Posted on 29 March 2011Long time NDP supporter and Bradner resident Robert Douglas became a hero to the New Democrats after leaving his 60-acre farm, worth approximately $2 million, to the party last fall.
Now the Abbotsford NDP Party veteran is getting ready to fight a federal election alongside Abbotsford NDP candidate David Murray and he believes the party has never been so well prepared.
The election, widely expected later this spring, reminds Douglas of another ‘Douglas/Murray’ pairing in Saskatchewan in the 1930′s – NDP founder Tommy Douglas and David Murray’s father, who fought together in the 1935 election. Bob Douglas was born in Empress Alberta in 1927 and has been a member of the CCF-NDP since his Dad got him a membership in 1941.
Says Douglas, “When I was only eight-years-old my Dad brought me to hear Tommy Douglas speak. I think it was during one of his campaign bus tours in 1935. He used to go to all the small prairie towns. It was a big event.”
Murray/Douglas 1935 SaskatchewanDouglas went to the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon and graduated in 1950 with a degree in Engineering the eventually moved to Victoria in 1956 and got a job with the BC Power Commission. He has been politically active in BC ever since.
In the 1935 Canadian election, the Liberal Party of William Lyon Mackenzie King won a majority government, defeating R.B. Bennett’s Conservative Party.
The central issue was the economy, which was still in the depths of the Great Depression. Bennett, in office since the 1930 election, had done little to stimulate the economy during his first few years, believing the free market would correct itself. In the last months of his time in office, he reversed his position, however, copying the popular New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt in the United States. Upset about high unemployment and inaction by the federal government, voters were unwilling to allow the Conservatives to continue to govern, despite their change of policy. The Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF was a Canadian political party founded in 1932 in Calgary, Alberta, by a number of socialist, farm, co-oper, a social democratic party, first competed in this election and won seven seats, promising radical reform.
In its first election in 1935, seven CCF MPs were elected to the House of Commons
He bought a 60-acre-farm in Abbotsford in 1964, and moved here with his wife Sarah in 1972. Abbotsford was not a very left leaning area in 1972 according to Douglas but he has seen a big change in the electorate since.
“Abbotsford residents are now approximately 37% Indo-Canadian. In 1972 it was less than 1 percent. Generally speaking they do not vote Conservative,” he says.
Douglas feels good about the party’s chances in the federal election expected this spring.
“We have a candidate in place who has made some inroads before the election is called. We have not had that luxury before,” says Douglas, adding, “We have raised more money and have got more people working at the grass roots level than I have ever seen before. I think Mr. Fast will have his hands full next election.”
For his part the NDP candidate for Abbotsford feels a great affinity for the party’s roots and feels he shares a great deal in common with party stalwarts like Douglas. “I grew up a dyed-in-the-wool Prairie pragmatist,” says David Murray, “Which meant following my father’s footsteps and becoming a member of the NDP.” Murray, who is an executive member of CUPE and the Fraser Valley Labour Council, has been knocking on doors in Abbotsford for almost a year and has been pleasantly surprised by the response he has received.
“People aren’t quite sure what’s wrong, in many cases, but they know something has to change. I haven’t received an unfriendly response at any home I’ve visited and I was taken aback by the number of people who said they’ve never been visited by a politician at their home, much less in between elections,” says Murray.
Murray believes that the Harper government has run its course and that there is a grassroots feeling that the country needs a change. “I’m not sure how the Conservatives managed to co-opt the ‘family values’ agenda but people are beginning to realize that Harper’s values don’t seem to match what’s good for their family.
“Despite the fact our banks survived the first part of the global meltdown, the economy is, by no means, filling anybody with great confidence in their family’s future,” says Murray.
Murray believes that the more people ask themselves whether or not they share Stephen Harper’s view of the country the more average people will be likely to support what the federal NDP, under Jack Layton’s leadership, has come to represent.
Editor’s Note: David Murray writes a regular column for the Today Media Group.
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