David Lewis (politician)

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David Lewis (politician) bigraphy, stories - Russian-born Canadian labour lawyer and social democratic politician

David Lewis (politician) : biography

June 23 or October, 1909 – May 23, 1981

David Lewis, (born David Losz; June 23, or October 1909 – May 23, 1981) was a Russian-born Canadian labour lawyer and social democratic politician. He was national secretary of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) from 1936 to 1950, and one of the key architects of the New Democratic Party (NDP) in 1961. In 1962, he was elected as the Member of Parliament (MP), in the Canadian House of Commons, for the York South electoral district. While an MP, he was elected the NDP’s national leader, and served from 1971 until 1975. After his defeat in the 1974 federal election, he stepped down as leader and retired from politics. He spent his last years as a university professor at Carleton University, and as a travel correspondent for the Toronto Star. In retirement, he was named to the Order of Canada for his political service. After a lengthy battle with cancer, he died in Ottawa in 1981.

Lewis’ politics were heavily influenced by the Jewish Labour Bund, which contributed to his support of parliamentary democracy. He was an avowed anti-communist, and while a Rhodes Scholar prevented communist domination of the Oxford University Labour Club. In Canada, he played a major role in removing communist influence from the labour movement.

In the CCF, he took the role of disciplinarian and dealt with internal organizational problems. He helped draft the Winnipeg Declaration, which moderated the CCF’s economic policies to include acceptance of capitalism, albeit subject to stringent government regulation. As the United Steelworkers of America (USW)’s legal counsel in Canada, he helped them take over the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers (Mine-Mill). His involvement with the USW also led to a central role in the creation of the Canadian Labour Congress in 1956.

The Lewis family has been active in socialist politics since the turn of the twentieth century, starting with David Lewis’ father’s involvement in the Bund in Russia, continuing with David, and followed by his eldest son, Stephen Lewis, who led the Ontario NDP from 1970 until 1978. When David was elected the NDP’s national leader in 1971, he and Stephen became one of the first father-and-son-teams to simultaneously head Canadian political parties.

1962–1971: Member of Parliament for York South

Two days after the end of the NDP’s 1961 founding convention, Tommy Douglas wrote a letter to Sophie Lewis, David’s wife, telling her that David must run in the next election.Smith, p.391 Lewis decided to run in his home riding of York South, which was concurrently held provincially, in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, by the NDP’s Ontario leader, Donald C. MacDonald.

He called the province's doctors "blackmailers" for suggesting such a strike. Lewis also appeared on one of the NDP's few national television spots. 
He appeared on the national CTV Television Network with Walter Pitman to present the NDP's platform on a planned economy, in a conversation-style election broadcast. On June 18, 1962, Lewis was elected in York South, and finally became an MP. Since Tommy Douglas lost in his seat, Lewis was considered the front-runner to become house leader until Douglas entered the house in an October by-election. 

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|New Democratic Party |David Lewis |align="right"|19,101||align="right"|40.42

|Liberal |Marvin Gelber |align="right"|15,423 ||align="right"|32.64

|Progressive Conservative |William G. Beech |align="right"|12,552||align="right"|26.56

|Social Credit | Reinald Nochakoff |align="right"| 179 ||align="right"|0.38

Lewis’ first term as MP was a short one, as Diefenbaker’s minority government was defeated in the April 8, 1963, general election.In Canadian politics, if a minority government – one that does not have a majority of the elected members in the House of Commons – loses a vote of non-confidence, than the government has to call a general election. This is exactly the scenario that happened in 1963, and why Lewis had to fight another election so soon after being elected. Lewis lost in Forest Hill, as his support among its Jewish community evaporated and returned to the Liberals, who were seen as best able to contain the Social Credit Party, which was perceived to be anti-Semitic.Morton 1986, pp.42–43 This was only a temporary set-back. With Diefenbaker in opposition (and unlikely to resurrect the coalition in Quebec that gave him his majority in 1958) and Social Credit a diminished force, Lewis returned to the House of Commons in the 1965 general election.Morton 1986, pp.64–68 He was re-elected in the 1968 election, and became the NDP leader in the House of Commons after Douglas lost his seat.McLeod & McLeod, pp.359–360 At the 1969 Winnipeg National Convention, Douglas announced that he intended to step-down as leader by 1971, which meant that Lewis became the de facto leader in the interim.