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Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (Nova Scotia Section)

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Co-operative Commonwealth Federation 1933-1961

Since shortly after confederation, Nova Scotia has had a two-party system in which power alternated between the Nova Scotia Liberal Party and Progressive Conservatives. In the 1920 provincial election the left had a breakthrough with the United Farmers winning six seats and the Independent Labour Party winning 5. The two forces joined together to form an 11 member official opposition under Daniel G. Mackenzie, but the group was undermined by the Liberals (who tarnished the image of the opposition MLAs by offering them payments) and the United Farmers/Labour grouping was wiped out in 1925.

Though the CCF/NDP has a long history in Nova Scotia, it was unable to break the two-party system and win more than a handful of seats (if any) in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly until the 1990s.

The Co-operative Commonwealth Federation was formed in 1932 and ran its first candidates in the 1933 Nova Scotia election but failed to win any electoral representation. The party did not contest the 1937 general election.

In the 1939 Cape Breton Centre by-election Douglas MacDonald won the CCF's first seat in the legislature.

In 1941, the future Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) president Donald MacDonald was elected from the Cape Breton South constituency. He was joined by Douglas Neil Brodie, who was elected in Cape Breton East constituency, bringing the CCF up to a total of three MLAs. Donald MacDonald was the party's leader in the Assembly until 1945. He lost a close campaign in the 1945 election, but the party still retained two seats on Cape Breton Island. MacDonald then transitioned into working full-time with the Canadian Congress of Labour, a predecessor of the CLC. A lot of the early organization of the CCF in Nova Scotia was done by Maritime Organizer Fred Young. Young would go on to continue his work in Ontario and eventually sit as an MPP in the Ontario legislature, however, his early work laid the groundwork for any future advancements the party would make during this period. This was evident in 1945 when the two CCF members elected from Cape Breton.

Russell Cunningham was the only CCF leader to serve as Leader of the Opposition after the 1945 provincial election in which Premier Angus L. Macdonald's Liberal Party swept 28 of the 30 seats and the Tories were wiped out. CCFers Cunningham and fellow Cape Bretoner Michael James MacDonald were the only opposition MLAs elected. Cunningham and MacDonald were re-elected in 1949 but were reduced to third party status behind the Robert Stanfield-led Progressive Conservatives.

MacDonald led the CCF from 1953 to 1963 and was the party's sole MLA in that period despite the fact that he led the CCF to an 8.9% popular vote in 1960.