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Regina Manifesto

During the Depression of the 1930s, the League for Social Reconstruction (LSR), a left-wing intellectual think-tank, emerged in the east while a new political party, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), was born in Calgary. The Regina Manifesto, initially penned by LSR academics, was approved by the delegates attending the first full national CCF convention in 1933. It suggested that social and economic equality could be achieved by a new workers’ party—the CCF—a federation of farmer, labour and socialist organizations. The opening clauses noted that capitalism’s class domination and exploitation produced “inherent injustice” and “glaring inequalities.” Addressing human needs, not just making profits, should be society’s goal, achieved through a planned and socialized economy. The Manifesto’s fourteen-point program included planks on public ownership, socialization of finance, and increased funds and crop insurance for farmers. The Manifesto sought a national labour code, the right to unionize, and more social rights including insurance for accident, old age and unemployment. The CCF prophetically envisioned state-financed medicare available to all, and favoured increased public expenditure on housing, hospitals, and relief payments. In foreign affairs, the Manifesto reflected a distrust of military entanglements, and favoured disarmament and a revitalized League of Nations. While the CCF replaced the Regina Manifesto with the more moderate Winnipeg Declaration in 1956, the Manifesto anticipated many of the features of the modern Canadian welfare state.

Alan Whitehorn

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