Stanley Knowles

Stanley Howard Knowles, politician (b at Los Angeles, Calif 18 June 1908; d at Ottawa 9 Jun 1997).

Knowles, Stanley Howard

Stanley Howard Knowles, politician (b at Los Angeles, Calif 18 June 1908; d at Ottawa 9 Jun 1997). The best-known and respected of Canada's Opposition MPs, Knowles represented Winnipeg North Centre for the CCF/NDP 1942-58 and 1962-84, using a legendary knowledge of parliamentary procedure to promote social justice. Born in the US of Nova Scotian/New Brunswick parentage, Knowles had a profoundly religious upbringing in the SOCIAL GOSPEL tradition of the Methodist Church. He never forgot his mother's death from tuberculosis in 1919 or his father's firing from a machinist's job in 1932; both incidents marked his choice for theological studies at United College, Winnipeg, and then for political action via the CO-OPERATIVE COMMONWEALTH FEDERATION in 1935. He had to change laws rather than souls.

From 1942 (when he won the by-election following the death of J.S. WOODSWORTH), he did so by an increasing mastery of the rules of procedure: for almost 40 years he badgered successive governments into enlarging Canada's nascent WELFARE STATE. The PIPELINE DEBATE of 1956 was the most publicized illustration of his parliamentary skills; the founding of the NDP in 1961 confirmed his promotional abilities. Knowles's political life took a heavy personal toll but his sense of duty, his will power and the public esteem he commanded sustained him through multiple sclerosis (since 1946), marital estrangement (since the 1950s) and a massive stroke (1981). In 1984 Parliament, in an extraordinary retirement gift, named him an honorary officer of the House with a place, for life, at the Clerk's Table. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1985.


Further Reading

  • G. Harrop, Advocate of Compassion: Stanley Knowles in the Political Process (1984); S. Knowles, The New Party (1961); Susan Mann Trofimenkoff, Stanley Knowles (1982).