Ed Broadbent (John Edward Broadbent) | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Ed Broadbent (John Edward Broadbent)

John Edward Broadbent, academic, politician, leader of the New Democratic Party 1975-1989 (born 21 March 1936 in Oshawa, ON).
Broadbent, Ed
Ed Broadbent in 1975 when he was elected leader of the NDP. He is flanked by David Lewis (left) and Stanley Knowles (CP).

John Edward Broadbent, academic, politician, leader of the New Democratic Party 1975-1989 (born 21 March 1936 in Oshawa, ON). Ed Broadbent was born to a family of auto workers in a company town. After studies at University of Toronto (PhD, 1966) and the London School of Economics, he joined the political science department at York University in 1965. He was elected to the House of Commons in 1968 as New Democratic Party member for Oshawa-Whitby, winning the seat by a tiny margin.

In his early years as MP he was identified with the party's left wing. Unsuccessful in his first attempt to win the leadership in 1971, he became a serious contender in 1974 when party leader David Lewis lost his seat while Broadbent's own majority increased enormously. After some hesitation he again offered himself and was elected July 1975. As leader he emphasized economic issues and helped the party recover from its disastrous 1974 defeat.

He was elected a vice-president of the Socialist International in 1978. In 1980-81 Broadbent faced a caucus revolt (centered in Saskatchewan) against his support for the patriation of Canada's Constitution. The party convention in 1981 endorsed his position, but some discontent remained, and at the 1983 convention prairie delegates circulated a manifesto implicitly critical of Broadbent's leadership.

Although NDP support appeared to decline prior to the 1984 election campaign, Broadbent waged a brilliant campaign, emphasizing tax reforms, lower interest rates and equality for women. The NDP emerged with 30 seats, only 10 fewer than the Liberal Party, including 13 seats in Ontario. After the election, Broadbent's popularity in the polls was consistently ahead of Liberal leader John Turner and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

In the 1988 election Broadbent led the NDP to an all-time record of 43 seats. Nonetheless, the Liberals made even greater gains and the Progressive Conservative Party won a second mandate. Broadbent was criticized for not making opposition to the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement the main issue in his campaign. His support for the Meech Lake Accord also caused some dissent within the party. In 1989 he resigned as leader and was replaced by Audrey McLaughlin. Broadbent served as president of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development from 1990 to 1996. In 1993, Broadbent was named an Officer of the Order of Canada, and was promoted to Companion of the Order in 2001.

In 2004, federal NDP leader Jack Layton persuaded Broadbent to return to politics and run for a seat in the federal election. Broadbent defeated the Liberal candidate and close ally of Paul Martin, Richard Mahoney, for the riding of Ottawa Centre. As a member of the NDP shadow cabinet, he was the critic for democracy (parliamentary and electoral reform, corporate accountability and child poverty). In 2005, he announced that he would not seek re-election.

Further Reading

Donate to The Canadian Encyclopedia this Giving Tuesday!

A donation to The Canadian Encyclopedia today will have an even greater impact due to a generous matching gift from an anonymous donor. Starting November 28 until December 5, 2023, all donations will be matched up to $10,000! All donations above $3 will receive a tax receipt. Thank you for your support of The Canadian Encyclopedia, a project of Historica Canada.