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Action Canada political movement in action

Far left, far right, or just plain far out, small political parties help put the "multi" in Canada's multiparty system. Since confederation, more than 100 parties have run candidates in Canadian federal elections, but most so-called "fringe" parties have never sent a single member to Parliament Hill. CBC Digital Archives looks at some of the many "other" parties that vied for office in the second half of the 20th century.

Can the opposition be united? Paul Hellyer thinks so. The former Liberal cabinet minister is leading the charge against his old party with a new political movement, Action Canada (AC). At the group's 1971 founding conference in Toronto, Hellyer tells Sunday Magazine that this won't be just another splinter party. Indeed, if the AC economic theory is right - print more money to fund full employment - the schism between left and right becomes obsolete. Either way, Hellyer sees the movement as urgent because if the current policy of allowing six per cent unemployment lasts for long, there will be revolution and bloodshed.
• Action Canada, as imagined in this report, never ran candidates for office. It was not until 1997 when Paul Hellyer re-launched the idea as the federal Canadian Action Party that the movement fielded nominees for office. Since 1997, CAP has run candidates in ridings coast to coast, with a platform that still emphasizes economic nationalism and a bigger role for the Bank of Canada in "enhancing sovereignty."
  • First elected as a Liberal in 1949, Paul Hellyer sat in Parliament for more than 23 years, serving in the cabinets of three prime ministers: Louis St-Laurent, Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau. He ran for the leadership of the Liberals in 1968, but lost to Trudeau. Later that year, his resignation from cabinet due to government inaction on housing, as well as Trudeau's approach to federalism, made front-page news.

• On the morning following the Action Canada convention discussed in this report, an editorial in the Globe and Mail criticized the delegates for voting not to field candidates in the next election. It also chided Hellyer for starting the new movement, suggesting that the only movement required was for Hellyer to shift to the Tories. Just a year after this report aired, Paul Hellyer apparently took that advice and stood for office as a Progressive Conservative. He won a close race, but lost the seat just two years later when Trudeau's minority Liberals won a majority in 1974.

• In 1976, Hellyer ran for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party. He lost to Joe Clark and in the process alienated many in the party with a speech denouncing "Red Tories." In 1982, he rejoined the Liberal party, but did not seek office. After more than 20 years out of federal politics, Hellyer returned to the hustings in 1997 and 2000 to run for the party he founded, Canadian Action Party. He did not win either contest.

Medium: Radio
Program: Sunday Magazine
Broadcast Date: Oct. 3, 1971
Guest(s): Tom Bell, Paul Hellyer, James McGillivray
Host: Frank Herbert, Bruce Rogers Reporter: Peter Loucks Duration: 14:10

Last updated: February 26, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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