Arthur Puttee

Last updated

Arthur Puttee Arthur Puttee.jpg
Arthur Puttee

Arthur W. Puttee (August 25, 1868 October 21, 1957) was a British-Canadian printer and politician. Puttee was the first Labour Member of Parliament (MP) in the House of Commons of Canada, sitting as Winnipeg MP from 1900 to 1904.

Puttee was a printer by training. Born in England, he immigrated to North America in 1888. He settled in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1891. He helped found the local trade union council, the Winnipeg Labour Party (WLP) and a left-wing newspaper called The Voice, which he edited from 1899 until 1918. [1] He was also a founding member of Winnipeg's first English-language Unitarian Church.

When Winnipeg's Liberal MP, R. W. Jameson, died in February 1899, Puttee called for the nomination of a Labour candidate to contest the vacant seat in a by-election (which was finally held on January 25, 1900). The trade union council agreed, and with resources promised from local unions, selected Puttee to be its candidate, to run against Liberal E.D. Martin.

Puttee's campaign benefitted from a serious division in the local Liberal ranks. Martin had been nominated by a minority faction in the party rebelling against Clifford Sifton, a powerful member of Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier's Cabinet and the leading Liberal spokesman in the western provinces. Many Sifton loyalists unofficially supported Puttee against Martin. There was no Conservative candidate in the race; the Conservative organization in the city supported Martin.

Puttee ran on a platform promoting public ownership of "all natural monopolies" and other reformist measures. The basic issue of the campaign was whether labour had a right to have its own representatives in parliament.

In a narrow two-way contest, Puttee prevailed by a margin of eight votes (2431 to 2423). Puttee ran for re-election later that year in the 1900 election and won by a margin of 1,200 votes. Puttee again received unofficial Liberal support against Martin, who ran as an independent with Conservative support.

Puttee remained in Parliament until the 1904 election, when he was defeated. There were several reasons for this setback.

As an MP, Puttee came into contact with British Labour MPs such as Keir Hardie and Ramsay MacDonald and promoted the new British Labour Party (then known as the Labour Representation Committee) as a model to emulate. In doing so, he repudiated Marxists within the Winnipeg Labour Party, alienating the city's more radical and revolutionary socialists. The WLP suffered a severe split, and many socialists and radical trade unionists left in 1902 to join the Canadian Socialist League. They ultimately formed the Socialist Party of Manitoba, which had a much more radical program than Puttee's broad-based WLP.

A second reason for Puttee's defeat was the loss of Liberal support, as the Sifton loyalists succeeded in nominating their candidate, D. W. Bole. The Conservatives ran William Sanford Evans, later a leader of the provincial Conservative Party.

The Liberals made strenuous efforts to appeal to the working class through the dispensation of patronage among leading trade unionists, and by attacking the trade union council as being radical and uninterested in the needs of ordinary workers. Puttee was painted as a dangerous "revolutionist" backed by "assassins". Bole won the election; Puttee finished in third place.

Out of office, Puttee returned to his newspaper and continued to agitate for independent working-class politics. He became chairman of a new party, the Independent Labour Party, based on the British model. This ILP proved to be short-lived, collapsing in an internal feud after some of its members attempted to define the party as "socialist".

In 1910, Puttee endorsed Fred Dixon as a candidate for the provincial legislature, and helped create the short-lived Manitoba Labour Party to support him. Dixon was defeated, due to opposition from the Socialist Party of Canada. Puttee also created a provincial Labour Representation Committee in the 1910s, and used The Voice to endorse labour candidates in the elections of 1914 and 1915. In 1918, Puttee helped to create the Dominion Labour Party, which was intended to consolidate labourist activities in various cities throughout the country.

Ultimately, Puttee's conservatism sidelined him as the labour movement came under the influence of socialist ideas. He opposed labour militancy and the Industrial Workers of the World in particular. In 1918, the Winnipeg Trades and Labour Council withdrew its patronage of the Voice due to the paper's moderate tone, and began publishing a new weekly, the Western Labour News, effectively ending Puttee's influence over the labour movement.

By the time of the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919, Puttee was a marginal figure sidelined by younger, more militant leaders such as J. S. Woodsworth and Abraham Albert Heaps. He continued to operate in the city's DLP organization, however, and his conservatism was a primary reason for a split in the party in 1920. Puttee sought the DLP's nomination for Mayor of Winnipeg in 1920, but was defeated by Seymour Farmer. Puttee's supporters subsequently asserted their control over the party, causing most of its leading figures (including Dixon) to separate and form a new Independent Labour Party. The DLP ceased to be an effective organization after this time.

Puttee ran for the Manitoba legislature in the provincial election of 1922 in the riding of Winnipeg—not as a Labour candidate, but as a Progressive, aligned with the United Farmers of Manitoba. He does not appear to have put much effort into this campaign, and received only 135 votes on the first count, finishing 38th out of 43 candidates. Winnipeg elected ten members via Single transferable voting in this election, and Puttee was eliminated in the ninth count.

Already in his 50s, he did not play a significant role in politics after 1922.

Related Research Articles

The Progressive Party of Canada, formally the National Progressive Party, was a federal-level political party in Canada in the 1920s until 1930. It was linked with the provincial United Farmers parties in several provinces, and it spawned the Progressive Party of Saskatchewan, and the Progressive Party of Manitoba, which formed the government of that province. The Progressive Party was part of the farmers' political movement that included federal and provincial Progressive and United Farmers' parties.

