CBC Digital Archives

Tim Buck, Mr. Communism

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.

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"We can't lose," Communist party leader Tim Buck tells the party faithful from Kansack, Sask., to Kamloops Junction, B.C. As enthusiastic in 1962 as he was at the party's founding 40 years earlier, comrade Buck celebrates the anniversary with a coast-to-coast whistle-stop speaking tour. Close-Up climbs aboard as party members gather in small meeting halls across the country for reminiscences, speeches and, well, solidarity. And, for good measure, the charismatic Buck clarifies the party line from Moscow on topics ranging from Castro to China.
• Tim Buck ran for office twice in his more than 30 years at the helm of the Communist Party of Canada. In his first effort he ran in Winnipeg North and finished third on the ballot with 7,276 votes. Just five years later, running in the Ontario riding of Hamilton, Buck didn't fare as well. He placed fourth of four with just 695 votes.

• Buck retired from the party's leadership just a few months after this 1962 program aired. He was succeeded by Leslie Morris, who died in 1965 (for coverage of his funeral, please visit, This Hour has Seven Days: Politics, religion, sex and football), and subsequently William Kashtan, who led the party for more than 20 years.

• Technically, the Communist Party of Canada has never had a member elected to parliament. However, in a 1943 byelection and in the 1945 general election, voters in the Montreal riding of Cartier elected Fred Rose of the Labour Progressive Party (LPP). During these years when the Communist party was banned, the LPP was in fact the CPC's public face. In 1945, Soviet defector Igor Gouzenko fingered Rose as a spy. He was expelled from the House of Commons in 1947 and spent more than four years in jail. For more on the Igor Gouzenko, please visit the Gouzenko Affair. For more on Rose, please visit Fred Rose obituary.

• The Communist party shuttled between legality and illegality for several years, from the time it was founded in 1921. As mentioned in this report, on more than one occasion party leaders were rounded up and jailed. Between 1940 and 1962 Elections Canada did not recognize the party.

• Amendments to the election laws in 1960 resulted in the legal recognition of federal political parties and, for the first time, the appearance of party names beside those of their candidates on the ballot. The CPC's name appeared for the first time along with all the other parties in the 1962 federal election.

• Despite the CPC's overall lack of success at the ballot box, it did make an enormous impact on electoral law in Canada. In 1993, when the party failed to field 50 candidates, Elections Canada enforced new provisions of the Elections Act and de-registered the party. In addition to removing their party affiliation from the ballot, it seized the party's assets and stripped it of other party privileges, such as issuing tax receipts. Party leader Miguel Figueroa challenged the Act all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. The case resulted in several changes to the law, including the elimination of the 50 candidate requirement and revocation of the clause that allowed seizure of assets.

• Due to the 50 candidate rule that was under judicial review, the CPC name did not appear on the ballot in the 1993 and 1997 federal elections.

Medium: Television
Program: Close-Up
Broadcast Date: July 8, 1962
Guest(s): Tim Buck
Host: J. Frank Willis
Reporter: Peter Jennings
Duration: 21:24

Last updated: September 17, 2013

Page consulted on July 3, 2014

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