2]

Along with Dixon, Farmer opposed conscription during the First World War. During the Conscription Crisis of 1917, he was nominated by the Anti-Conscription League to contest the federal riding of Winnipeg Centre in the 1917 federal election; he resigned in favour of another labour candidate, however.[citation needed]

Farmer supported the Winnipeg General Strike, and ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 1919 and 1920.[2] In December 1920, he was one of the founding members of Manitoba's Independent Labour Party. He considered running for the federal riding of Winnipeg Centre in the 1921 election, but withdrew in favour of J.S. Woodsworth.

Farmer was elected mayor of Winnipeg in 1922 and 1923,[2] although he could not command majority support from the city's councillors on either occasion. He was defeated by Ralph Webb in 1924, though he subsequently served as a councillor in 1928 and 1929, and again in the 1930s.

Farmer was also elected to the provincial legislature for Winnipeg in the 1922 election, along with fellow ILP members Fred Dixon, John Queen and William Ivens. He was re-elected in the 1927 and 1932 elections,[1] and replaced Queen as party leader in 1935.[3]

Farmer's early years as party leader were marked by conflict between the ILP and the newly formed Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. In 1933, the ILP agreed to affiliate with the CCF and support the latter party's skeletal network in the province. By 1936, the CCF had grown into a more powerful organization, and many ILP members were concerned about their autonomy. There were ideological differences between the two groups: the ILP was exclusively a labour party, whereas the CCF wanted to reach out to farmers as well.

For the provincial election of 1936, the party campaigned under the "ILP-CCF" banner and increased their standing to seven seats. After the election, a group of disgruntled ILP members forced a temporarily disaffiliation from the CCF. Pressure from David Lewis and J.S. Woodsworth brought the two parties back in alignment, but their relationship remained tenuous.

At the start of World War II, Farmer approved of J.S. Woodsworth's pacifist stance in the House of Commons of Canada and endorsed the CCF's call to conscript "wealth rather than men" for the war effort. Most in the ILP supported an all-out war effort, however, which further exacerbated tensions between the groups. The ILP finally dissolved in 1943, after its internal operations were taken over by CCF loyalists.

Throughout the 1930s, Manitoba Premier John Bracken had attempted to bring the province's opposition parties into a "non-partisan" coalition government. Bracken's Progressives absorbed the provincial Liberals in 1932, but the other parties turned down his requests on two separate occasions. With the start of the war, however, "non-party" government became a more viable option. The Conservatives and Social Credit joined the government in 1940; despite opposition from David Lewis, Farmer was able to convince the CCF to do the same.

Farmer argued (somewhat dubiously) that Bracken was willing to adopt labour-friendly policies, and that the CCF would benefit more from joining government than from being the sole group in opposition. He also argued that an all-party government would defer the next provincial election for a year, and allow the CCF more time to organize.[citation needed] Lewis eventually resigned himself to the alliance, and the CCF entered Manitoba's government in late 1940. Farmer became the first[citation needed] Single-Tax politician in Canada to receive a cabinet portfolio, being sworn in as Minister of Labour on 4 November.[3]

By any measurement, the CCF's tenure in government was a disaster for the party. While the Conservatives were fully integrated into the management of the province, Social Credit and the CCF were marginalized. Bracken forced Farmer's labour legislation to face free votes in the legislature; these soon took the form of party votes, with the CCF invariably on the losing side.

The Manitoba CCF was demoralized in the election of 1941. Keeping an earlier pledge, it only contested ten ridings, and fell from seven to three members.

Support for the CCF rose nationally throughout 1942, and there was a growing desire among many in the Manitoba party to leave the coalition. Farmer resigned from cabinet in December 1942, and the CCF formally left the government the following year.[3]

Farmer continued as party leader through the election of 1945. This campaign was a disappointment to the party—although it received more votes than the governing Liberal-Progressives (35% to 33%), it won only ten seats in the legislature. Farmer resigned as party leader in June 1947, and was replaced the following year by E.A. Hansford.

Farmer did not contest the election of 1949. He died on January 16, 1951.[1]


  1. ^ a b c "MLA Biographies - Deceased". Legislative Assembly of Manitoba. Archived from the original on 2014-03-30.
  2. ^ a b c d e McCrea, Walter Jackson (1925). Pioneers and prominent people in Manitoba. Canadian Publicity Company. p. 176. Retrieved 2013-01-24.
  3. ^ a b c d e Bumsted, J M (1999). Dictionary of Manitoba Biography. University of Manitoba Press. p. 80. ISBN 0887551696. Retrieved 2013-01-24.
  4. ^ Mills, Allen. "Single Tax, Socialism and the Independent Labour Party of Manitoba: The Political Ideas of F. J. Dixon and S. J. Farmer." Labour / Le Travail 5 (1980): 33-56. JSTOR. Web. 04 Dec. 2014. <>