Edwin Hansford


Edwin Hansford

Edwin A. Hansford (December 1, 1895 – 1959) was a politician in Manitoba, Canada, and served as leader of that province's Co-operative Commonwealth Federation between 1948 and 1952.

Hansford was born in the Annapolis Valley region of Nova Scotia. He served overseas in World War I for four-and-a-half years, and subsequently worked for Canadian National Railways.

Hansford ran as a candidate of the Independent Labour Party in the federal riding of St. Boniface, Manitoba in the 1930 federal election, but was defeated. Five years later, he was again defeated as a candidate of the CCF (successor party to the ILP in Manitoba). Hansford was more successful in municipal politics — he became a St. Boniface alderman in 1932, and served until 1945.

Hansford was also a member of the provincial CCF executive, although his first attempt to enter provincial politics was unsuccessful. The CCF had joined Premier John Bracken's coalition ministry in 1940, but was subsequently marginalized by the Liberal-Conservative alliance that dominated the government. Demoralized, the party won only three seats members in the 1941 election. Running in provincial St. Boniface riding, Hansford was defeated by almost 1000 votes.

In 1943, the CCF left the coalition and was enjoying a higher level of popular support. The party posed a credible threat to the Liberal-Conservative coalition in the election of 1945, and while the overall results were disappointing (only ten Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) elected out of 57 seats), Hansford was able to carry St. Boniface by more than 2000 votes over his nearest opponent.

Seymour J. Farmer resigned as party leader in 1947. The following year, Hansford was elected unopposed to replace him. He was the first leader of Manitoba's "parliamentary left" from outside of the City of Winnipeg proper.

The late 1940s were a period of decline for most left-wing groups within Canada, and the Manitoba CCF did not escape this pattern. The party was particularly plagued by divisions over cooperation with the province's Communists. The party leadership was universally against such cooperation, but many rank-and-file members (and some MLAs) supported it. The result was that the party was viewed with suspicion by both "centre-left" voters and more committed leftists. Hansford himself was not regarded as a strong leader, often being upstaged by MLAs Donovan Swailes and Lloyd Stinson.

Prior to the election of 1949, Hansford publicly rebuked two members of his caucus (Wilbert Doneleyko and Berry Richards) who had condemned international negotiations for what became the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This resulted in a backlash from the left wing of the CCF, which generally opposed the foreign policies of American President Harry Truman.

The CCF ran only 26 candidates in the election of 1949, and won seven seats. Hansford was re-elected in St. Boniface, but finished a discouraging second in what was now a two-member riding (members elected by preferential balloting). He resigned as party leader in 1952, and did not seek re-election in 1953. He subsequently returned to municipal politics.

Hansford died in 1959.


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