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Tommy Douglas, Hazen Argue vie for NDP leadership

Tommy Douglas was the most influential politician never to be elected Prime Minister. He pursued his radical ideas relentlessly until they became so mainstream rival politicians claimed them as their own. Called a communist and threatened by in-party fighting, Douglas battled hard to bring the New Democratic Party to legitimacy in its first ten years. He was often criticized for his singular idealism but through it all Douglas was undeterred, convinced that he was helping to create a better, more humane society. In 2004, Douglas was voted number one in CBC's The Greatest Canadian contest.

From the very beginning there seem to be rumblings of dissension between the farming and labour interests in the New Democratic Party. The party, which unites the CCF and the Canadian Labour Congress, has bold ideas about bringing a new brand of politics to the national stage in 1961. The crowd jubilantly sings Solidarity Forever but the imminent leadership race threatens to divide the party. In this CBC Radio broadcast, Saskatchewan farmer and MP Hazen Argue and long-time Saskatchewan premier Tommy Douglas toss their hats into the ring and make bids for the leadership. 
• In his speech, Hazen Argue called Canada the "most mismanaged country in the world" in terms of employment, social security and infrastructure. He also suggested that Canada should withdraw from NATO and renounce nuclear weapons.
• "No matter my role, I give you this pledge; that in the years ahead, I shall speak for you, I shall work for you, I shall never let you down." -- Hazen Argue, leadership campaign speech, 1961.

• Douglas won the leadership race with 1,391 votes. Hazen Argue captured only 380 votes.
• When accepting the leadership of the party, Douglas quoted a passage from the poem Milton by William Blake. The poem exemplified Douglas' commitment to the long battle ahead.
"I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England's green and pleasant land."

• Six months after the leadership convention, Argue resigned from the NDP. He stated that divisions in the party were too deep and that labour union interests dominated farmers' interests. In 1962 he switched parties and was re-elected to the House of Commons as a Liberal but was defeated the following year. In 1966 Argue was made a senator. He died in 1991.

• Many Canadians were enthusiastic about Douglas' shift from provincial to national politics but some resentment remained in Saskatchewan, especially around the issue of medicare. When Douglas was defeated in his Regina riding in the 1962 federal election, many speculated it was a lingering reaction against his healthcare insurance program. Other critics suggested that some Saskatchewanians felt abandoned by Douglas. He was nonetheless elected in a by-election in the Burnaby-Coquitlam riding of British Columbia.
Medium: Radio
Program: CBC Radio News Special
Broadcast Date: Aug. 2, 1961
Guest(s): Tommy Douglas
Duration: 16:49

Last updated: February 19, 2014

Page consulted on February 19, 2014

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