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Ed Broadbent steps down as NDP leader

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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After 14 years and four elections as leader of the NDP, Ed Broadbent is calling it quits. In this clip from CBC News, Broadbent's composure wavers only slightly as he shares his decision with a crowd of NDP faithful. "Now is the time to pick a new man, or woman, to lead this party, to take us the next step towards building that decent, exciting, and compassionate Canada we all believe in," he says, as voices from the audience shout "No!"

The faithful are reluctant to see Broadbent go for several reasons. His wife, Lucille, feels he could have effected change in Canadian society. For others, he's the only leader they've ever known. And it's not clear who will be able to fill his shoes. David Halton reports on some of Broadbent's potential successors, from some of the MPs in his caucus to a provincial NDP leader and a Canadian labour leader. 
. Rumblings of Broadbent's departure as leader began in January 1989, when an NDP MP from northern Ontario told the CBC, "I think Ed should seriously consider stepping down."
. Nevertheless, according to Maclean's, Broadbent's announcement was a "closely guarded secret."
. At least one MP felt it was a bad idea for Broadbent to leave. Howard McCurdy said a leadership race would distract the party just as it was in a period of self-examination.

. In 1989 NDP members faced what many regarded as an uninspiring, unknown crop of leadership contenders to replace Broadbent. A 1989 Maclean's article about the race noted that an unnamed NDP member had said the situation had been much the same in 1975. Back then Broadbent "was regarded by many party members as 'a tweedy, academic nerd' and the best of a poor lot when he took the leadership."

. The race to replace Broadbent culminated in a leadership convention in December 1989. Although several people announced their candidacy, the party couldn't snag the one man they really wanted to run: former Ontario NDP leader Stephen Lewis. "It requires total commitment, and I don't have that commitment," Lewis said.
. At the convention, Yukon MP Audrey McLaughlin won on the fourth ballot, beating B.C. NDP leader Dave Barrett.

. There was also a farewell dinner for Broadbent at the convention. His final off-the-cuff speech received grand applause from the party. "We are all part of one family," he said. "It is the acceptance of individuality that makes for enrichment. So too in our nation, diversity is what makes us flourish."
. Former Conservative prime minister John Diefenbaker said of Ed Broadbent in 1979: "You know, some fellows grow in this business and some fellows swell. That fellow growed [sic]."
Medium: Television
Program: Saturday Report
Broadcast Date: March 4, 1989
Guest(s): Lucille Broadbent, Judy Cook, Tony Penikett, Bob Rae
Host: Knowlton Nash
Reporter: David Halton, Anna Maria Tremonti
Duration: 5:47

Last updated: March 5, 2014

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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