The United Farmers of Ontario (UFO) were a political party in Ontario, Canada. A social democratic party, the UFO was the Ontario provincial branch of the United Farmers movement of the early part of the 20th century.
Foundation and rise (1914-1919) Edit
The UFO was founded in 1914 by the union of various farmers' organizations that had been created over the previous fifteen years. James J. Morrison was the leading figure in the party, serving as its general secretary and secretary of the United Farmers Co-operative Company Ltd. (the purchasing co-operative the UFO operated on behalf of its members).
The UFO entered politics by contesting and winning a by-election in Manitoulin in 1918, in which Beniah Bowman was elected as the party's first Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA). In the subsequent 1919 provincial election, with over 50,000 members, the party sought to hold the balance of power so it could introduce legislation friendly to farmers. The UFO would shock everyone, including itself, when it won 45 seats and formed a minority government in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario despite having no leader.
As the United Farmers were initially a single-issue party, Morrison opposed forming a government, believing that the party should concern itself solely with agricultural issues and that it would not be able to represent the entire province. Furthermore, he viewed the Independent Labour Party as inimical to farmers' interests and opposed a coalition with them to form a majority government. Morrison was offered the position of UFO caucus leader and Premier of Ontario following the election but declined; the position instead went Ernest C. Drury.
Forming the government (1919-1923) Edit
Despite Morrison's objections, the UFO joined with 11 Independent Labour Party MLAs and one Independent to form a coalition government, with Drury as Premier and two of the ILP MLAs in the cabinet. Morrison remained outside of the legislature and government as the general secretary of the UFO. Morrison opposed a number of the coalition's initiatives, perceiving the UFO's actions as a broad-based Progressive government rather than a "class-based" United Farmer government and believed that the party should not be in government but should hold the balance of power in order to force the government of the day to pass pro-farmer legislation.
The UFO government created the Province of Ontario Savings Office (essentially a state-owned bank) in order to provide low-interest loans to farmers, improved rural education and improved transportation and promoted rural electrification.
However, the party's base of farmer supporters began to turn away from the party, causing the Drury government to lose the election of 1923. A mere seventeen United Farmer and four Labour members returned to the legislature, compared to 75 Conservatives. Drury lost his own seat.
Decline (1923-1929) Edit
Though the United Farmers of Ontario remained the second largest party in the legislature, they were denied Official Opposition status by Conservative premier Howard Ferguson. The position was instead given to the Liberals with W.E.N. Sinclair as Leader of the Opposition, despite the party having three fewer seats than the UFO. Morrison had previously announced that the UFO would be withdrawing from politics, which Ferguson had used as justification for the move. Manning Doherty, interim leader of the UFO caucus, could do nothing aside from win a ruling from the Speaker that, as leader of a caucus of more than 15 MLAs, he was entitled to an extra salary.
Eighteen months following the general election, William Raney became leader of what was now referred to as the "Progressive" bloc of MLAs.
In the 1926 provincial election, only thirteen Progressive MLAs, three UFO MLAs and one Labour MLA were elected. Several weeks later, the UFO convention voted to formally cease running its own candidates. Though some local UFO clubs continued to nominate candidates for some years, the UFO considered the Progressives as their party and, for all intents and purposes, the UFO and the Progressive Party became the same organization in Ontario.
End of the movement (1929-1940) Edit
Raney resigned from the legislature the next year, and former UFO cabinet minister Harry Nixon emerged as Raney's successor. In the 1929 election, only five Progressives, one Labour and one UFO MLA won re-election. In the early 1930s, Nixon and the Progressives agreed to an alliance with former UFO activist Mitchell Hepburn who, in 1930, became leader of the Liberal Party. A group of four Liberal-Progressive MLAs were elected in the 1934 election, who joined Hepburn to form a government and were ultimately absorbed into the Liberal Party. (see Liberal-Progressives (Ontario) for more information)
In 1932, leading UFO member Agnes Macphail (originally elected to the Progressive Party) encouraged the United Farmers of Ontario to affiliate with Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) when it was formed. It did so, and MacPhail became the first President of the Ontario CCF in 1932, but the UFO disaffiliated from the CCF in 1934 due to allegations of Communist influence in the party and, like United Farmers groups in the provinces of western Canada, ultimately decided to withdraw entirely from electoral politics. Many United Farmers joined the CCF as individuals. The UFO's newspaper, the Farmer's Sun was sold to Graham Spry and Alan Plaunt and became an organ for the League for Social Reconstruction.
By the mid 1930s, the UFO had become a lobby group who advocated through sitting UFO politicians such as Macphail and Farquhar Oliver, who were allowed to continue to run for office under the UFO banner. In 1940, Oliver, the last remaining UFO member of the legislature and a supporter of the Hepburn government since 1934, joined the Hepburn cabinet and formally became a Liberal. MacPhail lost her seat as the last United Farmers MP in the House of Commons in 1940. She turned to provincial politics and won election to the Ontario legislature on behalf of the CCF in the 1943 provincial election while Oliver became Liberal Party leader in 1945.
In 1944, the UFO joined with other farmers' organizations to form the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and ceased to exist as a formal organization. In 1948 the United Farmers' Co-operative became the United Co-operatives of Ontario and remains one of the largest farmer-owned co-operatives in Canada.
UFO/Progressive leaders Edit
- E.C. Drury, 1919-1923
- Manning Doherty, 1923-1924
- William Edgar Raney, 1924-1927
- Harry Nixon, 1927-1934
- List of United Farmers/Labour MLAs in the Ontario legislature
- Ontario New Democratic Party
- Progressive Party
- List of Progressive/United Farmer MPs
- Cooperative Commonwealth Federation
- Labour Party
- United Farmers
- United Farmers of Alberta
- List of Ontario political parties
- List of Ontario general elections
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Macpherson, Ian, "United Farmers of Ontario", The Canadian Encyclopedia
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 Labour and Farmers in Ontario 1919 - 1932, History of the NDP, accessed February 13, 2008
- ↑ Oliver, Peter G. Howard Ferguson: Ontario Tory, Toronto and Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1977, p. 158
- Labour and Farmers in Ontario, 1919-1932
- Canadian Encyclopedia entry
- United Farmers of Ontario, The Challenge of Agriculture from Internet Archive