Speech to the Founding Convention of the NDP - 1961

Speeches of Tommy Douglas

Premier T. C. Douglas

Notes for Nomination Speech for National Leadership of The New Party

August 2nd, 1961

This tremendous convention representing all walks of life is probably the  greatest political event of our generation.  To me it indicates that the Canadian people are aware of the fact that country stands at the crossroads of history and that the New Party offers the best hope of leading Canada out of the morass of economic stagnation, unemployment and depressed agricultural conditions which now beset us. Today as never before the Canadian people are looking for leadership and upon this party rests the responsibility of providing it. I believe that we will form a people’s government in Canada but only if we have the capacity to meet the challenge of the times in which we live. As delegates, ours is a tremendous responsibility for the failure or success of this movement will depend upon our ability to do three things which must be done if the New Party is to become a vital force in the political life of Canada.

Spirit of Unity Within the Party

The first thing which must be done is to create a spirit of unity within the party itself. In a movement like ours there are bound to be differences of opinion and outlook because we represent different geographical areas, cultures and different occupational activities. We are people who hold certain convictions very strongly. That is why we're here. It would therefore be strange if we didn’t have differences of opinion because it is still true that where everyone thinks alike no one thinks very much. Attempts are being made by the press of this country to play up these differences and to suggest

that this party will be dominated by some particular economic group. I want to say that as far as I'm concerned no particular group in this party has me in its pocket nor will we allow any group to dominate this convention or the party which it represents.  This is a party, representing not one class but all classes in our society.

Editorial writers have been trying to separate us into right-wingers and left-wingers. I notice that I am being described as a right-winger and it has been said that I am lukewarm towards socialization and public ownership. Well, the record speaks for itself. My colleagues and I have established more public

ownership in the province of Saskatchewan than any government in Canada either past or present. Perhaps we haven’t talked as glibly as some others about our devotion to socialism. We have been too busy putting into practice the public ownership and development of our basic resources in the interests of all our people.

This is not a time to argue about right-wing and left-wing; this is the time to unite all our forces for the task which lies before us - that of creating a society which will make the wealth potential of this country available to all who work with hand and brain. Leadership does not consist of accentuating or exploiting our differences but rather in finding those areas of agreement within which we can work together for common objectives. More social democratic parties have been ruined by dissension from within than have ever been destroyed by attacks from without. Any party which expects to win the confidence of the Canadian electorate must demonstrate its ability to manage its own affairs with dignity and unity. We must learn to work together as a team each of us with a part to play, but always remembering that our individual contribution will only be valuable if it contributes to the victory of the team as a whole. Our first task, therefore, is to show that we are united behind whatever leader you choose at this convention and that we are united behind a program which will usher in a new day for those who produce the wealth of this country.

Program That Will Commend Itself to the People of Canada

Our second task is to design a program which will commend itself to the people of Canada. I believe the Canadian people want an end to the economic dictatorship under which the affairs of this country for nearly a century have been run in the interests of those who own the corporate wealth of Canada.

During the past fifty years we have experienced a scientific and technological revolution which has made it possible to produce goods and services far beyond our fondest dreams. Now we require a

social and economic revolution which will make those goods and services available to those who need them. If I may borrow a phrase of Upton Sinclair’s I would say that we should present to the people of Canada an “EPIC Program" - End Poverty In Canada.

Canada needs a sense of national purpose. We need to set for ourselves goals and objectives and then mobilize all our human and material resources to wage unrelenting warfare against poverty, ignorance and disease. I believe the people of Canada will respond to such a challenge if it is placed before them in terms which are intelligent and realistic.

Our program must also set forth Canada’s role in promoting peace throughout the world. The greatest single problem of our time is to find a substitute for war as a means of settling disputes between nations. Because of her relationships with the old world and the new Canada can play a major role in promoting world peace. We cannot do this, however, by becoming the military pawn of any great power nor by allowing nuclear weapons to be placed on Canadian soil. Neither can we adopt a policy of isolation. The world has shrunk in the past quarter of a century so that today no nation can shirk its responsibilities as a member of the world community. Canada is admirably fitted to give leadership in establishing a world system of collective security based on the rule of law. We must support every endeavour which will achieve this end and we must resist every effort to resolve international disputes by resorting to force as an instrument of national policy.

Build Political Instrument for Genuine Democracy

The third thing this party must do is to build painstakingly the kind of political instrument which will

establish in this country a genuine democracy. This will entail hard work and sacrifice. The forces arrayed against us have powerful resources at their disposal. They have unlimited funds with which to finance a political campaign. This, however, does not appall me. I have always believed that the common people when they know what they want and are prepared to make the necessary sacrifice for it can beat money any day of the week. However, this will not be done merely by making speeches. We must set up constituency organizations; we must select young and aggressive candidates and above all, we must train and equip men and women capable of carrying out our program against the time when we shall be called upon to accept the responsibilities of public office.

In coming before you this evening I am not seeking a job or soliciting your support - the issue before us is much too serious for that. This is not a popularity contest. It is not a matter of whether we like one person more than another.  The decision we have to make at this convention is who is best qualified to lead this party to victory and to usher in the dawn of a new day for the people of Canada? Mr. Argue and I are only two individuals who in the course of time will pass from the political scene but this movement and all that it stands for must go on until ultimate victory is finally achieved. You must make your decision, therefore, on the basis of what is best for this party and for the future welfare of this country.

If you decide that Mr. Argue is the person best fitted to assume this responsibility I know that he will bring to the task all his fine talents of courage and ability and it is needless for me to assure you that I shall give him my enthusiastic co-operation and support. If, on the other hand, you decide that I should undertake this responsibility I pledge myself to do everything which is humanly possible to lead this party to victory and to build a more just and humane society for the people of Canada.

The decision lies with you!


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