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Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (British Columbia Section)

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (British Columbia Section)


The party was formed in 1933 as the British Columbia section of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) by a coalition of the Socialist Party of Canada (BC), the League for Social Reconstruction, and affiliated organizations. In August 1933, the latter two organizations merged to become the Associated CCF Clubs. The new party won seven seats in the 1933 provincial election, enough to form the official opposition. A further merger with the SPC (BC) took place in 1935. In 1936 the party split as its moderate leader, Reverend Robert Connell was expelled over doctrinal differences in what was called the "Connell Affair". Three other CCF Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) in what had been a 7-member caucus quit and joined Connell in forming the Social Constructive Party, leaving only Harold Winch, Ernest Winch and Dorothy Steeves as CCF MLAs. The Constructivists nominated candidates in the 1937 election but failed to win a seat. The CCF regained their former contingent of 7 MLAs but lost official opposition status to the reconstituted British Columbia Conservative Party.

Harold Winch succeeded Connell as CCF leader and guided the party until the 1950s.

The two-party system in Canada was challenged with the rise of the CCF and the Social Credit movement in western Canada during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The CCF first took power in 1944 in Saskatchewan under Premier Tommy Douglas, and made major inroads in British Columbia.

In order to block the rise of the CCF in BC, the provincial Liberal and Conservative parties formed a coalition government after the 1941 provincial election when neither party had enough seats to form a majority government on its own. For the ten years that the coalition held together, the CCF was the Official Opposition in the legislature.

Solidification as opposition party

After the coalition fell apart in 1951, the government introduced the Alternative Vote, with the expectation that Conservative voters would list the Liberals as their second choice and vice versa. In introducing the measure, the government hoped to prevent the CCF from winning in a three party competition. What they did not contemplate was that there was a new fourth party on the rise: the BC Social Credit League.

In the election on 12 June 1952, the Liberals and Conservatives were decimated. The Social Credit League was the main beneficiary of the new voting system as many non-CCF voters chose Social Credit as either their first or second choices. Social Credit emerged as the largest party, with one more seat than Winch's CCF. Social Credit then chose a new leader, W.A.C. Bennett.

When Social Credit lost a motion of no confidence in the legislature in March 1953, Winch argued that the CCF should be allowed to try to form a government instead of the house being dissolved for an early election. The Liberals, however, refused to support the CCF's bid to form a government and new elections were called.

In the 1953 election, Bennett won a majority government, and both the Liberal and the Conservative parties were reduced to fringe parties. Throughout the 1950s, Bennett's new electoral movement was able to keep the CCF at bay. As this was during the height of the Cold War, Bennett was able to effectively use the scare tactic of the "Red Menace" against the CCF, referring to them as the "socialist hordes".