Former federal NDP leader, Oshawa MP Ed Broadbent dead at 87


Published January 11, 2024 at 4:57 pm

Ed Broadbent, the former leader of the federal New Democrats, has died.

He was 87.

In sharing the news of his passing on Thursday, the Ottawa think tank he founded and which bears his name, called him a “fierce champion for ordinary Canadians.”

“Ed devoted decades of his life to fighting for justice and equality in Canada and around the world,” reads the written statement from the Broadbent Institute.

Current NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Broadbent “was a lifelong champion of our movement and our party.”

“He dedicated his considerable gifts to the project of social democracy, never wavering in his belief that we must build a Canada that serves everyone — not just the rich and powerful.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement that “Canada is better off” due to Broadbent’s “selfless service.”

“An advocate for equality and champion for justice, his commitment to helping others never wavered. He leaves behind an incredible legacy — one that will, no doubt, continue to inspire people across the country,” he said.

Broadbent served as a member of Parliament for a riding in his hometown of Oshawa, Ont., 21 years, and was the leader of the federal NDP for 14 years, from 1975 to 1989. He briefly returned to the House of Commons as the MP for Ottawa Centre from 2004 to 2006.

His leadership era saw him debate four different prime ministers: Pierre Trudeau, Joe Clark, John Turner and Brian Mulroney.

The party had 16 MPs in the 1974 election. Under his leadership, the NDP increased that number to 26 in 1979 and 32 in 1980. Following the 1980 election, Trudeau offered to form a coalition government with Broadbent and the NDP. Broadbent declined.

While Mulroney led the Conservatives to a sweeping majority in 1984, Braodbent continued to gain ground for the NDP which finished just ten seats behind the formerly reigning Liberals. Broadbent himself polled as the most popular party leader at this point.

While the party remained in third place in 1988, their seat count swelled to a record 43. This would remain unmatched until Jack Layton led the party to the official opposition in 2011. Broadbent stepped down from the leadership in 1989 but returned to parliament from 2004-2006. In the interim, he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1993 and promoted to ‘Companion’ status in 2002.

Singh said in his statement it’s impossible to travel across Canada and “not meet people who were touched by Ed’s compassion, commitment, and fierce intelligence.”

“He never lost sight of who we fight for. He was connected in a deep way to the values of working-class Canadians and their struggles.”

Singh also praised Broadbent for his generosity, saying his advice and encouragement helped him “tremendously” when he was first elected to lead the NDP.

“I have often said that Ed was who I wanted to be when I grew up. He taught me about leadership and how to turn political principle into actions that helped improve the lives of Canadians,” Singh said.

Former Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath called Broadbent a “mentor to so many,” including herself. “He was an inspiration and a role model who always kept the interests of working people at his centre. Our country is mourning a great leader who really did make change for the better.”

The Broadbent Institute’s statement quoted from his 2023 book, “Seeking Social Democracy,” which the institute said leaves “an enduring vision and his hopes for what is to be done to build the good society for today and the future.”

“To be humane, societies must be democratic — and, to be democratic, every person must be afforded the economic and social rights necessary for their individual flourishing,” Broadbent wrote.

Broadbent was recently honoured in Oshawa for his contributions to his birth city. Back in June, the city opened the Ed Broadbent Waterfront Park and Human Rights Garden. Broadbent himself came home to cut the ribbon.

“This new park honours the long legacy of Oshawa’s favourite son and recognizes his commitment to the City of Oshawa and the protection of Human Rights in Canada and across our planet,” noted Councillor Brian Nicholson. Broadbent said of the park “I greatly appreciate having a waterfront park with a human rights component named after me in Oshawa. I was born and raised in Oshawa and now feel deeply honoured by this action of my hometown.”

Anja Karadeglija, The Canadian Press, with files from Liam McConnell and Glenn Hendry.

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