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Ed Broadbent: From Oshawa to Ottawa

As leader of the NDP, Ed Broadbent was a democratic socialist who loved to smoke cigars and drive fast cars. Broadbent led his party through contentious constitutional debates and weathered a western revolt before capturing the party's biggest seat count ever in 1988. After 14 years and four elections he resigned the leadership and became a human rights advocate, and in 2004 he made a political comeback to sit in Parliament once more.

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Ed Broadbent's socialist leanings weren't bred in the bone. Though they lived in a union-oriented company town, his parents -- a clerk at General Motors and a homemaker -- were steadfast conservative voters who didn't discuss politics. Through high school Broadbent was an excellent student interested in current affairs, but it was his university experience that prompted him to declare himself a democratic socialist. CBC Television's The Journal looks at the formative years of the NDP leader. 
• John Edward Broadbent was born in Oshawa, Ont., on March 21, 1936, to Percy and Mary Broadbent. He was the second of the family's three children.

• Percy Broadbent worked as a grocery wholesaler, but by 1950 he lost his job due to alcoholism. A family friend stepped in to give him a job as a clerk at General Motors, Oshawa's main employer.

• Alcoholism also affected Percy's relationship with Ed, who looked to his boy scout leader as a role model instead.

• Ed Broadbent had a much closer relationship with his mother, who was a devoted parent.

• Broadbent attended Oshawa's Central Collegiate where he was named the school's most
outstanding student four years in a row.

• An easygoing kid, tall and skinny with a gap-toothed grin, Broadbent was also popular among his peers. He was elected president of the student council in Grade 11 and was class valedictorian in Grade 13.

• Broadbent earned money for university by working after school in a men's clothing store and with a paper route. His success at signing up new subscriptions earned him several trips to Buffalo, N.Y.
• As part of the Rotary Club's Adventure in Citizenship project, Broadbent was awarded a trip to Ottawa. There he met and posed for a photograph with Oshawa MP Mike Starr (seen in this clip), who Broadbent would later defeat in his first run for Parliament.

• In 1955 Broadbent set off for post-secondary studies at Trinity College at the University of Toronto. He studied philosophy, excelling in all his classes and winning the admiration of his professors.

• Broadbent gained an education off campus as well, taking in theatre, exploring jazz clubs and seeing opera singer Maria Callas perform at Maple Leaf Gardens - "one of the great moments of my life," he would later remember.

• Broadbent funded his tuition in part through the University Reserve Training Plan. In return for attending military training sessions, he was guaranteed annual summer jobs in the air force.

• Broadbent lived in a campus co-op and was its president by his third year. In return for cheap lodgings, co-op members worked four hours a week to run the residences.

• It was through lively discussions at the co-op, says Broadbent, that his personal philosophy shifted towards socialism.

• After completing his bachelor's degree in 1959 and his master's degree in 1961, Broadbent spent a year at the London School of Economics in 1962-63. He completed his PhD in 1966; his thesis was about the 19th century political philosopher John Stuart Mill.

• Broadbent married Yvonne Yamaoka, a Japanese-Canadian town planner, in 1961. The marriage ended six years later.

• In 1961 Broadbent joined the New Democratic Party, which was formed that year as a merger of the Canadian Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and the Canadian Labour Congress.

• The following year there was a federal election, and Broadbent volunteered for the NDP candidate campaigning in the Toronto riding of Rosedale.

• Broadbent began teaching political science at Toronto's York University in 1965. (Source: Ed Broadbent: The Pursuit of Power, Judy Steed, 1988)
Medium: Television
Program: The Journal
Broadcast Date: March 17, 1988
Guest(s): Ed Broadbent
Reporter: Bruce Yaccato
Duration: 4:31

Last updated: November 10, 2014

Page consulted on November 10, 2014

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