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Former NDP leader Ed Broadbent is no more

Adrian Wyld Archives The Canadian Press Former NDP leader Ed Broadbent during a speech in 2016

The patriarch of the New Democratic Party (NDP), who led the social democratic party for 14 years, is no more. Ed Broadbent has died, the Broadbent Institute announced Thursday. He was 87 years old.

Uncertain beginnings

Few could have predicted that Ed Broadbent would become a leading figure in Canadian politics. And even less from the NDP. Because Ed Broadbent did not seem destined for a great career as a politician.

His beginnings in politics were indeed difficult. Ed Broadbent joined the NDP in 1961, before leaving to begin a doctorate at the London School of Economics, after studying philosophy and politics. Upon his return home, he became a professor of political science at York University. A few years later, in 1968, he took the plunge and ran for election in his hometown riding of Oshawa — against a former Progressive Conservative minister mayor of the city, no less.

Few thought he was a winner. And for good reason. A few months earlier, after he won the local NDP nomination, he addressed voters — many of them General Motors workers — by quoting…philosopher John Stuart Mill, dressed in a corduroy suit . It was enough for his Progressive Conservative rival to nickname him “Dr. Broadbent” — the “kiss of death in Oshawa,” as the history books say.

Although he himself is the son and grandson of auto workers, Ed Broadbent will have to learn to shed this image of a pretentious intellectual and talk to “real people”.< /p>

And he'll get there pretty quickly. In 1971, the 35-year-old neophyte tried — in vain — to become leader of the NDP following the departure of Tommy Douglas. It will only be postponed. Elected interim leader by his fellow MPs after the resignation of David Lewis at the head of the NDP, he was the first to run as a candidate to succeed him, in 1975. He briefly changed his mind, withdrawing, and finally re-entering the race 2 months later. And achieve victory. He led the NDP from 1975 to 1989.

Ed Broadbent's reign at the head of his party will not have been without pitfalls. In 1980, his support for the patriation of the Constitution sparked nothing less than a revolt against him within his caucus. Elected officials from the Prairies oppose the proposal, which in their opinion favors the center of the country; others would like the new Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to do more for women and indigenous peoples. Even those who support, like Broadbent, Pierre Elliott Trudeau's liberal proposal criticize him for not having consulted them.

Ed Broadbent will weather the storm. Under his reign, the NDP experienced hours of glory by electing more and more deputies – from 26 elected in 1979 to 43 in 1988. The NDP even came first in voting intentions in 1987. Unheard of. But also a hope from which Ed Broadbent will not recover. Disappointed, despite the unprecedented number of deputies he had just elected in Ottawa, in 1988, Broadbent ceded the leadership. Because it was the status of official opposition that he wanted to obtain and which eluded him.

Another regret: not having succeeded in breaking into Quebec. Shortly after his resignation in 1989, when taking stock of his last electoral campaign at the head of the Social Democratic Party, Mr. Broadbent confided to the Devoir that his “greatest disappointment” was not having elected any MP in Quebec.

Aborted retirement

This retirement from active politics, however, will not be his last. Invited to return to service by Jack Layton, he was elected to Ottawa in 2004 at the age of 68. But his return will be brief, since he resigns – for good this time – 10 months later to be at the side of his sick wife.

Meanwhile, Ed Broadbent had been appointed head of the International Center for Human Rights and Democratic Development by Brian Mulroney. Position he held from 1990 to 1996. He was appointed Officer of the Order of Canada in 1993, then promoted to Companion of the Order of Canada in 2001.

Shortly after the Orange Wave of 2011, which took his party to new heights with the election of 103 MPs under the leadership of Jack Layton, Ed Broadbent founded the Broadbent Institute, which presents itself as a left-wing think tank dedicated to promoting social democratic principles.

He also came out of the shadows to support Brian Topp, Thomas Mulcair's rival in the race to succeed Jack Layton, accusing Mr. Mulcair of wanting to “dilute our social democratic principles.” An outing that went badly for some New Democrats. Ed Broadbent subsequently became more discreet, avoiding commenting on the disavowal suffered three years later by Thomas Mulcair.

Ed Broadbent remained for many New Democrats, young and old, a mentor and a model, having been the first to lead the NDP to aspire to form the official opposition in Ottawa.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116