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The Recent Canadian Elections

by Weston Wrigley

International Socialist Review, January 1905

Obscured by the attention attracted by the recent historical campaign conducted by the Socialist Party in the United States, a campaign of lesser importance but of equal historical significance was conducted in Canada in October and November last. Canada, greater in area than the United States, is less advanced commercially and its vast tracts of undeveloped farm lands offer a haven for the surplus population of Europe and the overcrowded districts in America, the tide of emigration which is now flowing towards the Canadian Northwest being likely to continue in increasing numbers for the next two decades at least.

The great issue in the recent contest was the building of a new transcontinental railway across Canada to open up the districts north of the height of land from which the waters flow into the great lakes. This will mean that the fertile lands in the districts drained by the rivers emptying into Hudson’s Bay and the Arctic Ocean will be settled by emigrants in the next few years—the building of the railroad having been decided upon.

The Liberal party, in control of the Government, favored the building of the road on the private ownership basis—the people to build the road and the capitalists to own it—while the Conservative party, for election purposes, declared in favor of public ownership. The Liberal party had the largest campaign fund and won the election.

The historical phase of the campaign was the entry of the Socialist Party into the national elections. The election deposit law, requiring a deposit of $200 in cash by each candidate, this to be forfeited if less than one-half the vote polled by a winning candidate is secured, is aimed to prevent the working class from securing representation in the halls of parliament. An additional requirement is a nomination paper signed by 20 voters in the district contested. These obstacles prevented the nomination of Socialist Party candidates in 210 of the 215 constituencies, but in five British Columbia districts the Socialist Party was represented and made a most creditable showing, saving the deposit in the Nanaimo district, where the Socialists carried all the mining districts and were only defeated by the farmers’ votes. The vote cast in the five districts was as follows:

  Liberal Conservative Socialist
Nanaimo 1,509 1,122 784
Vancouver City 2,939 2,081 752
Kootenay 2,204 1,595 602
Yale Cariboo 1,380 1,323 393
Victoria City 1,692 1,192 336

The five districts constitute about three-quarters of the province and the socialist vote in these is about 15 per cent of the total. A provincial election took place in October, 1903, but the geography of the districts is so different that it is difficult to make a comparison. In one or two towns a decreased vote is shown for the socialists but the old parties’ votes show a like discrepancy, the districts evidently being apportioned differently. In Vancouver and Victoria cities the vote in 1903 was double that secured in 1904, but the 1904 vote is a class conscious vote, while the 1903 vote was not, each voter then having several votes, enabling him to split his ballot between two or three parties. On the whole the 1904 election provides a fairer opportunity to estimate the Socialist strength than the 1903 campaign and the result is most encouraging. The following table shows the comparative strength of the three parties in some of the British Columbia mining camps

  Liberal Conservative Socialist
Nanaimo City 382 248 377
Ladysmith 220 185 243
Northfield 15 11 53
Greenwood 126 78 116
Phoenix 41 54 116
Slocan 37 32 44
Sandon 28 23 60
Ferguson 11 11 32
Fernietown 161 81 30
Michel 15 8 20
Fairview 57 28 28

Outside of British Columbia the only action taken by Socialists was the issuance of a circular by Local Toronto, calling upon all Socialists to write "Socialism" across the face of their ballets, the Socialist Party being unable to nominate candidates to stand for the principles of Socialism.

In three districts labor candidates were nominated, all losing their deposits. One of the candidates was A. W. Puttee, of Winnipeg, who had served two terms in Parliament as a labor member. In 1900 he polled 3,441 votes, 1,183 more than his capitalist opponent. This year he secured 1,277 votes, while the two capitalist nominees polled 4,252 and 4,006 respectively. While in Parliament Puttee kept his hands clean although he straddled the fence with one leg on the capitalist governmental side and the other on the side of "independence" whatever that term means. He voted for a large money appropriation to send Canadian soldiers to South Africa to do the bidding of the Cecil Rhodes bunch of German-Jewish mine owners, and in other respects he aped the doings of his capitalist co-legislators. The result of the election shows that Winnipeg workingmen preferred an avowed capitalist representative to a spineless laborite who was "putty" in the hands of capitalist politicians.

A revolutionary Socialist movement is now springing up, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia all having locals which stand clear for the abolition of the wage system, and it is proposed to unite these bodies into a Canadian Socialist Party with headquarters in Vancouver, B.C. About three years ago there were about 60 Socialist "leagues" in the various Canadian provinces, but they were based on sentimentalism and probably three-quarters have passed out of existence. Some, however, have read other literature than the Appeal to Reason and have, in line with evolution, advanced in thought and formed militant working class political organizations out of the sentimental "leagues."

The Ontario Socialist Party has adopted the platform of the British Columbia Socialist Party and the locals at Winnipeg, Man., and Glace Bay, N.S., are expected to follow this lead, thus uniting the movement upon a common declaration of principles. Two Socialist papers, the Clarion, of Vancouver, B.C., and the Standard, of Port Arthur, Ont., will aid in educating the wage-workers to their class interests and in building up a strong movement from the splendid nucleus which now exists.

The capture of the Democratic party by the capitalist class and the control of the two great parties by the gigantic corporations is duplicated in Canadian politics. The Liberal Party formerly represented the dying middle class, but it is now an ultracapitalist organization and the field is clearing preparatory to a straight fight between the capitalists and wage-workers. The taking up of the public ownership cry by the Conservatives will not result in their reorganization as a political factor with the rural element behind them. The two old parties are recognized as avowedly capitalistic and no third party is likely to arise to befog the issue, the Socialist party thus having a clear field to combat organized capital in Canadian politics.

Toronto, Ontario

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