Social Democracy - The Past, Present and Future

From May 12 to May 14, the Douglas-Coldwell Foundation participated in Social Democracy and the Left in Canada: Past, Present, and Future, a conference held in Calgary.

The choice of Calgary in 2017 is significant because it connected the conference with the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation at the Royal Canadian Legion in Calgary in 1932. The CCF was a political coalition of progressive, socialist, and labour groups that wanted economic reform to help Canadians affected by the Great Depression.

From pacifism to peacekeeping, from socialism to social democracy, the CCF/NDP has had its share of successes and disappointments in Canadian federal and provincial politics. Despite the almost 85-year existence of the CCF/NDP, however, there has been relatively little academic work done on the movement and its history. That is especially true in the last 20 years. This is particularly noteworthy in comparison to the extensive body of work that exists about Canada’s other two national parties.

Organized by historians Jon Weier (Western University), Roberta Lexier (Mount Royal University), and Stephanie Bangarth (King’s University College), the conference aimed to look at this imbalance, examine the state of the NDP and the extra-parliamentary Left and provide a critical historical and current-day analysis of the state of social democracy in Canada.

 The conference featured several papers on the history of the CCF-NDP and left-wing organizations in Canada. A wide range of topics were covered from the criminalization of left-wing dissent in the first half of the 20th century in Canada to the evolution of the CCF-NDP’s ideology to “Laytonian social democracy” and the LEAP manifesto. An edited collection of the papers is expected to be published as a book sometime in the future.

 The Douglas-Coldwell Foundation was proud to have been able to take part in the conference. David McGrane, one of our Board Directors, chaired a session of the conference on our behalf. The conference proved to be an ideal setting to promote and encourage academics studying social democracy in Canada. The DCF’s presence was noted by the participants and we were able to provide more information about what we do.

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