Saskatchewan's 1944 CCF Election
Saskatchewan Council for Archives & Archivists
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Tommy Douglas and the Election of 1944

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The Cooperative Commonwealth Federation entered the political mainstream with their reaction to Canada's declaration of war on Germany in 1939. On September 9, 1939 the House of Commons voted to authorize the declaration of war. It was a decisive moment for Canadian democratic socialism. The Regina Manifesto had declared that Canada should pursue a pacifistic foreign policy. J.S. Woodsworth was (in)famous for his pacifism during the First World War. If the declaration of war carried in Parliament, how then would the CCF react? Woodsworth was the sole dissenting voice in the House. The CCF caucus, including Tommy Douglas, voted in favor of war. This proved to many Canadians that the CCF was not a radical party; Canada's liberal democratic tradition would be upheld by a CCF government. Their popularity in Saskatchewan increased gradually during the war.

Cover of CCF Manifesto, with portrait of MJ Coldwell 31

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CCF songbook 32

Many in the CCF enlisted, most famously George Williams, who quit the party leadership and his seat in the Legislature upon enlisting in the Army. Thomas Clement "Tommy" Douglas, the veteran Member of Parliament for Weyburn, was chosen to succeed Williams as provincial leader. A Baptist minister by training, Douglas was an eloquent speaker and a masterful campaigner. He quickly began organizing the party and caucus in anticipation of a provincial election. His speeches broadcast over CKCK were especially effective.

Cover, youth movement constitution and handbook 33

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Co-operative Commonwealth Youth Movement songbook 34

The party was aided greatly by the declining popularity of the Provincial Liberal government. Sensing this, the government passed a bill extending the life of the Provincial Legislature by a year, claiming postponing the election was necessary in light of the 'wartime emergency'. It is customary in Canada for Legislative Assemblies to be dissolved within five years, so this was a major break with tradition. It angered many Saskatchewanians and Douglas used it in his campaigning to great effect.

An election was set for June 15, 1944. The CCF won 47 of the 52 seats. On July 10, 1944 the ministers of the first Socialist Government in North America was sworn to office in Regina.

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Swearing-in ceremony, 1944 35

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