There have been various groups in Canada that have nominated candidates under the label Labour Party or Independent Labour Party, or other variations from the 1870s until the 1960s. These were usually local or provincial groups using the Labour Party or Independent Labour Party name, backed by local labour councils made up of many union locals in a particular city, or individual trade unions. There was an attempt to create a national Canadian Labour Party in the late 1910s and in the 1920s, but these were only partly successful.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">J. S. Woodsworth</span> Canadian social democratic leader

J.S. Woodsworth was a pre–First World War pioneer of the Canadian Social Gospel, a Christian religious movement with social democratic values and links to organized labour. A long-time leader and publicist in the movement, Woodsworth served as an elected member of the federal parliament from 1921 until his death in 1942. In 1932, he helped to found the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), a forerunner of the New Democratic Party (NDP).

The Winnipeg Labour Party was a reformist organization in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, representing labour interests. Founded in 1896, it was based on an earlier Winnipeg organization known as the Independent Labour Party.

Before World War I, there were at least two organizations in Winnipeg calling themselves the Independent Labour Party. The first of these was set up by British trade unionists in 1895, and collapsed soon thereafter.

The Manitoba Labour Party (MLP) was a reformist, non-Marxist labour party in Manitoba, Canada. It was created in early May 1910 as a successor to the province's second Independent Labour Party (1906–08). Former Member of Parliament Arthur Puttee was a leading MLP organizer. The party fielded one candidate in the 1910 provincial election, and also ran candidates at the municipal level.

The Socialist Party of Manitoba (SPM) was a short-lived social democratic political party launched in 1902 in the Canadian province of Manitoba. The organisation advanced a moderate programme of social reform legislation. In 1904 the SPM became one of the constituent units founding the Socialist Party of Canada, an organisation which continued until 1925.

The Labour Representation Committee was a reformist labour organization in Manitoba, Canada, and was the ideological successor to groups such as the Winnipeg Labour Party, the Independent Labour Party and the Manitoba Labour Party. It was founded in late 1912, and was based on a British organization of the same name.

The Dominion Labour Party (DLP) was a reformist labour party, formed in Canada in 1918. The party enjoyed its greatest success in the province of Manitoba.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fred Dixon (politician)</span> Canadian politician

Frederick John (Fred) Dixon was a Manitoba politician, and was for several years the dominant figure in the province's mainstream labour and Henry George Single Tax Georgist movements. A proponent of proportional representation, he also served as an MLA in the Manitoba Legislature from 1914 to 1923.

The Independent Labour Party was the leading social-democratic party in the Canadian province of Manitoba prior to the emergence of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. Several of its candidates were elected to the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba and it counted federal Members of Parliament J. S. Woodsworth and A. A. Heaps among its members.

Seymour James Farmer was a politician in Manitoba, Canada. He served as Winnipeg MLA from 1922 to 1949. During this time he also served as mayor of Winnipeg 1923-1924 and later as city councillor in the late 1920s and in the 1930s. He was the leader of the Manitoba Co-operative Commonwealth Federation from 1935 to 1947. He served as a cabinet minister in Manitoba's World War I coalition government.

The Canadian Labour Party (CLP) was an early, unsuccessful attempt at creating a national labour party in Canada. Although it ran candidates in the federal elections of 1917, 1921, 1925, and 1926, it never succeeded in its goal of providing a national forum for the Canadian labour movement. In most provinces, the CLP ceased to exist after 1928–1929.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">William Ivens</span> Canadian politician (1878–1957)

William Ivens was a religious and political figure in Manitoba, Canada. He was a leading figure in the Winnipeg General Strike, and subsequently served as a Labour member of the Manitoba legislature from 1920 to 1936.

The 1922 Manitoba general election was held on July 18, 1922 to elect Members of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Manitoba, Canada. The United Farmers of Manitoba won a narrow majority in the legislature.

The 1920 Manitoba general election was held on June 29, 1920 to elect members of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Manitoba, Canada.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Albert Edward Smith</span>

Albert Edward Smith, known as A. E. Smith, was a Canadian religious leader and politician. A social gospeller, Smith was for many years a minister in the Canadian Methodist Church before starting his own "People's Church". He served in the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba from 1920 to 1922 as a Labour representative. In 1925, he became a member of the Communist Party of Canada.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">George Armstrong (Manitoba politician)</span> Canadian socialist

George Armstrong was a politician and labour activist in Manitoba, Canada. He served in the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba from 1920 to 1922, and is notable as the only member of the Socialist Party of Canada ever to serve in that institution.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thomas William Taylor</span> Canadian politician

Thomas William Taylor was a politician in Manitoba, Canada. He served as the 13th Mayor of Winnipeg, and was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba from 1900 to 1914. Taylor was a member of the Conservative Party.

Winnipeg Centre was a provincial electoral division in Manitoba, Canada. It existed in three separate periods, each time using different electoral systems: 1888-1920 single-member and two-member district using First Past The Post; 1949 to 1953 four-member district using STV; 1959 to 1981 single-member district using First Past The Post.


  1. McNaught, Kenneth (2001). A Prophet in Politics: A Biography of J. S. Woodsworth. p. 54. ISBN   0802084273. "The Trades and Labour Council endorsed the socialist Voice, edited by Arthur W. Puttee, which had been publishing since 1894 The Voice was one of the best Left newspapers ever published in this country and the contacts of its editor ..."