On July 19, 1933, at a conference in Regina, people gathered to imagine a better country – economically sustainable, socially responsible, and fair. Their vision was, at first, called “radical”, a recipe for disaster. Within a generation it became the blueprint for Canadian social policy for the remainder of the 20th century and defined the values that many identify as what it means to be “Canadian” today.
Like today’s “Leap Manifesto”, the Regina Manifesto was met with a mix of disbelief, denial and doubt about its goal of changing Canada for the better. To the status quo, it was a fantasy; to determined socialists, it was milquetoast.
Adopted at the first national convention of Canada’s newest political party, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), the Regina Manifesto imagined a socialized economy, calling for a nationalized system of transportation, communications, electrical power and other services. It called for a National Labour Code that included the right for workers to organize unions, “insurance” to cover illness, accident, old age and unemployment and social programs such as publicly-funded health care.
National health care, old-age pensions, unemployment insurance, national labour standards, family allowances, and crown corporations for services including telecommunications, transportation and energy – the Regina Manifesto outlined economic and political reforms and proposed approaches to issues that still resonate and are in fact still key election issues today.