CBC Digital Archives

Ed Broadbent on the campaign trail

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.

media clip
Ed Broadbent says he had no choice but to force an election. His party has voted with the Opposition Liberals against the budget of Joe Clark's minority Tories and defeated the government. The penalties can be harsh if Canadian voters think they're heading back to the polls too soon or for no reason. Yet, Ed Broadbent tells CBC Radio's The House, he felt the NDP's hands were tied. Broadbent says the budget would have thrust Canada into a recession.

Now an election is on the way, and Broadbent has been dashing around the country to reinforce his party's two messages. One is that this election is necessary because it was caused by the Tories' failure to deliver on their promises. The second is that the NDP can offer a real alternative to what the Liberals and Tories have so far brought Canadians in the late 1970s: unemployment, inflation and the sell-off of Canadian resources. 
• According to Ed Broadbent: The Pursuit of Power (1988) by Judy Steed, Broadbent was motivated to defeat the Clark government because he saw a chance for the NDP to grab more seats. Both the Tories and Liberals were weak: the Tories because of their minority government and the Liberals because Pierre Trudeau had recently announced his retirement (he later changed his mind).

• The Liberals and NDP had a combined 140 seats to the Progressive Conservatives' 136. Under this government the Tories had previously negotiated the support of the six Créditistes (a conservative Quebec party) in House votes, but, inexplicably, failed to make a deal with them this time.

• Everyone, including the NDP, was astonished when the PC government actually fell on Dec. 13, 1979, with a vote of 139 to 133.

• Despite winning a record-high percentage of the popular vote - nearly 20 per cent - in the election that followed, the NDP didn't fare as well as Broadbent had hoped. The Liberals, with Trudeau at the helm, won a majority of 147 seats, the Tories won 103, and the NDP finished with 32 seats. They had hoped to win 50 to 60 seats.

• Of those 32 seats, 27 were in Western Canada and the other five were in Ontario.

• Shortly after the election Trudeau took an unusual step and offered Broadbent a post in the Cabinet. The Liberals had just one MP west of Ontario and they desperately needed support from the NDP-rich West if they were going to expand their energy policy and bring home the Canadian Constitution.

• Broadbent wasn't interested. "They didn't need us in terms of numbers," Broadbent told his biographer. "Accepting Cabinet posts under those circumstances presented no long-term advantage to the party."
Medium: Radio
Program: The House
Broadcast Date: Dec. 22, 1979
Guest(s): Ed Broadbent, Bob Rae
Host: Marguerite McDonald
Reporter: Garry Aldridge
Duration: 6:55

Last updated: November 6, 2014

Page consulted on November 6, 2014

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

1979: Joe Clark's government falls

In a confidence vote on the Tories' first budget, Clark's government is defeated by a margin o...

1989: Audrey McLaughlin is first woman to lea...

After a dramatic night of balloting, rookie MP Audrey McLaughlin is crowned the new leader of ...

1979: Trudeau steps down as Liberal leader

Trudeau announces he will no longer be leader of the Liberal party.