John Edward "Ed" Broadbent, PC CC (born March 21, 1936) is a Canadian social-democratic politician and political scientist. He was leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP) from 1975 to 1989. In the 2004 federal election, he returned to Parliament for one additional term as the Member of Parliament for Ottawa Centre.
Life and career
Broadbent was born in Oshawa, Ontario. His father, Percy Edward, was a General Motors clerk, and his mother, Mary Welsh, was an Irish Catholic homemaker. Ed is the middle of three children. He studied philosophy at Trinity College in the University of Toronto, graduating in 1959 first in his class.
Broadbent trained as a Pilot Officer in the RCAF's University Reserve Training Plan.
In 1961, he married Yvonne Yamaoka, a Japanese Canadian town planner whose family was interned by the federal government in World War II. They divorced in 1967. On September 22, 1988, when the Mulroney government apologized for the internment, Broadbent brought up Yamaoka's experiences during his remarks in the House of Commons.
In 1971, he married a young Franco-Ontarian widow, Lucille Munroe; he had no children with her but did become the stepfather to Lucille's son Paul Broadbent, who is a defence policy specialist with the Ministry of Defence in London, England; the couple also adopted a baby girl, Christine. He has four grandchildren. Lucille Broadbent died in 2006.
Broadbent married Marxist historian and political theorist Ellen Meiksins Wood, an old friend, in 2014. She died in 2016 at the age of 73.
He has a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Toronto (1966), and his Ph.D. thesis was titled The Good Society of John Stuart Mill. He is a former member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, and is currently Fellow in the School of Policy Studies at Queen's University, Canada.
He was a university professor when he ran and won election to the Canadian House of Commons from Oshawa—Whitby in the 1968 general election, defeating former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Michael Starr by 15 votes. In 1971, he ran for the leadership of the party but lost to David Lewis at the NDP leadership convention. He won the 1975 leadership election to succeed Lewis, and led the party through four elections.
In his early years as leader of the party, Broadbent was criticized for his long and complex speeches on industrial organization, but he came to be known as an honest and charismatic politician in person. He was one of the first Canadian politicians to stage a large number of political events in the workplace. During his tenure, the NDP became the second party in much of western Canada.
The NDP finished with 30 seats in the 1984 federal election, just ten behind the Liberal Party of Canada led by John Turner. Several polls afterward showed that Broadbent was the most popular party leader in Canada. Broadbent was the first leader ever to take the NDP to first place in public opinion polling, and some pundits felt that the NDP could supplant Turner's Liberals as the primary opposition to the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada of Brian Mulroney.
Nonetheless, he was not successful in translating this into an election victory in the 1988 federal election, since the Liberals reaped most of the benefits from opposing free trade. However, the NDP won 43 seats, a record unchallenged until the 2011 federal election, in which the NDP won 103 seats and Jack Layton became the leader of the opposition.
On the international front, while Willy Brandt was President of the Socialist International, Broadbent served as a Vice-President from 1979 to 1989. He stepped down after 15 years as federal leader of the NDP in 1989 at the Winnipeg Convention, where he was succeeded by Audrey McLaughlin. In the decade following Broadbent's retirement from politics, the federal NDP declined in popularity. It would not come close to the popularity it enjoyed under Broadbent until Layton took over the leadership in 2003.
Broadbent was director of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development from 1990 to 1996. In 1993, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and was promoted to Companion in 2001.
Broadbent spent a year as Fellow at All Souls College, University of Oxford, in 1996-7. At Layton's invitation, he returned to politics in 2004, with the aid of a humorous and popular video clip, to successfully run for Parliament in the riding of Ottawa Centre, where he now lives. He defeated Liberal candidate Richard Mahoney, a close ally of Prime Minister Paul Martin.
In the NDP shadow cabinet, Broadbent was Critic for Democracy: Parliamentary & Electoral Reform, Corporate Accountability as well as Child Poverty.
On May 4, 2005, he announced that he would not seek re-election in the 2006 federal election in order to spend time with his wife, Lucille, who was suffering from cancer. She died on November 17, 2006. Broadbent's third wife, Ellen Meiksins Wood, whom he married in 2014, died of cancer at the couple's Ottawa home at the age of 73 in January, 2016. Meiksins Wood was a noted political theorist and socialist historian, author of a number of books and a professor at York University for three decades.
Partial election results
|Ottawa CentreCanadian federal election, 2004:|
|New Democratic||Ed Broadbent||25,734||41.05%||$75,600.35|
|Canadian Action||Carla Marie Dancey||76||0.12%||–|
|Total valid votes||62,684||100.00%|
|Total rejected ballots||270|
In November 2008, Broadbent and former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien came out of retirement to help negotiate a formal coalition agreement between the Liberals and the New Democratic Party, which would be supported by the Bloc Québécois. The coalition was formed in a bid to replace the Conservative Government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and would have been the first in Canada since World War I. However, the coalition talks died down after Michaëlle Jean prorogued parliament in December 2009.
On June 17, 2011, he announced the creation of the Broadbent Institute to explore social-democratic policy and ideas. The Institute's purpose is to "explore social democratic policy and ideas." It provides a vehicle for social-democratic and progressive academics, provides education and trains activists. It is independent of the New Democratic party.
On September 12, 2011, he endorsed Brian Topp in his unsuccessful campaign for the leadership of the NDP.